I am writing a novella based on the life story of my grandfather, who was a spy in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, we think.
I started the process with scoping the story back in the summer, and then some preparatory drafting until November, when I started writing proper. This coincided with NaNoWriMo which is held every November around the world to encourage novel writing. I met a group of local writers and we have continued to engage since then.
I thought I could write fiction as easily as non-fiction, having completed my book ‘Building Passions‘. As it turns out, fiction is equally difficult. While you don’t rely on the accuracy of historical facts, for example, you do need to now how to build a close, personal link to your readership.
The big learning curve for me has been writing dialogue. I found this a challenge as it wasn’t a strong point for me. I’m good at narrative. However, my writing group has helped me develop these skills, so now I feel more confident. I can turn narrative into dialogue fairly easily, though know I must resist the temptation to write a screen or theatre play.
“Tell me John, why do you not want to be an architect like you father and brothers? Why a civil engineer?”
“I like sketching and designing, but I’m more interested in the maths behind those structures first proposed by myself or others. I have no ego about creative proprietorship. I just want to be sure buildings and bridges stay up for ever.”
Such might be a fictional dialogue between a young John Wolfe Barry and a Victorian contemporary.
Perhaps I should write more such exchanges?
I thought I would have some pre-Christmas fun and think of alternative long titles for my book ‘Building Passions’, assuming I knew nothing about the content.
Here goes for starters. Enjoy and feel free to add:
- How to arouse your partner in three easy steps
- Why model-making turns me on
- The 10 best buildings in which to have secret liaisons
- Build yourself the thing you’ve always wanted, from white elephant to crib
The real challenge would be to write them!
I saw the printed version of my book today! The feeling was one of elation after 9 months gestation.
Though I didn’t carry our daughter for a similar period 19 years ago, I kind of understand the emotional ride. As a father your relationship tends to develop later on, once they are up on their feet more and starting to think for themselves.
Why did I leave it so long to write a book?
Because there were other things going on in my life and they always came first. I’m not complaining. But I did have to take a risk and stop full-time work to self-publish the book.
I did other things as well, but in effect I have had a type of parental unpaid leave with no job to go back to. My wife has been incredibly supportive throughout this period, for which I am very grateful.
I’ve started planning my next book, a historical novel, and will write it during November as part of National Novel Writing Month. I’ve already sought editing proposals for the finished draft. It will be published in 2020, 100 years since the protagonist, based on my grandfather, escaped from the Communists in Tashkent and ended up living a new life in England via Persia and India.
It’s 38 days until I launch the hard copy version of my first book ‘Building Passions‘.
Between then and now we will have Diwali, Halloween/Brexit Day and Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. The lead up to Christmas has already started with cards and adverts.
The draft has gone off to the printers and once a proof is returned and corrected for any errors then that’s it, until delivery of the final soft backs in time for the 20 November launch.
I am firming up plans with English Heritage to promote a Blue Plaque for Sir John Wolfe Barry, which will hopefully be unveiled in London on the same day as the launch.
In some sense I will be relieved once the hard copy is out as it is the final piece in the lengthy jigsaw of self-publishing non-fiction. The e-book is already available on www.kobo.com and a temporary sale will start tomorrow for about a fortnight – if you have never registered on Kobo before then the book will be free for UK purchasers, as you will get an introductory discount of the same amount (in other countries this will depend on exchange rates).
Fiction looks easier to me … which is why I need to get more words down for my next book to be published in 2020 about an amazing story based on my grandfather’s ‘fantasy’ life.
I’m currently sitting in our hotel room on Ischia trying to write my next book.
Since recently self-publishing my first book ‘Building Passions’, I now have some time to focus on the subsequent one. It helps that it’s raining all day here and that yesterday we went on a 10k walk which included the 800m peak of the dormant volcano on the island, so my legs are still recovering a bit.
My next book is historical fiction based on a true story close to me. It’s about the eventful life of my grandfather, Lex von Behr, who had no links of any kind to a Batman villain with the same first name. However, he may well have been a double agent for the British and Soviets, possibly also for the Germans. We may never know the entire truth.
We do know that he died in Paris in 1951 from serious burns caused by a fire in his apartment. My grandmother was convinced this was due to his spy work, I have my doubts, but then this is why I’m writing it as historical fiction …
The common theme is family stories, which I feel are both historically and socially important. The former, because they provide a case study in a different context of how human groups have behaved and what they have created. The latter, because we are all part of families, whether fully related or not, and these close networks need to be reinforced by their stories, good or bad. I’ve blogged about this before.
I’m still mulling over whether I need a new website for the new book, or one that brings together the two books under the family story theme. Watch this space.