I shouldn't be writing this. I'm just one day away from my deadline for the next Inspector Banks novel, but my kind editor has given me special dispensation because, you see, Cold is the Grave is now on the shelves.
Anyone who thinks a writer's life is divided into neat little compartments, book by book, year after year, dream on. There's an annoying and frustrating period every year, which can run from two to three months, or even longer, when he is preoccupied with at least three, possibly even four books.
Earlier this month, I had the great honour of being awarded the Anthony for Best Novel of 1999 at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Denver. And a great honour it was, indeed, to walk through the crowded banquet hall and pick up the award. But the book that won, In a Dry Season, was published in April 1999, and I finished writing it in June 1998. That's a long time ago. So long that I can't remember many of the story's details.
Looking at my notebook, I see that I finished Cold is the Grave in July 1999. Since then, I have written two short stories, a novella, and the best part of the next Banks book, Aftermath. But now that Cold is the Grave is finally out, I have to focus my attention on it yet again, because it's new to everyone but me, and it's the one people will be asking me about.
If simply finishing the manuscript were enough, the writing life would be less complicated, but there's no telling how much editing needs to be done. First, there's the substantive editing, and then there's the copy-editing--both of which require my going through the manuscript with a magnifying glass--and then there are the galleys to proof. It's a wonder I know what book I'm writing when it's all happening at once! Just to make things more complicated still, Britain and Canada also send me editing and galleys to deal with, so I go through the whole process three times, and there's no coordination whatsoever. All this happens when I'm either desperate to finish the next book or just getting started with the one after that. It also usually happens while I'm touring to promote the most recent publication.
Confused? I am.
So which book am I supposed to be writing about now? Ah, yes, Cold is the Grave. Well, I hope you like it. It's very different from In a Dry Season, but then it had to be. I don't like to write the same book over and over again, even though I have a series character, and the blend of past and present narrative in In a Dry Season would have been impossible to reproduce for another story anyway. So Cold is the Grave is bleaker, grittier, perhaps even more tragic in its treatment of a family's disintegration, especially if tragedy can be said to stem from those with the power to exercise their character flaws, because the family here is Chief Constable Riddle's.
So, for the next little while, I'll be struggling to finish Aftermath, hitting tthe road and answering questions about Cold is the Grave, and looking at my Anthony Award (it actually lights up) for In a Dry Season. And that fourth book? Well, it's the next one, of course!
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