Four Stories to Change the World

Back in November I took screenshots of four stories from the internet in the same 24 hours. Record floods in Venice and Yorkshire, record snowfall in the USA, and the harbinger of the Australian bush fires that are still raging. These were drowned out by election excitement, hence the blog did not appear. What strikes me is there are headlines like this almost every day, often down in the 3rd or 4th story on the page. Yes we Brits love to talk about the weather, and there will be a record being broken somewhere on the planet for something most days of the week simply because it is a big place and so many things are being measured, but these stories are accumulating to become the narrative of the age.

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I was marooned on a train during those Yorkshire floods. It is not fake news.

Climate change has gone from being sci fi hokum to fringe science to debatable science to mainstream acceptance. Okay, it is a massively complex subject that very few people truly understand (including me) but scientific consensus diverges chiefly in the detail rather than the trajectory. Non-expert members of the public picking and choosing between the ever-changing models being developed produces arguments as useful as debating the colour of an orange.

Politicians are in a sticky place. Most are not as stupid and ill-informed as the public believes, and belief is a big part of the problem. People will say they do not ‘believe’ in climate change, but what they mean is that the idea does not fit with their world view. Few of us are equipped to understand the maths, critically review the last few hundred relevant academic papers or contribute to cutting-edge conferences. ‘Belief’ kicks in where there is no science, no hard facts, no experimental observation that can be repeated by others. It is the absence of science. Climate change is a fact, we have a good grasp of the many factors that can cause it, and have masses of proof that it has happened through the whole history of the planet; Ice Ages, Snowball Earth, climatic optimums and so forth.

So back to the Politicians. They have to listen to the people who keep them in power (the electorate, the Party, Big Oil or whoever) otherwise they will not be in power very long. My conscientious recycling will not save the planet, and nor will arbitrary government targets. Fighting climate change can only happen at governmental level, but it needs the will of the people to be behind it first. Governments cannot legislate against the public will – think of the failure of US Prohibition in the ‘20s. Once the government implements its new policies and targets we all have to do ‘our bit’. Policy, law, ethics, science, public acceptance and self-interest must all come together. If we look at the way smoking has been reduced in the West we have seen (a) scientific consensus on the harm it does (b) creeping anti-tobacco legislation by governments that listen (c) progressive price increases (d) health education promoting individual benefits (e) social stigma vs smoking (f) big tobacco losing the moral argument (g) alternative technology/income streams (vaping) (h) spin-off benefits to the economy (health expenditure/reducing premature death).

20191113_204111The Australian bush fires could ironically be good news, in that they should be the wake-up call to the world. It’s a big headline-grabbing climatic disaster – and I hate to say it ­– one that affects white people. Mark Lynas’ excellent book Six Degrees which I read in 2007 includes the projection that Australia could become uninhabitable with three degrees of global warming; we’re already on track for two. It is a salient lesson as Australia has the world’s second highest C02 footprint per capita (the UK comes 8th with just less than half the footprint). Their pilloried Prime Minister, if he survives the fire season, will be forced to confront the realities of climate change, even if Australia is not the sole author of its own crisis. Public self-interest in not being driven from their homes in terror will start to outweigh precious economic and personal freedom issues that dog green policies.

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So is anyone taking note other than earnest Swedish teenagers? The answer hopefully is yes. The big hyrocarbon companies are aware their stock values will tumble if human-driven global warming becomes too obvious to ignore. They must diversify or die, much as the tobacco companies started doing. Geopolitical thinkers know that the eternal crises of the Middle East will fade as we cease to be driven by oil; posturing by Iran or the Saudis will be of little global relevance and the West lose all excuse to interfere. This cannot have been lost on Pentagon strategists; the USA has already spent $5 trillion and 7,000 American lives on the Iraq conflict to no long-term benefit. Smart US politicians must also know this, even if not yet ready to speak it out loud.

Education (aka climate change propaganda) is making its mark and there is a growing tolerance for green legislation and acceptance of initiatives such as recycling as a normal part of life. Much of it in truth just involves being nice and taking life gently. Not being green is starting to be socially unacceptable; the big car, the long-haul holiday and the 16oz beef steak are losing their shine. One day they might become as naff as a fat cigar or a mink coat.

