Thursday, 25 June 2015

Hot trod! - by Susan Price

Twenty years ago - yes, it was twenty years ago, though it doesn't
The Sterkarm Handshake by Susan Price: Scholastic
seem possible - I went on holiday in Northumberland, walked along Hadrian's Wall and bought MacDonald Fraser's book, The Steel Bonnets, about the riding families, or reivers, of the Scottish Borders.

     As a result, I wrote The Sterkarm Handshake - which tells how a 21st Century multi-national company, FUP, develops a time-machine, and travels back 500 years, to the early 16th Century, in order to exploit the fossil fuels. They intend to bring the coal, oil and gas back through the time tube to their own time, and sell it at huge profit.
      They come into conflict with the natives, the Sterkarm family. Windsor, the 21st Century executive,  makes the mistake of dismissing them as 'peasants armed with sticks.' The 'sticks' are longbows and eight-foot lances and the Sterkarms - shrewd, quick and bolshy to the bone - make him regret his words.
       The book did very well, in the UK and US, and was followed by A Sterkarm Kiss - something every bit as unfriendly and lethal as a Sterkarm handshake. (Think along the lines of 'a Gorballs' kiss.')
     A Sterkarm Kiss ended on a steep cliff-hanger - and then just hung and hung. I had fully intended to write the third book, but my agent, self and publisher could not come to terms. So I walked away.
The late, lamented Cuddy - or facsimile of same
      I hadn't reckoned on how many fans the books had collected, how much they wanted the third book, and how indignant they were at my cavalier dropping of the series. (That and the fact that I killed the deerhound, Cuddy. Writers, I warn you: kill as many human beings as you like, in as many horrible ways as you like, but if you value a quiet life, spare your canine characters. Kill off a dog and you will never be allowed to forget it. In the midst of compliments, suddenly the concealed dagger: 'But you killed Cuddy.')
          Just after Kiss came out, my friend, the author Celia Rees (Pirates! and Sovay) marched up to me at an event we both attended, and the first words out of her mouth were, "How dare you? How dare you?" I reeled a bit before I found out she was talking about the unresolved end of the book. And then I had to apologise.
          I get emails, still, twenty years later, which begin by berating me for killing Cuddy, but end by asking, 'When is the third book coming out?' - 'Will there ever be a third book?' - 'What about a third book?' (And there is now a certain, whippet-loving fan who reguarly demands a fourth book. I don't have the strength.)

          Well, at last, I have an answer to this question. "Next year."
          The ebook publisher, Open Road, is going to re-release the 
Open Road
two older books, and publish the new, third one, all at the same time - in June 2016.


          Which is why I am on the editing Hot Trod.
          A 'trod' was a hue and cry in pursuit of stolen beasts. If your cattle were driven off by rievers, you were entitled to raise a trod in pursuit of them. If you pursued within six days, you were even entitled to cross the border (officially, that is. The border, wherever it was thought to be that week, was crossed unofficially all the time.)
          This pressing pursuit was 'a hot trod', and to be legal, you had to do it with 'hue and cry, horn and hound'  - and carry a smouldering peat on the point of a lance, as a sign, to let everyone know what you were about.
Matrice
          Well, the accomplished editor, Matrice Hussey has driven off my story, has chased it into the hills with canny and devious questions - and I have a smouldering typescript hoist above on a sharp red pen, and am in hot trod across the fells of chapters and - wary of ambush - through the dales of paragraphs. How about that for torturing a metaphor?

          The manuscript has been delivered to me by email, and all Matrice's comments are in blue boxes down the right, in the mark-up pane. I can add my own comments, in red boxes. I like this. I can remember when illegible comments were scribbled in margins, or stuck on post-it notes.

          I'm embarrassed by the number of typos Matrice has spotted so far. She could probably spot one from across the street.
           She's also asked many, many pertinent questions about background and character motivation, which have me shoving my hair on end as I try to rake answers out of my head. And we've only got to chapter 10.
          But this is all good. I've always enjoyed a right old stooshy over edits. Writing any novel means juggling with a dozen different awkward objects at once - plot, theme, character, dialogue, description, narrative - and it's exhausting. You try your best and you think you're doing okay - but inevitably, you drop one of them.
          Matrice's job is to spot all the places where I dropped something - and she's very good at it. She asks all the difficult questions that any intelligent reader would ask - and gives me a chance to correct the flaws before other intelligent readers can object to them. (If she'd been there when I wrote Handshake, she might even have rescued Cuddy, who knows?)
          There's going to be quite a bit of rewriting, I think... But I'll get it done. Before June, next year.

