Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Chinaman - My Fourth Book

I wrote my first three novels - Pay Off, The Fireman, Hungry Ghost - for Collins, now Harper Collins, while I was working as a journalist. The first Stephen Leather novels sold OK, but they didn't set the world on fire. Then, as now, getting a publishing deal was only the first step on a very long road. Just because a book has been published doesn't mean that it will sell, never mind fly off the shelves, as many writers have discovered.

Having published my first three novels, Collins rejected my fourth.  It was called Dreamer's Cat and is a science fiction mystery set in a world where virtual reality is a way of life. It was very different from the first three and I'm not surprised that they didn't want it. But what Collins didn't do is to ask me what I was working on at the time.  When I approached Gerald Seymour's agent - Michael Sissons at Peters, Fraser and Dunlop - he agreed that Dreamer's Cat wasn't publishable but he did ask what else I was writing. I told him I was writing a novel called The Chinaman, where a former VC assassin starts a new life in London only to have his family killed in an IRA bombing. Michael loved the idea, begged me to finish it, and then sold it for a six-figure sum in the UK and for even more in the US.

Hodder and Stoughton bought the UK rights and they have been my publishers ever since.  The Chinaman has always been in print and is selling well as an eBook.  At the time we signed the deal I was a night news editor on The Times, but the deal was so good that I was able to quit my day job and write full time.  Stephen Leather had become a full time author!

Incidentally, I went to self-publish Dreamer's Cat as an eBook many years later and sold over 100,000 copies.  You can read about my self-published books here -  MY SELF PUBLISHED E-BOOKS

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hungry Ghost - My Third Book

Hungry Ghost was the first of my books written in the third person. The first two - Pay Off and The Fireman - were in the first person.  But my editor at Collins told me that the way to sell more books was to write 'bigger' books and that really requires them to be written in the third person.

I was living in Hong Kong at the time - where I was Business Editor of the South China Morning Post. The book is set in Hong Kong - I've always tried to set my books wherever I'm living. And I used my own flat at the time as the basis for the flat that the main character lives in, complete with noisy neighbours!

Hungry Ghost was the first Stephen Leather true hardback edition, though it was a small print run and they are quite rare these days.  It's still in print and sells well as an eBook.

Here's the latest cover:

I think the story stands up well over the years, though obviously it's set in pre-handover Hong Kong.  And I've often thought of revisiting the main character and his Chinese girlfriend. It's on my to-do list!