Just as thousands of scientists know there is a climate emergency underway, it has become worthwhile for thousands more to work on solutions; new technologies, new products, new opportunities, knowing there will be a market for the right inventions. The public is at last hungry for carbon-neutral solutions – so long as they can afford them. As soon as the costs of renewable energy approach that of hydrocarbons, the sharper businesses will seize the opportunities and use their promotional skills to pull the public with them, reap the profits and extinguish the hydrocarbon dinosaurs. People will act when self-interest kicks in at a much more tangible level than when aroused by a David Attenborough documentary. Politicians will have no reason not to listen. We need the activists, we need the idealists but ironically it could be big business, not neo-hippy protesters, that end up saving the planet.

 

Taxing Thoughts

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed”  (Luke 2:1, King James Bible)

Kicking off with a seasonal quote, and closely following party promises leading up to the  General Election, here are some thoughts from an ex-civil servant. I might add that I’ve also worked in the arena of legal tax avoidance and worked against tax evasion.

Governments have no money. When a party says ‘We will spend a million pounds’ they mean ‘You will spend a million pounds’.

95% of Government spending is already fixed, so any new administration has very little wriggle room. Public sector salaries take an enormous slice of the cake, property demands to be looked after and much expenditure is ‘formula led’ based on the number of people sick, homeless, unemployed etc. Quibble the percentage if you may, but this expenditure cannot be drastically changed in the short term.

Taxation changes behaviour, so increasing taxes does not necessarily increase revenue. This sounds counter-intuitive but has been proved repeatedly. The higher taxes are, the more people will cheat and the more worthwhile it is to look for legal ways to avoid paying. They might work less, retire earlier, give up work entirely, shift their spending pattern or move to Monaco. It may be cathartic to hit the rich, but don’t rely on it bringing in more money.

Reducing taxes can have the reverse effect. However, the government cannot determine how or where people will spend their tax savings so it can simply be a giveaway without that money necessarily reaching the parts of the economy where it is needed. Tax changes up or down need surgical targeting not a blunt hammer.

Tax evasion is illegal but tax avoidance is not. It is a principle of law that nobody is obliged to pay any more tax than they are legally required to, and only a fool would do so willingly. The more complex a taxation regime is, the easier it is for people to find loopholes. Big corporations and high earners are very good at finding loopholes.

A “1% increase” is not as trivial as it sounds. A 1% increase on a 20% tax rate is 5% by my maths. Most people and most businesses spend or commit most of the income they have, so even a small increase could bite heavily into the amount left after normal expenses, the difference between profit and loss. A lot of businesses are very marginal, so adverse tax changes mean they may close or simply pass the cost on to consumers. 

Green Taxes cut one way but not both. If the objective is to raise money, the government must acquiesce in the undesirable behaviour (i.e. air transport levy). If the objective is to change behaviour (i.e. smoking), the government must expect declining revenues as people adjust their lifestyle.

No Taxation Without Representation swings back to become ‘No representation without taxation’. Progressive taxation is a fine idea, in that the poor pay relatively little and the rich pay proportionally much more. The problem is that this pushes a lot of power into the hands of the rich, or at least the wealthier 50% of the population who pay the majority of the tax. Governments have to treat the affluent carefully; one person on a million-pound salary pays enough tax to fund a dozen nurses.

Minorities have limited synergy. One weakness of the left is the desire to support a range of disadvantaged or self-defined oppressed groups which have little else in common. Whilst each cause in isolation may be deserving, they are competing for scarce resource. Do we support pensioners or the young low-paid, the single mothers or the asylum seekers, council tenants or firemen? If you are not in the smorgasbord of deserving causes you might ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ and vote for someone else.

Socialists have a very expensive constituency not only in those sections of the population who pay relatively little tax but have high demands on services, but also the public sector workers themselves. Once elected, they have a big pay-off to face before making any actual improvements in services. Ironically they must rely on a healthy capitalist economy to provide the taxes to fuel their programmes.

Conservatives will always have a hard sell at election time. Prudence is boring, pragmatism looks hard-faced, traditionalism looks old-fashioned and there is always drag against progressive ideas. As they play to the comfortable middle class and aspirant working class, their policies look selfish and their candidates can smell of money and privilege. Opposing conservative policy becomes child’s play and supporting it feels smug, whilst dumbed-down conservatism simply comes across as dumb. Hence we have the ‘shy Tory’ phenomena in Britain which has fooled pollsters and leaves energetic campaigners on the left flummoxed.

