Thursday, June 03, 2010
Pro-File: Simon Wood
Pro-File Simon Wood:
1. Tell us about your current novel.
My current novel is TERMINATED and it deals with workplace violence. It centers on Gwen Farris who is a middle manager at a biotech firm who falls a prey to one of her disgruntled employees, Stephen Tarbell. Tarbell resents Gwen and her position, so he takes it upon himself to ruin her life. Gwen tries to use the corporate system to help rid her of this problem, but when it fails her, she’s forced to take some unorthodox actions to save herself and family.
I tackled this subject after discovering that some companies are turning to private security firms to handle workplace violence claims. These firms investigate, provide security and in some cases make advise the guilty party to leave to eradicate the problem. Workplace violence claims can cost a firm so much in lost man-hours, lawyers and trials, etc., that it’s more cost effective to bring in a third party to make the problem disappear. I looked up government statistics and on average, someone is killed at their place of work every day. It made it a subject worth pursuing. The more I dug the crazier the real life incidences became.
2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?
I’ve just finished a book very close to my heart called, DID NOT FINISH. It’s what I hope will be the first in a series of mysteries set in the motor racing world. I used to compete during 90’s in the UK and I witnessed a number of incidents that would make the basis for crime stories. DID NOT FINISH is the first in a story arc that will catalog a character’s motor racing career from its humble beginning to its international heights. I’m hoping to do for motor racing what Dick Francis did for horse racing.
3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
Writing the first draft. There's nothing finer than laying down page after page on a new story. I’m excited because I know no one has read it and I can't wait for my first readers’ reactions to the piece.
Receiving a contract comes a close second. It’s proof that the story was a good one and that someone is willing to commit time, money and resources to turn it into a book.
4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?
Revising. I find writing a first draft emotional experience and it’s exciting because of it. An objective eye takes over during rewrites and it’s never that fun. It would be nice to write the perfect first draft, but I can't see that happening any time soon.
5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Write. Revise. Submit. Repeat.
6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?
I’d like to see Hammond Innes get a resurgence. I’ve been picking up his books in junk shops. I recently read ANGRY MOUNTAIN and it blew me away. It was a fantastic setup with an amazing protagonist. I think he’s such a forgotten man. Someone else in the field who is well known but whose books aren’t that readily available is Alastair Maclean. I love the boldness of his tales and I wish I could come up with something that could rival them.
7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.
My first novel sale was a comedy of errors that was filled with way too much angst. I’d pitched my first novel to Don D’Auria at Dorchester at a convention. He liked my pitch so much he asked for the complete manuscript. I mailed it on a Tuesday and Don called the following Monday morning. Unfortunately, I was in the shower getting ready for work when he called. I didn’t check the machine until I came home that night. I hit play and got “Hey, Simon, it’s Don. I’m calling about the B--” before my machine crapped out on me. “What about the B--?” Was it good? Was it bad? It was too late to call. I spent the next twenty minutes listening to the message over and over again trying determine whether Don sounded happy or annoyed. I didn’t want to get carried away. I estimated he’d only had the book two or three days at the most. He could be calling to say he dropped coffee over it or it was so bad he wanted to call me to tell me it was the worst book he'd read in his life. Naturally, I couldn’t sleep and just lay there in turmoil. The second it was six am (on the west coast), I jumped on the phone because I wanted to catch Don as he got into the office. He asked me if I got the message. I said no, and he said he'd called to offer me a contract.
“I started reading it on Friday and couldn’t stop,” he said.
I was so emotionally spent from obsessing for the last twelve hours there was nothing in the tank, all I could say was, “That sounds nice.”
Don kinda picked up on this. “Normally people sound a little more enthusiastic when I give them good news.”
I said, “I am enthusiastic,” not sounding enthusiastic one iota. “I just don’t know what to say.”
“Oh. Well, I’ll send you a contract.”
I saw my New York publishing breakthrough crashing down around me because I couldn’t sound happy. I ended up sending a gushing email after we ended the call explaining that the situation had simply overwhelmed me. I’m not sure if Don bought it or not, but I’ve never told him this story.