Scarborough & the Medieval Murderers

This week has been a busy one. Over the weekend I had to drive 400 miles to Scarborough for their literary festival. Medieval Murderers - that is, my friends Susanna Gregory and Karen Maitland - and I were the very last gig of the festival and it was brilliant. A large audience, and we couldn't have been made more welcome by the excellent staff of the library and the volunteers. We all had a wonderful time.

Driving back on Monday was good. Susanna and I went up and back together, and in ten hours we managed to put to rights most of the problems in the world today. Not only did I get the chance to chat to Susanna for five hours, after dropping her off at Bristol, I went and had a cup of tea with my friend Phillip Gooden at his home on the way back to Dartmoor.

There were good reasons for needing to see him. We are in the middle of planning the tenth anniversary book for Medieval Murderers.

Many years ago, I had the idea for Medieval Murderers while wandering around the various crime writing festivals. I had got to know Susanna, and then met Bernard Knight and Ian Morson. All of us got on well, and it became obvious to me that we would work very well together. The Medieval Murderers were formed in a (rather grotty) pub in London twelve years ago, purely as a performance group. We would go on stage and talk about all the funnier things that happened to us as authors - the highlights and the opposite. We would talk about money, publishing, editors, proof reading, money, and the misery that is the life of an author. But on the way we also chat about our research, how we write, and why we choose our specific periods. The objective each time was simple: to make the audience laugh.

Soon our little band had grown to include Phil Gooden, CJ Sansom and Karen Maitland, and then we had a brilliant idea: rather that merely talking on stages, we could go and write collaborative books. I thought we could write separate stories that were linked by a common theme to create a working novel. We met (in a nicer pub this time) and had a long talk, and soon we had the logic set out for a novel that became THE TAINTED RELIC.

It seems incredible to think that was ten years ago now.

But now, looking at the anniversary story, there is a lot of work. The main theme is there, with plenty of mixed tales to fit together, but as always we still need to make sure that the whole book flows logically. After discussing it with Susanna and Karen in Scarborough, and then an hour's work with Phil, I think we're getting closer. Still much more to do.

This week has been a strange one. It's the London Book Fair week, which I cannot help thinking about with mixed feelings.

I have been writing now for nineteen years. In that time I've published thirty-two books, a bunch of short stories, novellas, ebooks and I don't know how many magazine and newspaper articles. And I have never been to the London Book Fair. Editors always tell me not to go. It would be, they tell me, too depressing. The effect of seeing how publishers, agents and sales teams deal with their poor bloody infantry (the writers) would only make me think of Smithfield meat market and how the butchers treat the cattle.

One day, I will probably go to look at it all. There are some interesting things going on - I expect. Somewhere. But authors aren't welcome.

I would like to have gone this year to see how Comma Press are getting on. I published a story with them a little while ago, a collaboration with Professor Jim Al-Khalili, the physicist from Surrey University, and a couple of months ago they asked if they could use it for a new app they were developing on the iPhone. But since there was no fee, I said no.

It's the problem about being an author. There is a general belief that authors who are published must be millionaires, when the truth is that three quarters earn less than the average wage, and the majority of writers earn less than half that. When an author's asked to give away his work for nothing, it tends to bring on a response leading to men being called to measure him for a suit that buttons at the back.

But last week I was prevailed upon, and reluctantly I agreed to let it go. There is an argument for marketing purposes, sometimes. The Comma Press will be launching their app this week at the Book Fair, with my story included.

The week is not going to be all about Medieval Murderers and London Book Fair. Oh, no. There are exciting developments too.

I have another short story to write to link with the new book I will publish next year, and I have a new novel to plan which must be written before October. And in case I thought I had time to go outside and enjoy the sun, these arrived on Tuesday:

Books 5, 6 & 7 ready to be proofread

There were supposed to be lighter moments. Thursday was to be devoted to a lunch with the Royal Literary Fund. I, like several other authors up and down the country, help students to write their essays and dissertations, and all this work is paid for by the RLF. The lunch was to be a get-together for the writers on the Fellowship scheme to swap stories and exchange ideas in the run-up to the end of the last term, and prepare us to write the lengthy report on how our year went. Sadly, other things got in the way, and I was unable to get up to it. I will go to other meetings, though. If there's one thing for certain, it is that authors do tend to meet socially at any opportunity.

It's been a busy week, but an enjoyable one. Now, to get back to the proofing of those books...

Michael Jecks

As well as collaborating with fellow members of The Medieval Murderers, Dartmoor-based Michael Jecks is the author of thirty three novels in his best-selling Templar series. His latest, Fields of Glory will be published in June 2014 in hardback and Kindle from Simon & Schuster. Expplore more of Michaels' work at: www.michaeljecks.co.uk

19 April 2013


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