To #1

Over the weekend of July 16-17-18, Sam’s Song reached the #1 position on the amazon.com private detective chart and #62 on the main amazon.com chart. With this series of articles I intend to offer background on how my book reached those heights; hopefully, this information will be of interest to followers of the series and fellow authors alike.

To start at the beginning, the writing of Sam’s Song. I have always been an avid reader and my favourite genre is the private detective novel. In particular, I admire the series created by Robert B Parker and Marcia Muller. I wrote my first play at school, aged nine, so writing has always been a part of my life. After a number of minor writing adventures, including articles and short stories, I wrote four private detective novels featuring two private detectives. I regarded those novels as my apprenticeship and they were not offered for publication. After those novels, life moved on and with my long-term partner I started a family. I continued to write during that time, mainly for my own amusement.

Then, in 2014, I decided to write another private detective novel. But who should I have as my narrator? My first draft featured a woman who was a bit flaky to say the least and the novel developed into a comedy. However, I soon discovered that my comedy was centred on one joke, and that, over the length of a novel, that joke would wear thin. So I placed my notes in a file and started again.

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Sam at #1

I knew that I had the basis for a novel, but no central character. I knew that my narrator would be female, in her early thirties, that the story would contain some humour, and that the book would have a strong psychological thread. But still no central character presented herself. Then, one day – I can picture the scene now – I was sitting sideways at my desk, scribbling notes when I looked up and paused for thought. At that moment Samantha whispered into my ear, “Why don’t you write about me?”

I don’t believe in ghosts, the supernatural or anything mystical, yet when Samantha walked into my life it was a magical experience. I believe that writing is basically a craft you fashion through hard work and dedication, yet this character was talking to me. And she told me her life story. Everything about Samantha and the main characters in Sam’s Song was done in one take. I didn’t require a list of names, locations or personality types, Sam, Alan, Sweets, etc came to me fully formed. I couldn’t believe my luck. Could writing really be that easy? Yes, and no.

The next step was to find a subject to write about. This time I did make a list, and because I love music, I settled on that. Again, the characters of Woody, Derwena and Milton came to me quickly and I wrote the first draft in no time. While reading through that draft, I elaborated each chapter until I had the story mapped out. At that stage, the chapters with Dan, Sam’s abusive ex-husband, were the most detailed, but soon the other chapters developed as well.

With the storyboard as my guide, I sat down to write Sam’s Song. What you see in the book is basically the first draft, with editing modifications and proofreading corrections. When the first draft was complete there were no major rewrites.

If I wrote Sam’s Song today, it would be totally different, probably more serious, reverential, and less fun. But from day one, I allowed Sam to tell her story in her style. I type out her words and edit them, but they are Sam’s words, Sam’s stories. Sam’s Song would be different if we wrote it today because Sam is a slightly different person, a bit older, a bit wiser and, on a good day, more secure.

So, I had a 250 page novel, which I was proud of. More importantly people close to me, people who don’t offer praise lightly, liked the book. What to do next? Seek out a publisher? Publish it myself? More about that next time.

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