The Next Big Thing

‘The Next Big Thing’ is a writer’s meme I found over on the masterful Danny Stack’s blog. The thing he’s working on sounds awesome, combining two of my favourite things. Football and alien abduction.

It intrigued me as it asks questions that I’ve been asking myself very recently. If I didn’t think we were insignificant specks in a godless, uncaring universe then I’d take it as some kind of sign.

1) What is the working title of your current/next book?

‘How To Be Dead’. Parts 1 -4.

Yeah, mofos.

Parts. One. To. Four.

2) Where did the idea come from?

First there was the idea to create a version of Death that had developed a sense of humour an an affection for the human race over the years.

Then there was the Twitter account @Its_Death. He’s up to 27,000 followers now. Which isn’t bad for a fictional character.

Then we made the pilot episode for the web series ‘How To Be Dead’. It turned out great. And I got my name up on IMDB, so that’s a tick in a box right there.

Then the waiting. Everything is written and there are things happening, but we can’t move forward with more episodes until some behind-the-scenes stuff gets sorted.

I wanted to get on with telling the story of Death and Dave and the obvious answer was to write it down.

Yeah. Another Twitter book. Awesome. Said nobody ever.

But their story – by sitcom’s nature – was episodic and – by conscious decision- varied wildly in tone. How could I make this work?

When I remembered that I lived in the future, I realised that I could do things digitally.

So, four novellas – quick fun reads – but with each one the scope of the story will get bigger and bigger until the fate of the entire human race rests with a group of idiots.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Comedy/Fantasy. Allegedly.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

These guys, of course!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The undead are administrative errors and it’s up to Death and his office staff to protect humanity by fighting ghosts, zombies, vampires and medium-sized apocalypses. After a nice cup of tea.

Yes, I am aware that’s two sentences.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m a big fan of punk, independent film and the DIY ethos.

Digital technology has empowered musicians and film-makers to create and distribute their work independent from the traditional models that existed before  and this excites both the artist and the audience.

From what I have seen (and please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), this doesn’t seem to have carried over into the literary world. The public generally believe that people self-publish stuff because “it’s not good enough for the mainstream publishers”.

But I’m aware that what I’m planning doesn’t fit into the standard publishing model. The maths don’t work to allow four 20,000 – 30,000 word novellas to be released in paperback format.

But it *does* work, I think, in a digital world. Speaking from experience, works of this length work perfectly when you’re stuck on the Jubilee line and you’ve only got a Kindle for company. Christ. What am I going to do? Talk to people on the underground? This is London!

Weirdly, it feels like we’re using new technology to revive the old publishing model of serialisation. Which feels different, fun and exciting.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

The stories have been in the planning stage for two years, in one form or another. The writing for part one is well underway and the plan will be to release all the stories 3 or so months apart.

Then, if all goes well, they’ll be combined into one volume with a couple of short stories.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m sure there will be unflattering comparisons to Terry Pratchett. But – y’know – the only similarity is that the stories are funny and contain someone called Death. They are two completely different characters.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Douglas Adams is the guy that made me want to write funny stuff. One factor in embarking on this project was that I loved how he changed and expanded on the Hitch-Hikers story whenever he moved from one medium to another. That always seemed like a fun idea.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The web series pilot has been extremely well received. The characters, style and themes work.

If I may be all name droppy and literary fanboy, I made Irvine Welsh watch it through the power of Twitter and his verdict was “Nice one! Love it!”. Which still makes me giggle.

As this is a meme, I suppose I should pass this on and nominate my partner in Murder-Death-Kill, Lara Greenway. But she’s probably far too busy actually doing stuff.