As I mentioned in my last Blog posting, my next novel Integration features a character called Kofi Albus as one of its two main protagonists. Now Kofi was the main protagonist of my first novel, The Stream, so I promised to explain the relationship between these books. So here I am, ready to explain - but first, a bit of history.
Before 2016, I’d always wanted to write a novel, but never made the time to do it. Career and family life came first. It wasn’t for a shortage of ideas - I’d had the basic concept of The Stream in mind for the best part of 25 years. The stresses of work and the need to unwind and enjoy life with my family didn’t give me the time I needed to focus on it though.
I’d risen to be senior director of software at a multinational SSD manufacturer, way beyond anything I expected starting out as a shy, pitifully naive, working-class lad venturing out into the world of employment after A levels at the age of 18. To be honest, although I was pretty successful in my role, I’d been promoted beyond the point where the job was enjoyable. Well paid, certainly, but when I realised I was spending more time handling internal politics rather than achieving anything useful, I knew I needed a change. The final catalyst was when we were taken over by an even larger Japanese multinational. Can’t fault how friendly and professional they were, but needing to get everything we did approved by Japanese lawyers was pretty soul-destroying and quenched the final embers of creativity in the role.
So rather than go straight into a new role, I decided to take a break. A bit of a risk, but decided it was worth it. I’m one of the fortunate ones who had avoided redundancy throughout my career from the age of 18, so it was the first time I’d had a break, other than the usual 2-week holidays or the luxury of 3 weeks off recuperating from an operation! One of the things I was determined to do in that break was to write the novel that had been rattling around my brain for all those years.
Six months later, I was back running software development for another company, but I’d done it. The Stream was complete. After a little editing after feedback from my son, I self-published it. There’s a lot I’m proud of in The Stream, but the passing of time has made me realise a few things about it.
I think the story is really strong, and full of some original and interesting ideas. However I’d had so many ideas in my head waiting to get them onto paper, I think in retrospect I tried to cram too many of them in. It didn’t give enough space for the story, or the characters, to breathe. Although the story itself was strong, I think the storytelling was fairly basic, and the characterisations a bit sketchy.
I’d not really written any fiction since I’d left school, well other than some of my weekly project status reports. That meant a big learning curve when starting out writing The Stream. I think I improved a great deal during its execution and editing (thanks largely to the feedback and support of my son), but it was a big ask to make something effective first time. When I started writing Long Division a year later, I felt a much better writer and feel more satisfied with the results - although know I’m still improving.
After a bit of a personal reinvention through 2017 and 2018, I’ve now got time to focus more on writing. After completing the first draft of Long Division, I started thinking ahead to my next novel which started out as The Plexus/The Skein. I realised it had a lot of thematic commonality with The Stream, but couldn’t quite get it to work adequately in a way that made it justify its existence. By the time I’d finished the final edit of Long Division and was ready to publish, I knew what was wrong, and what I had to do.
The big revelation was that The Stream actually had two separate stories in it - the story of the creation of the Stream and ongoing impact; and the story of the Safirans. There was more than enough in both to justify their own novels, so that’s what I’m now doing.
Integration is the tale of the creation of the Stream on Flood day (from Carole Cantor’s perspective) and the world two centuries later (from Kofi Albus’s perspective). The resonances between these two timelines are hopefully what makes the story special - and I have much more time to develop the characters and the world fully, with some new, hopefully unexpected, twists and turns along the way. It certainly ends up in a different place.
Differentiation will be the story of the Safirans and their interactions with humanity. Interestingly this will now start in the world of Long Division, but transitions into the world of Integration. It actually acts as the bridge between the two other novels to form the Irrational Trilogy - but will be written so it works perfectly as a standalone novel too. I hope!
So that’s it. Once I’m ready to publish Integration (assuming I don’t get a publishing deal), I’m planning on withdrawing The Stream from sale. I’m still proud of it, and believe it has a lot of value, but don’t want to confuse the marketing of my trilogy. I’ll make it available as a free download through this website for historical purposes.
As I’m progressing a bit further through Integration, which I hope to publish before the end of this year, I’ll make the first chapter from Carole and Kofi’s perspective available here as blog posts so you can see how differently the story is going to be told.