After a flurry of communications following the London Book Fair and my belated return from Israel (courtesy of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud), some two months went by, without any indication of what I was supposed to be doing and now with all the proofreading and corrections done for the second Alex Sedaka book, I was in the uncomfortable position of not having anything to do.  True, I was supposed to be studying for my physics degree with the Open University.  But high blood pressure and dizzy spells – brought about by anxiety – were making that impossible.

No Way Out had gone on sale on the 10th of June and hopes were high because the publishers had got it into Tesco and Asda.  However, whilst it was selling better than Mercy, the question was whether it was selling enough to meet the publishers 20,000 copy target within a reasonable time?

In the absence of any word on the subject, I decided to force the issue. So on the 20th of June, I wrote to Diane telling her that in the absence of any indication from the publishers as to what they wanted I was going to continue writing the third Alex Sedaka book.  But being too cowardly to present this as an ultimatum, I explained my decision in conciliatory terms (or should that be weasel words) to the effect that “I don’t want to be in a position where they decide they want it and I have to start from near the beginning.”

In retrospect it may have been a mistake to force the issue.  Had I not done so, the publishers might have waited longer before deciding.  But the upshot of all this was that on the 27th of June Diane told me that the sales – although better than for Mercy – were not quite good enough and that consequently HarperCollins had decided not to go ahead with the third Alex Sedaka book.  The good news was that they agreed,in principle, to my suggestion that I should do the Moses book rather than the Doomsday Labyrinth.  Of course all this was subject to agreement between me and Kate (my editor) on the plot for the Moses book.  And that had yet to be finalized.

There followed an exchange of eMails in which Kate and I struggled to find a suitable date to meet.  The problem was that Kate was going on holiday for a fortnight starting on August the 20th.  For my part, my sister was coming to visit for a week, taking up a chuck of the time before that.  In the event, we met on Thursday the 5th of August and came up with the rudiments of a plot.

The basically requirement was that there had to be an important discovery at the beginning, the hero trying to work out the full implications (which had to be major), people trying to stop the hero, a chase, an albino monk (only joking – but there did have to be some serious threat to the hero) and of course a final resolution of some sorts with a happy end.  Also one of the pursuers must be extremely vicious with a propensity not just for murder but for brutality.

This last point was something of a problem for me, because one of the things I had learned from my mother’s cousin Clive Donner (a celebrated film director in the sixties and seventies) was that one should always put a bit of good in ones bad characters and a bit of bad in ones good characters.  This Yin and Yang approach had served me in good stead when it came to keeping my characters realistic.  But perhaps it was actually holding me back in the commercial stakes.  So maybe Kate was right.  But it was uncomfortable for me to have to adapt my style to this extent.

However, I rose to the challenge and drew up a synopsis based on our discussions.  The one one remaining problem was the deadline.  Kate wanted to publish the book in January 2011, somewhat earlier than we had previously been talking about and well before the third Alex Sedaka book was due to have been published.  Given that we were already a week into August 2010, this left very little time for the writing of the book – especially as there was still some research to be done.  (I had in fact been reading up on ancient Egypt and especially the 18th Dynasty, but my reading was far from complete.)

The one that was not yet decided was the publication date.   When the third book in the contract was going to be an Alex Sedaka book, the delivery deadline was the end of August 2010 and publication had been scheduled for August 2011.  But now things had changed.  Here we were in the first week of August 2010 and I had yet to write a word of the new book, or even to have a full and detailed plot.

 

One Response to How I came to write THE MOSES LEGACY – Part 6

  • Ethan says:

    I certainly knew about the majority of this, but with that said, I still assumed it had been useful. Very good job!