Up front, let me say I have few pretensions. I’m not a literary writer. I don’t spend days musing over le mot juste. I just get on and tell the story to the best of my ability. I tell a lot of stories. That has led to me being called a hack in some quarters, but if a hack is someone who values storytelling, then I suppose that’s what I am.
I choose to write mainly at the pulpy end of the market, populating my stories with monsters, myths, ghosts, men who like a drink and a smoke, and more monsters. People who like this sort of thing like it. But a lot of writers have been told that pulp = bad plotting and that you have to have deep psychological insight in your work for it to be valid. They’ve also been told that pulp = bad writing, and they believe it. Whereas I remember the joy I get from early Moorcock, from Mickey Spillane and further back, A E Merritt and H Rider Haggard. I’d love to have a chance to write a Tarzan, John Carter, Allan Quartermain, Mike Hammer or Conan novel, whereas a lot of writers I know would sniff and turn their noses up at the very thought of it.
I know I’m capable of producing readable fiction, quickly. I’ve written twenty three novels in the last fifteen years, and had them published in the specialist genre presses. I also enjoy writing stories for some of my favorites; Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger and Carnacki in the main, with a handful of collections in print.
And again, in some quarters, this is seen as beneath a ‘real’ writer, and has led to more accusations of being no more than fan fiction and hackwork. But recently this ‘hackwork’ has been getting me into professional anthologies from big publishers like ‘The Mammoth Book of’ series where I’ve placed both Holmes and Carnacki stories.
And there lies one of the things I’ve been thinking about – again.
I write what I want to write, producing books that I would want to read. But I’m a fifty-something man steeped in pulpy fiction from an early age. I’ve always wanted the big deal, to see my books on shelves in shops all over the world. That’s always been the dream, but my obsessions don’t yet get me a place at the top end of the marketplace. Sure, my pulpy fiction sells relatively well – THE INVASION, for example sold over 20,000 copies in ebook, THE VALLEY over 10,000 and I have a bunch of others well into the thousands, with THE HOLE from DarkFuse in particular still showing a lot of life several years after publication.
But I want more.
I’m not dissing these small press publishers. I’m eternally grateful to them, and they make me warm and fuzzy happy.
But there’s still that big dream to keep pursuing. A wee while back I tried to write in different genres, different styles, but I was never comfortable and I think it showed – the books died quickly. Once I realised that it wasn’t working for me, and went back to the pulpier material, it felt like meeting an old friend. But pulp doesn’t bring the big dream any closer to reality. Not yet anyway. I’ve shipped several works around agents in recent years to no avail – ‘we don’t think we can find a market for this’ is the general reply I get.
So I still have this dichotomy in my brain. Writing pulp makes me happy; having the big dream gives me an itch I can’t scratch.
I still have the gap between them to fill. And I’m unsure if there’s a way to close it.
But happy is good.
I think I’ll keep on being happy.
Onward and upward.
To infinity and beyond.