My first full-on dive into the world of fiction was The Company of Fellows, a thriller set in Oxford about a bipolar ex Theology student (write what you know, eh!). I’ve always loved thrillers, and whilst I adore Morse, your average Oxford-set murder tends to be a somewhat comfortable affair. I wanted to write something a little more along the lines of Val McDermid or Hannibal Lecter, something that probes the darkness. Oxford’s such a great backdrop for the depths the human soul can plunge.
It was my first shot at getting an agent, too. After much researching the art of the synopsis, I plundered the Writers and Artists Yearbook for possibles. And it went OK for a first manuscript, getting the odd bite, if nothing landed.
The Company of Fellows languished in a drawer whilst I went on to literary fiction, until this year, when – long after I’d stopped looking for an agent – I decided I might as well put it out there. So I did. I made it available on Kindle, and as a paperback. And somehow it sold. More than 7000 copies to date. And got voted Blackwell’s “favourite Oxford novel.”
And suddenly I found myself best known as a thriller writer. And on the verge of the mainstream. I was invited to join all kinds of groups with bestselling writers. People were suddenly interested in me. Me the thriller-writing self-publishing bestseller. I found myself in a world that talked about marketing, promotions, how-to-sell, and pricing. Lots of doors were opened that would never have been opened without The Company of Fellows. That in itself makes me anxious. One of them – getting to know the wonderful team at Blackwell’s – has been amazing. And I’ve met many super people. Many of the other doors I’ve been rather glad to close and find myself still on the outside.