Whoever wins, there is not enough money and there never will be enough money. If we spent the entire GDP on health, people would still get sick and die. This is a big problem for my colleagues working in museums, libraries, art galleries and across the heritage sector. We don’t stop children dying or houses burning down or defend against the enemy at the gates so we know we will only get a fraction of 1% of expenditure, and have to fight for every tenth of a decimal point.

Writer Blocked

We’re used to hearing about ‘Writer’s Block’, romantically imagining our author has been deserted by his or her muse; no inspiration, clueless about the next twist of the plot, capable of only writing flat doggerel.

Maybe uncharitably we might quietly think our author is just being lazy. Perhaps too much absinthe, even? You don’t hear of Teacher’s Block or Treasury Dealer’s Block.

However writers dwell in the real world. I’m moving house, and can barely get near my desk let alone find a couple of hours to allow the muse back. That picture is my study, this week. And yes that’s a copy of Fight Club on top of the clutter – ‘You don’t own stuff, stuff owns you’ echoes around the room. Two recycling bags of paper came out of the room just today, to add to the eight already nestling in the hall, not to mention two one-tonne rubbish sacks on the drive.

From the deeper recesses of the filing cabinet come the first drafts of novels, unpublished or unfinished novels from decades ago, short stories, a play and a couple of bad poems. Crime writing conference paperwork reaching back into the 1990s forms a heap on the floor. A few programmes and select souvenirs go into the memorabilia box, but the rest are off for recycling. Files of correspondence with publishers and agents going back to my first works have all been kept. For now.

Friends who write also hit blocks that have nothing to do with a shortage of inspiration. If not blocks, then at least speedbumps; a shift in the day job, election to a committee, the loss of a relative, a long vacation, poor health, having a child or even a demanding new puppy. Real life intrudes the whole of the time, floating icebergs into the path of our otherwise serene cruise.

That’s probably enough dredging of metaphors for one blog. It’s my first for three months, but with a new garret identified, this writer will be unblocked pretty soon.

Christmas Comes Early

We see it every year. Christmas creeping ever earlier – cards in the shops by September, the first trees and tinsel appearing in October and those ‘catchy’ Xmas tunes of the 70s are playing by November. The Grinches of course complain; 12 days of Christmas, not 42 days, they say.

My American readers may not get this, as you have a lot of hullaballoo over Halloween, then Thanksgiving too. However, you did start the accursed ‘Black Friday’ which has now infected this side of the pond and this year trespassed onto my birthday. In Britain, Halloween is still mostly for kids and Goths, whilst Thanksgiving is reserved for expat Yanks (and just misses my birthday annually too). That November birthday was an important milestone for me as a kid. ‘No Christmas talk until after my birthday!’ was my petulant rule. I didn’t want cheapskate relatives conflating two gifts into one, or my party being upstaged by elves and department-store Santas. Once I had a daughter with a slightly later November birthday this became an even easier rule to police.

WP_20181125_15_02_53_ProThen practicality started to erode my principles. Children, nephews, nieces, significant others and close relatives all deserve presents. I’m a rubbish present buyer, and hate going shopping on precious weekends, so squeeze it into lunch hours. At one present per lunch hour, that’s a long lead-in time. Move to an island, and the lead-in lengthens with those last posting dates and annoying customs rules.

The net result is that I have to start shopping in October so I can drop off gifts as I work WP_20181125_15_03_08_Promy way at sub-Santa speed around the UK. Who can blame retailers for wanting to sell to me? Island life of course poses the logistic issue of boats delayed by weather, shops selling out by December, or never actually stocking the desired items at all; ‘we won’t have a delivery before Christmas’. Really? You are Amazon’s best friend, local retailer.

Once the starting sleighbell has been rung, I admit to being a complete Christmas fan. Carols, Dickensian cards of Christmas-that-never-was, cheesy tunes of yesteryear, turkey and roasties, mint chocs, port, wine, desert wine, beer with turkey sandwiches in front of the movie, Queen’s message to the Empire, bringing a tree inside, trimmings, parties, prezzies, relatives, Dr Who Special, the lot. Apart from the weather, which out here is usually rain, wind, or wind-with-rain.

But this year, Christmas can’t come early enough. I’m sensing it everywhere, a palpable wish to get started on all that hedonism reeled off in the previous paragraph. 2018 has been a grim year of sliding hope. Brexit is depressing and boring, no matter which way you voted (or wished you had voted). The world of Trump and Putin is a fearful place full of conspiracy and rivalry, in which critical problems such as climate change are being forgotten. 2018 has been at best uninspiring. Perhaps this is why people all around me are plunging into Christmas with glee. ‘Tis the season to be merry,  so let’s be merry as soon as we can for as long as we can.

