I had a lovely evening in Canvey Library celebrating the writing of Simon Toyne.
Writers, if you get the chance I encourage all of you to get to some of these events and listen to writers. This is a wonderful way to find out about the world you might one day be a part of.
Simon was a new author to me, somehow I managed to miss his work, despite a highly successful trilogy that has been on the Sunday Times bestseller list in all formats, and sold all over the world! And now a new one, the first in a five-book series (Harper Collins) Solomon Creed set for release later this year. I now have the first in the original series Sanctus ready to read and have a feeling I will be buying the others.
Simon was interesting, engaging and really talked not only about his own writing journey, but also about writing and the process in a way that had us all hooked. I had a lovely long chat with him in the break, and it was great hearing how he became the successful author he now is. He was humble, engaging and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening!
Simon’s journey has been an interesting one, starting his career studying English and Drama at Goldsmiths’s College in London with aspirations of being an actor. But he soon realised he did not want to speak other people’s words and had too many stories of his own. So he then moved into TV production, while working in commercial TV he was writing screenplays and dreaming BIG almost making the big movie he dreamed of. He had a very successful career until he turned forty. That was when he knew there was more to what he wanted and that writing a novel might satisfy that itch to write the BIG story.
He gave up his day job for the dream and took his family to France where the journey to who he is now, really began. Although never quite as he planned it. Inspired by a detour to Rouen the ideas he’d had percolating were replaced by the idea of writing a big adventure thriller that brings together elements of religion and a secret (think Dan Brown-ish but better writing and of course a different story!) and so was born the story that after numerous edits turned into Sanctus.
Simon, unlike most writers, was signed by an agent almost straight away although confesses when they asked to see the rest of his manuscript thought it wasn’t ready and spent another six months reworking it before he sent it. There is a lesson in there for all seeking agents, don’t rush it. Make the book the very best it can be. Also cynics out there, he had no publishing or literary agent contacts, his TV career was very different so he was just like you or I seeking an agent with all the insecurity that goes with it!
And all that paid off when Sanctus was taken on, edited again and again and eventually became the first in a highly successful series. It was never intended to be part of a series but in its writing new ideas were forming all the time. The pressure was then on of course with him having to write the next two The Key and The Tower, one a year.
With a five-book deal from Harper Collins for the Solomon Creed series I think he can safely say he is making his living now as a writer, which of course we know many writers don’t. Many need other careers too. But what was interesting was when he talked about the insecurities of being a writer and the pressure for someone like him. What I admired was his desire to write the best book and so it has taken him a couple of years to finish the new one, set for release in September; he did not rush the process. I like this. Too many writers find themselves having to rush out titles and we talked interestingly about writers like James Patterson, with fourteen new titles a year, it’s quite clear it’s not him writing them now! Although he says in TV writers work as a team and has no issue with that, but Simon is the writer and it’s his work you will read.
So how did working in TV help him make the shift into novel writing? He talks about being very visual in how he writes but the joy of the novel is in being able to set scenes and use description which you don’t in TV as the camera does it all for you. However, and this is what I think fellow writers will find really interesting, his work is edited and edited, pared down, so the description in particular is just the right amount to set scene and create place or character, but never to impede the flow of the story. The exact right words. I say all the time in my editing work, don’t stop the story to admire the view. Every word has to be just the right one. 90% of writing is rewriting … you know all the clichés, but all true. I can’t wait to start reading Sanctus.
Oh and we were all delighted to have sneak peek at the new cover and a reading… Solomon Creed does not know who he is or how he got there and this is a journey of self-discovery. An action-packed one with a secret. We were all hooked from the first word, can’t wait for this book!
If you like a pacey compelling thriller, try out Simon’s books. He has a huge following and I am sure you will be hooked!
So thanks so much to the Essex Book Festival and to Simon for a thoroughly entertaining evening and I look forward to reading his work!
Photo Gallery: Simon Toyne speaking at Canvey Library, March 23rd 2015
Dad getting his copy of The Key signed!
Follow Simon on Facebook
And thanks to Carol and the team at Canvey Library for the coffee and cake (I did not have cake for the record!) and to the Essex Book Festival.
And a HUGE thanks to Simon.
A great evening!