We spoke to Jeremy Thomas, author of The Santa Monica Suicide Club, about the difference between writing fiction and non-fiction and his advice for his fellow authors.
1. You published a book about mental health in 2008 with Dr Tony Hughes. How can you compare the research process of a non-fiction book to a novel?
The process of writing a novel compared to writing non-fiction is similar to driving along a motorway compared to hurtling along country lanes using a 1932 Ordinance Survey map. With non-fiction, you normally have a great sense of what is required, how you are going to obtain the relevant information and how it will be set down on the page. Novels are not nearly so easy to navigate. Even though you may have a rough idea of the terrain ahead, the road can be bumpy, and often things change and develop beyond your control.
2. What did you set out to do differently in The Santa Monica Suicide Club as compared to your first novel, Taking Leave?
The Santa Monica Suicide Club is my second published novel. There is also one about a music executive, a ‘big idea’ and a Russian cat stuffed inside a drawer- waiting expectantly; and another co-written novel being published next year. Because Taking Leave, my first book, was quite autobiographical, or let’s say a story I knew well; I wanted to do something completely original with SMSC. I think the story and characters are 100% imagined, so that has been a success. However, the book took six years to write, firstly, because I wanted it be multi-POV and then a dark comic crime book. In hindsight, I wish I had known from the outset that the correct genre was crime thriller and it was best to have one lead protagonist.
3. Any advice for authors facing similar challenges to yours?
Best advice given to me… which I did not appreciate for a long time- was whatever else, to enjoy the process. However terrible thing may become- enjoy writing!
- Most importantly, decide whether you want to compete in the Business of Publishing or not- as in backing your horse to win a publishing deal or whether you prefer to ride back-back in the mountains of self publishing?
- Work out your characters and spend time planning a thorough outline.
- Handwrite and type but spend no money on stupid special HB pencils.
- Switch off the internet and phone when you write.
- Spend money finding a terrific editor.
- Don’t worry about finding an agent. They are all overworked and will only be receptive when your work is gleaming hot.
- Find a way of earning a living that affords you time to write. It is tough being a writer.
- Swim or walk every morning for 30 minutes.
- Ask whitefox for their advice when the time comes.
- Read a book by Anne Lamott called BIRD by BIRD.