…here’s sum’thing to whet yer reading appetites… my mate, Author, Michael Tyne leads yeez with consummate ease into his new book, THE LAST FIVE DAYS… he’s being a tad coy in this photograph culled from the undercover files at Interpol… relax and enjoy:
Waits for the applause to die down
Realises there isn’t any.
So this is new. I’ve never done a guest blog post before.
In this situation I’m reminded of Olivia Manning’s fictional Cambridge Professor, Lord Pinkrose, who travelled half-way across war-torn Europe to give a lecture on the poet, Lord Byron: something I am unlikely to do, not least because I can’t stand Byron; although I am quite fond of Europe.
Evacuated from Bucharest and then from Athens in the face of the Nazi advance, Pinkrose finally winds up standing in front of an excited audience in Cairo. He utters four words:
“It seems not inappropriate…”
And then someone shoots him dead.
Pinkrose, in Manning’s narrative, was a pompous, silly and unpleasant man. But it’s hard not to see a parallel between his situation and that of the independent author, travelling a violent and uncaring world in search of an audience. I’ve been writing for thirty years, and large swathes of that period have been occupied in attempting to get people actually to listen.
So I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this post today. Sincere thanks to our generous host. And one can only hope that no-one in the audience is actually, erm, packing heat…
Some years ago, I wrote a series of comic bedtime stories for my son, in which a small group of ill-matched characters confront alien invasion and Ultimate Evil on the tiny mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda. It fell, loosely speaking, into the Fantasy genre, which was something I had generally avoided in the past, because I was trying to write the Great Novel; despite being entirely unqualified, either intellectually or in a literary sense, to do such a thing.
The bedtime stories were easily the best fun I’d had as a writer in years – possibly decades – and I began to look at ways in which I might carry that fun on. I quickly realised that, while the storyline I’d created for them was untenable in a published work, the characters themselves had taken on a life of their own – as they will – and, if I were to transplant them to another situation, another story, I might have the makings of something special. I figured I could knock over a first draft, just for the fun of it, in a couple of months, and then see where we were standing. Eight weeks, I figured, should be plenty.
Eight years later, I finally published it.
It’s called The Last Five Days, and it’s a long way from the bedtime stories I wrote for my son.
I’m fascinated by history, and in particular by the two World Wars, and the way in which these colossal events affected the lives of entire populations. I’m also fascinated by the idea of ‘secret worlds’ – worlds, communities, societies which might exist beneath, or wrapped up in, the fabric of our ‘normal’ day-to-day world. Finally, there were my characters: an odd, almost archetypal group of individuals – The Baroness, The Identity Man, The Assassin, The Security Man – who had existed for decades, moving through the ordinary world, unnoticed, unregarded.
These were the elements which made up my story – along with my Aliens, lurking in space, enigmatic and unfathomable.
One fundamental thing changed during the writing of the book: I had thought I was writing about a group of extraordinary characters – superhumans, even – in an ordinary world. But the more I wrote about them, the more they changed. They acquired, names, histories, flaws, loves, hates and conflicts. They became, to cut a long story short, human. And I realised that actually I was writing about a group of very ordinary – painfully so – characters in an extraordinary world. Which, some might say, is as good a definition of the fantasy genre – or a corner of it – as one might hope for.
Naturally, a novel which charts the last five days of England as we know it (to quote a recent review) has a certain apocalyptic quality. Fantasy and Science Fiction writers will frequently tell you of the glee they take in destroying entire worlds – it’s one of the perks of the job – and I’m no different.
But in all of this, I found myself coming back, always, to my characters, to their humanity and weakness, and ultimately to the one quality which seems often to raise humans to nobility: the ability to love.
Because I do my research, I acquired an unhealthy level of knowledge about, for instance, guns; about the internet (and, specifically, how one might destroy it); and about our major cities and their populations (and, specifically, how one might destroy them). The tagline for the book is England Is About To Die. There’s a reason for that.
Since our genial host is of the Scottish persuasion, it seems only courteous to mention that Scotland is not – despite the tagline above – excluded from the fun. Part of the back-story to my series is tied up with the history of the Clans, with the Highland Clearances and, specifically with the tragedy of Culloden and its aftermath. I’m Lancastrian, born and bred, and my son is a resident of the Isle of Skye: naturally, I’m going to have more sympathy with Scots than with soft Southerners. And while Scotland largely escapes the mayhem in The Last Five Days, there are still two more volumes to come…
You see, somewhat to my disappointment, I was unable to finish the job in a single volume. Five Days is the first book in a trilogy, the last part of which I am now racing frantically to finish.
Then I’m going on to something even bigger.
You know what authors are like. We always want to talk about the next thing, not the last one….
“The Last Five Days” is available as an e-book at all your favourite ebook retailers, and as a paperback via Amazon. Sale page links, and lots more, can be found at Michael’s facebook page:
Michael Tyne was born in 1964 in Lancashire, England. He has been writing for thirty years, and has built a small but devoted following for his Young Adult fiction (published as MJ Kingston).
…cheeers, that man, Michael… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…
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