Discounted Books

          By way of celebrating having a publication date for Sterkarm 3, I've put some of my other books on Kindle Discount, starting today. They'll be selling for as much as 72% off their usual price.

They are:-

Christopher Uptake: The Life and Times of a Godless Playmaker.

An adventure set in the reign of Elizabeth I of England.

                             Amazon US

 

The Story Collector

The elderly Mr. Grimsby collects folk-tales from his maid, her grandmother, a dying woman, an old soldier - and even from a Churchyard Grim and the Virgin... Everyone has a story.

Retellings of the folklore and legends that have fascinated me my whole life...   Also available in paperback

                                                      Amazon US

Hauntings: Nine Eerie Stories

'This collection… has a depth of emotion that is at times disturbing.'  Magpie, 1998

If you're looking for gross-out horror, this collection is not for you. I called it 'Hauntings' because that's what I wanted the stories to do - to stay with the reader, to haunt, to unsettle...I was trying for the effect of many of the 'true' ghost stories told in my family.

                                            Amazon US



The Saga of Aslak Slave-Born

The Viking Age. Adventure, fighting, ghosts.

A story for younger readers, it tells of how Aslak searches across the Northern world of the Viking Age, to find and rescue his lost sister, who has been sold as a slave.

                                                                    Amazon US 

Also available in paperback.              

16 comments:

madwippitt said...

Yes! Cuddy-killer! How COULD you? And there is room for S4, there is! But so excited that S3 is on the move at last ... looking forward to getting my paws on a copy of the final book. (Or IS it final .... S4, remember!)

Sandra Horn said...

That's great news about the Sterkarm trilogy! I'm glad you've got such a splendid editor - they are absolutely invaluable and I was beginning to think they'd all gone to Valhalla and left a bunch of illiterates behind. Am mightily cheered up now.

Juliet said...

Delighted to hear that Sterkarm 3 is on its way!

Nick Green said...

This is the publishing news of the year... and we heard it here first. Can't wait. Roll on The Sterkarm Shag (or whatever it's called).

Your Cuddy-killing has a name, by the way. It's called 'Death By Newbery Medal':
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeathByNewberyMedal

madwippitt said...

Nick, don't encourage her. I'm sure you can win gongs for NOT killing the doggy heroes too ... :-)

Susan Price said...

Nick, that's a back-handed compliment if ever there was one!
I went and read the article and yeah, 'Kill the Cutie' it's an all too recognisable trope - but I would like to point out that Cuddy is hardly a sweet, wise friend to the main character - she's his hunting hound and has already worried a man to death by the time she is herself killed, as a purely practical measure. (I put myself in the place of the characters and thought, in this situation, I'd kill that big thing with the teeth.)
The result of her death is not a loss of innocence for Per Sterkarm (who had little to lose in the first place), nor a winning of wisdom or a coming of age. Its main result is an implacable desire for revenge - which is pretty much the Sterkarm's default setting anyway.

Susan Price said...

This quote from the site did make me laugh, though -

"The dog always dies. Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down."
— Wallace Wallace, No More Dead Dogs

Lydia Bennet said...

Great news Susan congratulations on the third lot of Sterkarm rampages, must lock up my cows pronto! (the ones I stole from them hehehe) By the way, just interested in why you are using an e-publisher instead of doing it yourself? is there any advantage in this when it presumably cuts royalties?

Nick Green said...

Indeed Susan - the quote was what I meant, really. The trope itself doesn't fit at all. But it is a funny and true trope in general.

I will only pay you forehanded compliments. :-)

Lee said...

I've cut way back on my blog reading, but this post was good news indeed, well worth my stopping by. Way to go, Susan!

Nicky said...

I love the Sterkham books. I think they are the books I would most like to have written. So happy there is going to be another.

madwippitt said...

Ahem. Because of Winn-Dixie ... winner of three awards including a Newbery Honor Award. Lovely book. And the dog LIVES! So it is possible ... :-)

Pauline Chandler said...

Love the Sterkarms! Great news!









Dennis Hamley said...

Wonderful news Sue.

Susan Price said...

You are all so kind. Thank you.
Why did I go with e-publishers? Well, the Sterkarms are my best chance of making some decent money for my old age - and Open Road wanted them - and only wanted 7 years licence. Also, they have a dedicated publicity dept and, according to my agent, are very good at getting word out there - whereas publicity is not something I'm very good at. And it's so time-consuming!
My agent told me 'we're seeing some decent income streams coming through from OR' - and our own Jan Needle, I believe, is happy with his e-publisher. So, all in all, I decided to give them a go.

Gill James said...

Excellent news indeed. Looking forward to it ...