I haven’t retired. New things coming.

I haven’t retired. New things coming.

I’ve recently heard from a number of people who asked if I had retired from writing. It’s a fair question; I’ve not published anything under my name for almost two years. My last release was Soil back in February 2016, and I finished that in 2015. I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that I had quit writing, or perhaps ran out of ideas. The truth contains a little of both. But let’s roll the time back a little as I explain my lack of prolificacy.

After finishing Soil back in mid-2015, I took a break to work on some super-sekrit pen-name titles which took me into early 2016. I then decided to move to a new town (Stafford, United Kingdom, a former hometown of a little-known fantasy author called, J. R. R. Tolkien).

I underestimated how distracting moving to a new home would be. It was all too easy to think that I could settle quickly and get back to the writing mill. I had lots of plans; synopses, ideas, half-written novels all ready and waiting for me to dive into and share with the world. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen. I found it increasingly difficult to focus and get the work done as more and more tasks cropped up from the ether-of-never-ending-things-to-do.

Renting proved distracting as I was consumed with the indecision of whether to continue to rent or buy. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of good years publishing-wise, and I didn’t want to make the wrong financial decision. Thinking over the choice to rent or buy and the search for a home (I decided to buy) quickly ate up another six months. That took me into December 2016 where I finally settled on a place. The buying of my current house became a full-time job for a couple of months as I took on the role of an estate agent, solicitor, surveyor and all other things in between to get the sale through before Christmas.

The move happened, and now I had the task of making the new house my home, which meant complete renovation inside and out. Instead of being a writer, I was now a project manager. There were times where I managed to get some work done; marketing, brainstorming, etcetera. It was slow going. After a few more months, the renovations were complete, and my mind returned to writing. Only now, I had other questions to work out.

The first being: who am I as a writer? That sounds loftier than I intend. What it boiled down to was: what do I want to write and what do I want to be known for? There’s always been this problem with me. I don’t fit into a neat and tidy box. I can’t easily explain what I write, or what I’d like to write. My interests are wide, and I’ve never been wholly into a singular genre. When most people think of an author, they usually have an association with one (or at least relating) genres. George RR Martin mostly writes fantasy, Dan Brown historical thrillers, Dean Koontz suspense, and so on. My ideas and interests include cyberpunk, post-apocalypse, dystopian, literary, thrillers, technothrillers, light-science fiction, supernatural, and mysteries.

My tastes are constantly changing. Genres and books that I was interested in a few years ago no longer hold any fascination for me now. I’ve given up reading space opera, as an example. Even my first love, cyberpunk, doesn’t grab my attention anymore. Anything set in the mid-to-far future has suffered the same fate. I’m finding that I’m not as interested in the speculative nature of genre fiction as I am exploring characters and the effect of technology in our current society. My mind is currently closer to home, as it were. All this means marketing my work has (or will perhaps be) difficult. Which brings me to the topic of pen-names.

My logical aspect wants to keep one name with one genre to preserve that association. When someone picks up a Colin F. Barnes book, for example, I’d like them to know what they’re going to get. That’s difficult when my interests are so varied. However, if I do use several pen-names for different genres, then there’s the issue of splitting my attention when it comes to marketing and diluting any progress across multiple avenues. I wonder, though, does it matter? Do you as a reader care about this genre-author association malarkey? If I were to release a contemporary, light-SF mystery mashup, would you be interested in that considering how far removed it is from Code Breakers or The Last Flotilla books?

Suffice to say I’m undecided. Although, I will write whatever I’m going to write and figure it out afterwards. After so long without writing under my name, I’m eager to re-establish myself and get back to a more regular release schedule.

I’m currently working on a near-future SF, despite my earlier comments about my tastes changing — that’s how weird all of this is. The current novel defies my current tastes, and yet there’s something about it I love (the characters mostly) that keeps me writing. If I were to describe it, I would say it’s similar to the Expanse in that it deals with a human-colonised solar system, but is ultimately a small-ish, character-driven story that doesn’t feature aliens or wacky faster-than-light technology. It’s ostensibly a mystery with thriller elements set on a number of space stations, colonies, and a ruined earth. The story could be transplanted into modern times, and it’d still work.

So that’s my current Work-In-Progress, and I’m aiming to have that released before the end of the year. I’m also working on a light-SF contemporary mystery that may or may not be submitted to the traditional publishers under a new name. Like most things with me currently; it’s up in the air. I feel like most of my life is a big game of Schrodinger’s Cat. I only know what something is when it’s done and happened. Until that final moment, it could be anything or nothing. I’ve given up long-term plans as I’ve discovered they rarely work out as intended—at least for me. I know some people who can conjure a plan and stick to it. My mind is too capricious to do that, despite all my efforts to the contrary.

TL;DR — I’ve not retired. There’s a new Sci-Fi book coming soon and perhaps something else later. And, what do you think about authors writing multiple, disparate genres under one name? Do you think that’s too confusing, or are you happy to read widely if you like the way the author writes?

6 Replies to “I haven’t retired. New things coming.”

  1. Its fun to read multiple genres from the same author and some joint/collaboration work could be cool with other known players. Do not change author names. Good work is good work. I will tell you my buddy and I are avid readers of sci-fi, post apocalyptic, space marine (me), big concepts (him), tech and we are starving out here. We feel like we have read everything and we “punt” on a ton. Our constant comparison is what “percent in” did you punt on? This includes audible and Kindle, we usually have 2 to 5 books in play at any given time. I discovered Bird Box and that was a nice one to rip thru in the sci-fi horror bent. My buddy just snagged Paradox Bound and that is Clines and Ray Porter (our favorite audible actor/reader) so huge hopes on that one. We are serious fiction consumers with an unlimited book budget (I mean a ton are free or under $5 right) so we need some good stuff asap please.

    1. Hi Rich, thanks for your thoughts. I feel the same as you with regards to starving. I’m struggling to find books to read. I recently enjoyed Cline’s ‘The Fold’. I’m not sure about his new one but I’ll probably give it the benefit of the doubt. I’ll do my best to get some good stuff out to you asap! 🙂

  2. I go back and forth on the one name/pen names ideas myself. A single name feels fine to me. I can imagine a fairly neutral website with pages/tabs for each genre or style of the author’s writing. Instead of using the skin to showcase the stories, the landing page could emphasize the person.

  3. Same name as many genres as you want.

    I hate messing around with rubbish of not knowing author x is actually y… or having to try to remember this. Be yourself we can pick and choose or buy them all, we are intelligent enough to cope 🙂

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