Garden Centre Faux SnowI’m still holding off buying that tree until December, but the boxes of trimmings are already down from the loft and waiting. Half the presents are bought, the cards are ready to be written. On the internet radio there’s a US ‘Christmas Country’ station allowing some escape from the standard 40 UK Christmas pop songs. The Garden Centre is blowing faux snow around and animatronic penguins serenade the shoppers.

I’ve even been to my first ‘Christmas Dinner’ – on my birthday!

Anyone for Pie?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is far and away the most successful novel set in Guernsey. Although there are easily two dozen works of fiction using the German Occupation of the islands as their background, this is the stand-out commercial hit. Curiously it was written by an American who had only made a single unplanned visit to Guernsey.

The book is the only novel by American author Mary Ann Shaffer. She made a brief stop in Guernsey in 1976 and became fog-bound at the airport; a familiar hazard to island residents. Browsing the bookshop, she learned about the German Occupation of 1940 to 1945. It was two decades before she finally began her Guernsey novel, and it was accepted for publication in 2006. Her health deteriorated, so the final editing was carried out by her niece Annie Barrows who was already a published children’s author. Mary Ann Shaffer died in 2008 before the book was published.

It is an ‘epistolary novel’, in that the story is told entirely through letters between the characters. In post-war 1946, English journalist Juliet Ashton strikes up a correspondence with islander Dawsey Adams one and becomes intrigued by the quaintly titled Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She travels to Guernsey to meet members of the society, and a story of love, tragedy and hope emerges against the background of an island people surviving almost five years of enemy occupation emerges. For the uninitiated, potato peel was used as ersatz pie crust when food began to run short. I have never tried it, but it was apparently rather nasty.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was an immediate hit, especially in the USA. It spent 11 weeks in the New York Times bestseller list and reached the number 1 position on 2nd August 2009.

Reviews were favorable; The Times said “Every now and again, a book comes along that is simple yet effective, readable yet memorable. This is one such delight … It is a uniquely humane vision of inhumanity; one to lift even the most cynical of spirits”

To date it has sold over 5 million copies worldwide in over 30 territories and has proved particularly popular with book clubs. It was planned for me to interview Annie Barrows at the Guernsey Literary Festival, but scheduling clashes mean that it’s not to be.

A film adaption has been on the cards for a few years, with different directors and stars mooted. It finally takes form this spring, directed by Mike Newell, starring Lily James as English author Juliet Ashton and Michiel Huisman as islander Dawsey Adams. The film will be in cinemas from April 20th 2018, with a special Premiere taking place in Guernsey in addition to the World Premiere in London. It remains to be seen whether filmgoers also have the taste for pie.

 

 

A Writer’s Year

January is a hectic time at Guernsey Museum, as we turn around all the temporary exhibition spaces in three weeks. For me it means checking and proofing all the wall text, and numerous press releases. New Year’s Day is also when I like to pitch into the new book – NRT in the case of 2017

 

In an ideal world I’d skip February. It is a miserable month whose only redeeming feature is its brevity. I escaped to Barbados and hand-wrote some major plot twists of my new novel by the pool.

 

March saw the splendid Alderney Literary Festival, where I talked about ‘Glint” and signed a few copies. Mixing with the other authors of historical fiction/ non-fic/ biography was the highpoint though.

 

By April the literary year was hotting up, and I was off to Edinburgh for the annual conference of the Crime Writers’ Association. As usual it included talks by ex-coppers and criminologists on real-life cases; grim stuff like the ‘World’s End Murders’.

May saw both Bristol Crimefest (where I didn’t speak but met plenty of old friends) and the Guernsey Literary Festival (where I did both). I also interviewed Clare MackIntosh on her new book ‘I See You’; great fun, and only the second time I’d done a panel interview.

 

June’s big excitement was an emergency flight to Alderney to rescue what we could of an Iron Age burial ground sliced through by a JCB. Two days’ frantic work produced a wealth of finds that would keep us busy beyond the end of the year.

I was also back in Alderney in July, working ahead of a micro-excavator within the Nunnery Roman Fort. Enough evidence was uncovered to tempt me back in 2018.

 

It was my third visit to the Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July. The last two had been blisteringly hot, but this time Yorkshire was grey and rainy. By now NRT was into its fourth draft, ready to start talking confidently about it to my crime-writing colleagues and send it to my erstwhile editor for a critique.

