I am delighted to share a fab guest post by L J Morris on Desperate Ground Blog Blitz, which I hope you all enjoy
When the secrecy of a nuclear weapon agreement is thrown into doubt, a disgraced intelligence operative is recruited to find out if the deal is still safe…
Ali Sinclair, wrongly convicted and on the run from a Mexican prison, is enlisted to infiltrate her old friend’s inner circle and find the evidence.
The only people on her side are an ex-Cold War spook and the former Royal Marine that was sent to find her. Together they discover that the stakes are much higher than anyone knew, and the fate of the world is at risk…
But when you live in the shadows who can you trust?
The publication of Desperate Ground, my debut novel, is a milestone in my life that I’ve been dreaming of for years. For a large part of that time, it was an achievement I never thought I would reach.
I can remember creating stories with characters and some kind of basic plot as far back as five or six years old. These stories were more like cartoons or comics, but it was obviously something that I wanted to do.
Once I was reading regularly at school, I was hooked. I used to read all the time. There weren’t many books at home, so I pestered my parents to let me join the nearest public library and took books home by the bag full.
When I was 12, fuelled by watching Hammer horror films and tv series like The Sweeney and Callan, that my parents somehow let me watch, I tried to write my first novel. It was, of course, a complete failure. I’d never read a crime novel and it showed. I had no idea what I was doing or how to go about it.
Fast forward to my teenage years and I was reading, and loving, classics. The Count of Monte Christo, A Tale of Two Cities, Moby Dick, War of the Worlds, anything I could get hold of.
I was lucky enough to have a very dedicated and passionate English teacher who, looking back on it, reminds me of Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society. He tried to introduce anyone who showed interest to books that weren’t on the curriculum. He didn’t just teach us what we needed to know to pass exams but tried to instil in us an appreciation of all kinds of storytelling. He gave me my love of Shakespeare and also introduced me to the Ealing Comedies. Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Ladykillers, The Man in the White Suit, films I love to this day.
At this point, and for many years after, I idolised authors. I saw them as blessed with a talent I would never be able to match. By the time I left school and joined the military, my taste had begun to encompass more mass market fiction. Gerald Seymour, Frederick Forsyth, Wilbur Smith. I developed a liking for the horror of James Herbert and, of course, Stephen King. All of these different styles, genres and ideas logged in my head for later use.
Once I’d hit my thirties, I was married with two kids and spare time seemed like a distant memory. But it was then that I realised that I still had the need to write my own stories.
The problem I had was a lack of information. I didn’t really know how to go about writing a novel and I didn’t know any writers or of any writing groups. The internet was still in its infancy and I had to rely on writing guides from the library. Some of these weren’t the best – Novel Writing for Idiots, How to Write a Best Seller, that kind of thing. I muddled on for a few years and tried to write my masterpiece. I never got more than a couple of chapters in before realising it wasn’t going to work. Back to the drawing board.
After a few attempts, I saw a call for submissions for a short story anthology that Matt Hilton was putting together. Stories in the same vein as 70s action hero Mack Bolan. I put something together with a character called Frank McGill and, after a lot of encouragement from my wife, submitted it. I knew it wouldn’t be good enough but at least I had tried.
This was a big turning point in my writing career. Not only was the story accepted and published, but it led to me meeting Graham Smith and attending the excellent Crime & Publishment writing weekend.
The lessons I learned at Crime & Publishment were invaluable. From that point on, there was no holding me back. With the encouragement and support of the writers that I’d met over the weekend and over the next couple of years, I finally finished my book. An espionage novel featuring Ali Sinclair and Frank McGill. All I needed now was to get it published.
At first, I went down the route of submitting to agents. I suspect my experience was the same as many other writers. I was ignored by a few agents, had standard rejections from others but a handful gave me really good feedback. It seemed that they liked the book but thought the market for it was cramped and dominated by big names. I’d also shown the novel to a small publisher who loved it but didn’t have room to take me on. This was great encouragement and I decided it was time to submit to other publishers.
I’d been aware of Bloodhound Books for a while and had friends who were published by them. I thought my book would be a good fit, so I sent off the submission and waited. After so many rejections and disappointments, I wasn’t feeling too confident but, after only a few days, they got back to me and asked to see the full manuscript. Within a couple of weeks, I had a publishing contract in my hand and now have my debut in print.
It’s been a long and sometimes bumpy road to get here but I think I’m proof that, if you want something badly enough and are willing to work hard at it, anything is achievable. Just believe in yourself and don’t give up.
L J Morris is an author with a love of books and storytelling that he developed as a child.
After a career in the Royal Navy, which spanned most of the 80s and 90s, he settled back in Cumbria and soon realised that an unsuccessful attempt to write a serial killer novel at the age of 12 hadn’t blunted his ambitions.
He started to write again and has enjoyed success with his short stories appearing in several anthologies. Although he still enjoys writing short stories, his passion has always been for thriller novels and he has spent the last few years following his dream of being a published novelist.