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Genesis of a Debut Novel

A Clear Solution was born may years ago when I and my colleagues in the pharmaceutical company I worked in were given notice of redundancy. Devastating of course but the upside, although I didn’t recognise it at the time, was that, unusually, we were given five months notice during which the factory and my section would continue to tick over. I found that my own job, development and supervision, evaporated overnight. No more factory equated to no more development and I was left supervising a bunch of ‘old hands’ who needed little supervision. What to do?

Well, job hunting obviously and that I certainly did but that still left many hours to fill so… writing. I’d always written to some extent: notebooks filled with scribbles, short stories, travel, observation. So why not write a novel? After all novelists made lots of money, didn’t they? Write a novel and sell it. How difficult could it be? I cringe but, yes, I really was that naive.

So I started writing. It would be based in a laboratory – write what you know, and it was going to be a comedy. I’m not sure why but there it was. There was no planning, none at all. It just proceeded in a linear fashion with one situation leading to another. If stuck I asked myself what is the daftest thing that could happen at that point in the action?

Several jobs followed over the next few years and writing time dropped but I continued with the novel and wrote a flurry of short stories. Then I read a comment somewhere to the effect that there was no market for comedy. So why am I writing comedy? I dropped A Clear Solution (yes, I was that easily influenced) and started writing a thriller. This in turn was dropped when I had an idea for a novelisation of an SF short story I had written. Then, unbelievably to me now, I launched into yet another novel length project. At this point I stopped and gave myself a shake. You’ve got to finish something. So A Clear Solution it was, being the project nearest completion..

I completed it, typed the end and felt pleased with myself, then looked at what I had – a mess. So of course more months of fleshing up, cutting out and joining loose ends before I felt it was ready.

Over the previous few years I’d learned a lot about writing and the publishing industry and was no longer quite so naive, so when I sent the novel out to a couple of targeted agents I did not expect it to be instantly accepted and my expectations were met in full. During the next months and years more than fifty agents and publishers turned it down. It could have been dispiriting (OK, it was dispiriting) but there had been three handwritten notes during that time with positive comments. I’d also posted 7000 words on youwriteon.com review site and received some excellent feedback, in fact reaching the top 20 on that site in one month. If any writers are looking for feedback I’d recommend it – if you have thick skin. The comments can be brutally honest.

While this was going on I completed the thriller and the SF novel and began to look for interest in those.

I had consigned A Clear Solution to the back burner and decided that it was my candidate for self publication should I decide to take that road, when I heard about Accent Press looking for submissions in an article in Writing Magazine. They were looking for crime rather than humour, well the novel has crooked policemen and a number of suspicious deaths so why not? I sent it away and forgot about it.

I remembered about it during a holiday in Australia when checking my e-mails. There was a note from an Accent Press editor who was reading my submission and liked it. Could I send the rest? Could I? Well no, I couldn’t, not until I returned to the UK three weeks later but that didn’t seem to be a problem. The surreal element was that this editor, working for the Welsh Accent Press, was currently living not 50 miles from where I was staying in Melbourne.

So six months later here it is on the shelves. Difficult to believe. Now I have to finish the follow-on.

This was first published as a guest blog by Jenny Kane http://jennykane.co.uk/blog/guest-blog-by-eric-mcfarlane-a-clear-solution

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