Success is bolted on for debut author, Charlie Charters. His new book, Bolt Action (Hodder) has already received rave reviews and here he tells Chris High exactly what it takes to get published at all in the austere times.
When writing a complex thriller, it might be believed that authors delve into the very minutiae of their chosen research areas. Not so Charlie Charters, whose debut novel Bolt Action (Hodder) was published recently.
‘One thing I learnt from earlier attempts at writing is not to overdo the research,’ Charlie explained recently, and who was born in London but raised in Fiji, has had jobs as a DJ, Press and Media journalist, been involved in sports marketing and, also, a horse racing tipster. ‘Research works if it allows you to gently establish some credibility with the reader, and it can offer suggestions or hints where the story might take you. Research is not the story and your readers will not thank you for making them peel their way through your research to get at the characters, dialogue and action, which is what really gives traction to a story.’
In the book, Tristie Merritt leads a renegade band of ex-soldiers. Their daring scam will take millions from a furious British government and give it to veterans` charities - if MI5 don`t catch up with them first. Since 9/11, the door between the pilots and the passengers on an airliner must be locked and impossible to break down. But what if the pilots are dead? ‘Lord knows why I do this to myself but I seem to be drawn to writing characters that are not obviously likeable – or at least the reader has to work their way past some pretty irritating traits before, hopefully, embracing them. Tristie Merritt is not an easy person to like necessarily, except that she has the backbone to stand up to try to fix the plight of British Army veterans. So the trick to rounding them off is to leave things in balance. One of the rejections I got said, in a typically disingenuous way, if only the main character was female he would have signed up that instant. That got me thinking … why not try a female lead instead of the male characters I’d written before. That throw-away line from a rejection was the little speck of grit from which Tristie Merritt grew.
The writing of Bolt Action took a little under a year, but Charlie’s problems in getting it published did not end there. ‘The major difficulty on submission was timing: it was being sent out in late November 2008 when the world was tipping into financial chaos and publishers and the retail trade were talking themselves into a funk about the worst Christmas ever. So sentiment was poor to start with, and extremely poor towards unpublished authors. More than anything else it was sheer bloody-mindedness, perhaps the most important quality if you are an unpublished author seeking to get a book deal these days. The more rejections I got the more determined it made me, the more I read and wrote and, I think, the better I got. It helped that some of the rejections were clearly written by people you could only describe as nitwits: there is nothing better than knowing the size and shape of who you’re dealing with, in order to steel your resolve. In truth that never-say-die thing got me most of the way.’
For more information: http://www.charliecharters.com