 

 

 

 

In late August, I went on holiday leaving Draft 5 in the hands of beta readers. I got off the Rock and headed for the wide open spaces of Wyoming, chalking up something over 2,000 miles in a fortnight. Plenty of iconic sites, but the ‘Great American Eclipse’ was an experience never to be forgotten; in Guernsey, Wyoming of all places.

Writing from a small island comes with its own challenges; 100 miles of water separates me from the mainland’s literary conventions, book fairs and library readings. In 2017 I took as many opportunities I could to combine a trip to the UK with a little literary interaction. September offered  a chance to drop into the small but perfectly formed ‘Morecambe  and Vice’ (“bring me some crime”).

 

The big October highlight was of course the CWA Daggers Awards Dinner, the Oscars of the crime-writing world. It was lovely sitting on the ‘New Blood’ table meeting the hopeful nominees and the eventual winner; I imagine we’ll hear more from all of them.

 

November was the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai, which features strongly in ‘Glint of Light on Broken Glass’. I engaged in a month of subtle promotion of the book on Facebook, and by nudging local shops. Interest in the battle in Guernsey had been minimal three years ago, but via a programme of lectures, museum displays, parades and living history events it was pushed into the forefront of Guernsey’s year.

So we came to December. NRT was finished, the final polish to Draft 7 being hammered out on my mother’s dining room table when I should have been socialising. Having discussed the idea the previous Christmas with London agent Annette Crossland. I sent off the manuscript and in a hectic couple of weeks I was signed up with A for Authors agency. Here we are celebrating at the CWA Christmas party. A pretty good end to 2017.

And the follow-up to NRT? The first page will go down on New Year’s Day. I’m also working on an artistic biography, our ‘Roman Guernsey’ book may finally see the light of day and ‘The Story of Guernsey’ will be published in German.  A Merry Christmas and successful New Year to fellow writers, readers and friends everywhere.

Fire Without Smoke

I don’t smoke. I just don’t get it, so my lead characters don’t smoke either. You might think that old hippie Jeffrey Flint might have done the odd roll-up in his time, but if so he keeps quiet about it.

wine-drinkerIn my crime reading pile, I have noticed that most fictional detectives smoke to a fault. Its part of the hard-boiled image, maybe. Often I suspect it reflects the writer’s own lifestyle – indeed many writers are shown posing with a cigarette for their publicity photographs which strikes me as distinctly odd. If I were to display my vices in publicity shots, I’d be holding a half-eaten Toblerone, a gluten-free brownie or glass of Chateauneuf du Pape. None send the message that I’m a rebel or a thinker or sophisticate, just that I’m probably overweight.

So to those detectives, pluckily cheating death by shooting, stabbing, car smash or fiendish trap yet stalked by Reaper nonetheless. The smoking trope is strange – pipe smoking is somehow homely, and the Americans seem to think there’s charm in chomping cigars. Anti-smokers are cast as tight-asses. With widespread smoking bans in offices, the overflowing ashtray is now the mark of period fiction and ‘dates’ otherwise contemporary novels. There’s a curious trend in contemporary American TV dramas to portray smoking as a cute adventure, which jars with reality. When we’re talking gangsters and the underclass, yes, but not 90% of urban professionals.

I am bored of reading about characters who have to go out and buy their cigarettes, fiddle with them, light up and stub out. Over the same timeframe, they don’t go to the toilet, scratch their ear or an one of a hundred other personal habits they might exhibit. A Nordic Noir I read this year would have been two chapters shorter if the hero had been a nonsmoker. The stressed detective may also drink coffee and hard spirits, but any other choice of drink is used as character shorthand. Usually it shows affectation, or weakness. Banana smoothie, Earl Grey tea or a snack-pack of Trail Mix anyone?

Partly to poke fun at the trope, Flint and Tyrone drink diet coke, eat Mars Bars and crisps. Their weakness is real ale or cheap wine and maybe the occasional takeaway. Some of the villains and minor characters smoke, but the books are mainly populated with the educated middle class, increasingly health-conscious and lifestyle aware. I just don’t want to wear the print off my fingers typing all that smoking routine. Given that several fondly remembered  relations were killed by the tobacco industry I also don’t want to lend it any glamour.

