Starting my first novel, In His Shadow.
The idea for my first novel came from listening to a PI on a radio show talking about a case of his where an adopted girl hired him to find her biological parents, and how badly it all turned out. That got my mind working on yet another Ross Macdonald imitation—in this one a PI is looking into the murder of a young woman, which would turn out to be related to her hiring a celebrity PI, and this PI’s sloppiness leading to her death. It would have the typical Macdonald theme of exposing the sins of the father. Once I read Thompson’s “Hell of a Woman” and “Swell-Looking Babe”, all that changed. I saw a new way of writing this. Instead of hardboiled PI it was going to be psychotic noir. I was excited, and more than just seeing a new way to write this, I was starting to discover my own voice. At the time I was working for Digital Equipment Corporation (at one time a massive computer company with over 120,000 employees, now defunct), and was stuck on a hellish project that I had to finish before I could move onto a decent one. What made this such a hellish project was that I had to write driver code interfacing with a board developed by a group in Ireland, and the bastards there were so protective of their code that they wouldn’t share it with me, so I was basically having to write code in the dark trial by error style. Something that should’ve taken a week was going to have to take months because of these jerks in Ireland. Starting this novel at this time helped me keep my sanity, but also for the first time I was excited about what I was writing, and for the first time I was writing something that I thought could someday be published.
I wrote this at work during my lunch break, typing away fast and furious. At times my boss would come over and ask me technical questions while I wrote this, and I’d answer him while still typing away. Seven months later I had my draft done. This was 1991, and at this point I bought a PC, copied my document at work to a floppy disk, and started working on revisions.
At work I’d also finally gotten off my hellish project, and was starting my first of many network management projects. I was also moving from building firmware and driver code to writing graphical software using C. In other words, I was having fun again at work. But I was also distracted with thoughts of actually getting a book published.
Now for some news, I heard from Serpent's Tail yesterday that we've received a really good offer for the French rights for Small Crimes from Rivages. I'm not sure yet when they're going to be publishing it over there, but this is exciting. I've been hearing from friends who know about Rivages is that they're a terrific house with maybe the best hardboiled/noir list in the world. Anyway, more about this later.