I’m on Brighton Pier in the half term holidays. The skies are white with low cloud and there’s a sea mist blowing in but it’s warm enough to be outside so I’m sitting at one of the tucked away tables by Horatio’s Bar. Their playlist is quiet enough to ignore as are the distant screams of children as they hurtle through the air on the twirling aeroplanes of the nearest ride. My youngest and his friend are finally old enough to go on rides on their own so I’ve got them all areas wristbands and have settled down for a couple of hours of writing.
Brighton Pier has a lot of memories for me. I came here as a kid then brought my kids and since I started writing it has always inspired me and often features as a setting in my work. It’s a haven for detail; competing, smells, sounds, lights, people of all types from babies in prams to pensioners with walking sticks, smiling children hopped up on sugar, hungover stags and hens, parents, grandparents, teenagers trying to be cool. I had a little walk around the hidden bits, the alleyways between the rides, the end behind the Turbo, because that’s what I did when I was writing my first book, Starlings. I’m feeling nostalgic. Starlings is entirely set in Brighton. I wrote it when I first moved here and it helped me get a handle on my new home, I wanted to really get into the nitty gritty of the lesser-seen aspects of a British seaside town, to explore it as I would a character. Brighton has a personality that changes day to day, very different in the height of summer to a rainy day in December. I spent a lot of time seeking out the more unusual locations or looking at the well-known ones from a different angle. One of my proudest moments was at an event when a Brightonian reader exclaimed surprise that I wasn’t born and bred because I’d got it spot on.
The reason for all this nostalgia is that Starlings will very shortly be out of print. I bought the remainder paperbacks from my publisher and I’ll be getting all the rights back very soon. This makes me both sad and hopeful. Starlings was my first book and I had no idea what had to be done to market it to readers. For me it was a huge achievement that it was published at all but I’ve always thought it didn’t live up to its full potential. I’d like to give it a re-edit and a cover make-over. I have plans to publish a new edition paperback and release it on ebook and I know a lot more about publishing now than I did then. It’s seven years since it came out, my publisher, Revenge Ink, was a gutsy little maverick trying to showcase the type of books being ignored by the mainstream (if anything this situation has got worse and the industry has got more blinkered in what it chooses to publish). I am forever grateful to Revenge Ink for trying, for taking on my little book because they really understood and believed in it and we part on very good terms.
People still buy Starlings, they come up to me at readings and say they’ve just discovered it and ask why I was so mean to Barney. I’m asked to local book groups on a regular basis and it’s still in the Brighton books section of the city’s bookstores. I’ll be peddling the ‘limited edition’ originals at book fairs and market stalls until I run out (or hell freezes over). If you want a signed copy, personally dedicated by the author email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or look out for me at car boot sales, a copy is yours at the knockdown price of £5 plus p & p.
‘This is the last bench in Brighton. To the left of it are the rickety legs of the Mousetrap. At the height of summer they rattle constantly under the weight of the mouse-shaped cars that whizz along to the screams of happy tourists. On this day they only shudder slightly in the wind.’
Now we’re off for fish n chips.