Just over a year ago I experienced the rush of excitement that came with having my first novel, “The Book of Answers” included on the short list for the “Unhanged Arthur”. It’s a prize for unpublished crime novels, co-sponsored by Dundurn Press and Crime Writers of Canada.
I had a great time at the awards banquet. It was held in the banquet hall of Toronto’s historic Arts and Letters Club, which felt a lot like Hogwarts.
I was not at all shocked when another book, The Scarlet Cross, by Liv McFarlane won the award. For me, it was more than enough to make the move from the “long list” of ten, to the “short list” of five authors from across Canada whose work was considered for this honour.
It did come as a surprise that all five finalist’s works were to be read by the acquisitions team at Dundurn. They are a Canadian publishing house with an impressive list of books and authors.
I have had good, and useful feedback on my first serious effort, and I continue to learn the craft. My writing mentor said most first novels don’t end up being published. I am okay with that, and have moved on to work on a second story, tentatively called “The Book of Secrets”. It involves some of the characters from the first novel.
The editors at Dundurn might not be waiting with anticipation, but I look forward to sending them the new one to consider, when the time comes. (I just checked their website, and Dundurn is not currently inviting new submissions, so I guess there’s no great hurry!)
As one of my fellow nominees, Heather McLeod noted recently, fiction writers in this strange time have to contend creatively with the pandemic. Do they set their story before COVID-19, during, or after?
For me, it seems too soon to write about life after COVID-19. I have seen new micro-fiction set “during”, which captures some of the mood, and the questions of this time.
My first novel was set roughly in modern day. (Which was pre-COVID-19) That was the plan with my current effort, but I have found it hard to make the mental leap back into a world (even a fictional one) in which people are not worried about physical distancing and quarantines.
It’s the same problem I watching tv shows and movies, unless they are clearly historical pieces. What are they doing on that crowded street?
I do want to get back to the work (play) of writing about my protagonist, Tom Book, and his family and friends (and enemies). Whenever I do make the dive into the part of my brain where imaginary world lives, it’s still an interesting place to be.