Voyager, my second novel, was an anomaly, much like the central premise of its story. I’d just written Irex, an intense, brooding and claustrophobic historical mystery; I expected to continue in a similar vein.
Instead, I had a very vivid dream in the summer of 2016 in which I saw the central motif of Voyager’s story – a human hand against a bright light source. This would be the central, arresting image in a series taken by the Voyager spacecraft more than 12 billion miles from Earth.
I found this so compelling, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and began to write a story around it.
Unusually for me, Voyager had a very troubled gestation. I usually have a very strong story idea that carries the writing without losing my thread. This time, I ran into some problems (which you might expect, considering I was writing an entire book from a picture I saw in a dream!) The original premise was that the “extraterrestrials” were, in fact, an ancient race of humans, the inspiration for the ancient writings of Hebrew, Mesopotamian and Indian mythology. As I continued this storyline, it began to get convoluted and increasingly unbelievable. I read other fiction and non-fiction works in a similar vein like Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods (compelling reading!) and A.G. Riddle’s The Atlantis Gene (which I really didn’t like).
I couldn’t pin down what was wrong so I sent the original synopsis and chapter breakdown to a story editor (Sarah Hull at Writers Essentials ) When I got her reply my cheeks actually burned with shame. Not that she was rude about it, but the depth of my failings hit me so hard I was deeply embarrassed. This is not unfamiliar to any author who has their work professionally evaluated – it’s part of the vulnerability you feel when putting your creative works on show.
I didn’t look at Voyager again for over a week, but when I read and re-read Sarah’s critique, I decided to bite the bullet and re-write the book as a conspiracy thriller with sci-fi elements. I had to do this within twenty days as I’d already booked a professional editor (Alex Matthews at https://www.bookeditingservices.co.uk/)
The gamble paid off. Although it reads very differently to my other books in pace and style, it seems to have struck a genuine chord with readers of thrillers and sci-fi alike. Yesterday I received a phone call from my oldest friend, who now lives in Australia. He read it on his flight home from London and while complimenting me on a book he found unexpectedly brilliant (his words!), he complained that he arrived home jet-lagged having read the entire book in one sitting. He found this exceptional as it usually takes him weeks to read a book. It’s something I’ve heard from Voyager’s critics and those who loved it – you just can’t stop turning the pages!
Voyager sold about a thousand copies in its first year on sale, mostly in the US where it is set, and this smashed my expectations considering I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into marketing it.
I’ve revised the book and am currently about 80% through the sequel, titled Sentinel. More on that soon!
The aforementioned re-write involved 40,000 words (over half the book), completely changing the premise of the book in the process. I have dozens of pages of failed ideas and outtakes from the book which were in it almost right up to the moment of publication.
I will make this material available to my blog subscribers which I hope you will find very interesting – keep watch for details!