So what about ‘Glint of Light on Broken Glass’?, set in an era when cancer was barely understood by doctors let alone ordinary working men. We know that tobacco was a major crutch for the men in the trenches, and I’ve even heard the Great War could not have been endured without it which is a curious thought. The Channel Islands’ hardest fought sporting event ‘The Muratti’ was sponsored by a local cigarette company. So I allow smoking to be there in the background – it happens, like eating and drinking but I don’t make a fetish of it.

 

 

“Ingrid wants more sex”

Okay, I know this is a family blog but  we’re going to talk about sex this week (stop sniggering at the back!). The book I’m working now on requires a frank and realistic approach to sex scenes, but has led me to look back on my oversexed hero of novels past.

Jeffrey Flint is a bit of a lad, indeed some would say ‘womaniser’. He’s not manipulative, he doesn’t have any kind of plan, but he simply loves women. Young, smart, fun and politically on-message what’s not to like? Except he’s a little too ‘summer of love’ to suggest he’s capable of commitment. Not for Flint is that long-suffering spouse to return to after each adventure, to ground him in reality. He remains a free spirit.

So, Flint flits from woman to woman, between and often within books. When I was discussing Byron’s Shadow over lunch with Ingrid – my editor at the time – she suggested the books needed more sex. I went home and wrote a card, which I pinned on the slanting ceiling of my garret – ‘Ingrid wants more sex’.

But in the end I pulled my punches. Mummy porn wasn’t mainstream at that time and I feared writing purple-prose laden bad sex.  I wanted also to avoid  clinical  scenes that read like model aeroplane instructions, viz  ‘place axle (12) in wheel hub (13) but do not glue’. . We’re all adults and we all know what happens. We also know that it takes a good deal longer than the 37 seconds shown in the average TV naughty scene. To relate a full passionate encounter blow-by-blow would take pages and pages and be cringingly dull (to me). Even worse where Maddy Crowe is my viewpoint character.

Then I always wonder how much of an author’s sex scenes give away about their own love life, their own frustrations and fantasies? There’s a lot of personal anecdote woven into the Flint books, and I have name-checked a couple of my friends but no characters are based on real people. Still there’s a worry that the curious might strive to identify the ‘real’ Vikki, Lisa, Willow, Maddy, A1, Chrissie and the rest of the cast. In end I hint, give a flavour and no more. I know what is going on, and the reader can fill in the blanks. Flint’s sex life is funny, quirky, offbeat and impulsive. Its also an essential component of the plots rather than being merely there to titillate.

A reader once asked me about a beach scene in Byron’s Shadow when Flint and Lisa are together. ‘What did they actually do?’ she asked. I just smiled.

 

 

 

Author Vanishes!

Crime writer Jason Foss has vanished. In a move reminiscent of 1984, or the more paranoid Roman emperors his name has been erased from e-books on sale. Only a few hard-to-find first edition hardbacks remain of his five archaeological thrillers featuring offbeat lecturer Dr Jeffrey Flint.

Suspicion falls immediately on his alter ego, Jason Monaghan, whose name now emblazons the Flint series. Jason explains his motives for this decisive move:

“When I wrote my first Flint books, I was also writing heavyweight archaeology textbooks under my own name and did not want to cause any confusion between my fiction and non-fiction output. I was also aware that publishers did not want more than one book per author per year, and ultimately I might develop a second pen name in a different style to publish in parallel. Foss was easier to spell than Monaghan too, and harder to mis-pronounce in bookshops.

“The internet has however made pen-names almost irrelevant. Unless you take enormous care to remain anonymous, the rest of the world can find out your real name in 0.15 of a second. A more serious problem is that the more connected your output, the easier it is for search engines to make links between them, raising your ranking. Having two or more names fights against connectivity. Then of course there is the question of what to call your website, facebook page, Amazon author page and so on: do you have one per name?

“I was for a while the first or second ‘Jason Foss’ on Google but gradually slipped below various dopplegangers as social media use ballooned. The real me meanwhile was always in the top ten. My archaeology and Museum work entailed a steady stream of papers, and frequent newspaper, radio, magazine and  local TV slots. Monaghan became more visible than Foss.

“This year I published Glint of Light on Broken Glass under my own name, as its initial market would be in Guernsey where I’m well known. After a discussion with Endeavour Press it was decided to rebrand the whole backlist, creating a satisfying body of crime and historical fiction, archaeology and local history. I’m now working to bring all my internet channels together too.

“So Jason Foss is no more. Farewell, old mate.”

 

 

 

 

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