I have never been to university or on a creative writing course and I never set out in life to write one word. I wanted to be a professional musician, a bass player that just played the bass in a band. But when the drummer of my last band threw me from a balcony – there was obviously no TV set in the room – I must have awoken something in my head when I hit the ground. Because not long after that incident I had this overwhelming urge to write and also, just as surprising, to read books. (I should mention here that nothing positive should be attributed to the action of this drummer, as he is, as I am sure you already appreciate, a complete cunt.) So I began to write and with no idea on where the story about a video of a snuff movie found in a lay-by bin was going to go, I set about my first novel which I titled ‘Sliced’ and once completed I sent it out to a dozen publishers. Only one responded. George Marshall at S.T. Publishing. He wrote back, ‘It’s the best piece of fiction we’ve been offered – and deserves to be a cult classic’ and many other kind words. I fell apart. Couldn’t believe my luck. I was going to be a published author. I wanted to ring a million people all at once. Then I read the last sentence. “We say no to books every week – it’s the name of the game.’
For me at the time, it seemed an even bigger fall to recover from than the one from the balcony. But I licked my wounds, showed the book and the email from George Marshall to a journalist friend who in turn advised that while there was potential there, it was perhaps ‘too raw’. The book continued to ‘do the rounds’ for a while but the general consensus was that the writing needed to be developed greatly to have any chance of being considered for publication.
I felt out of my depth and didn’t write for a whole year and then rewrote the story as ‘The Roadside Picnics’ – it grew three times in size – and again sent it out to a dozen or so publishers. Allison & Busby ‘really enjoyed reading it’, Viking/Penguin ‘found some parts very funny’ and Canongate said ‘this is an interesting piece of work’. The book was rejected.
I was never expecting miracles but over the next few months understood how the process of submitting a book is a complete head-fuck, a seemingly pointless task with no return other than the self-loathing and complete loss of energy you experience when your manuscript is returned. But I was now at least clued-up like everyone else; you can’t get published if you submit an unsolicited manuscript. So why bother? During these grim belt-tightening days your book won’t even make the slush pile for the office junior to pick over. A better option is spending the postage money on a lottery ticket, the odds on success are greatly improved.
I didn’t bother sending the book out again for submission or purchasing any lottery tickets, instead I just carried on writing as it seemed the best plan of action. But over a period of time I developed an annoying habit of constantly looking back – never a good thing to do too often – and over-tinkering with completed drafts. This was proving to be a major obstacle on the road to any new writing, so in December 2010 I set up a site http://www.joe-england-books.org/ to host various stories as free downloads so that I could hopefully move on.
‘King of the Zulus’, ‘The Killing’ and ‘Underdog’ have never been submitted to any publisher. These stories may contain the odd grammatical flaw as I do all the proof reading. I make no apologies. As I already mentioned, I have never been to university. Right now I am writing a novel set in a perfume factory, ‘Green Light To Paradise’ and a short story, ‘The Last Temptation’. Both of these stories will be available as free downloads during 2011.