They tell me I’m what’s known as a “hybrid author”. It sounds as though I’m the result of an alien abduction but it’s actually more mundane. It means I’m old enough, and have been writing long enough to have had books published in the regular way, through an agent, by mainstream publishers in hardback and paperback.
But that was then, and this is now, and in the digital world of today my agent has retired from business, my old editors at Fourth Estate, Transworld and elsewhere have moved on to higher things, and I’ve had to learn about becoming a digital publisher of my own books.
So I’m a hybrid in the sense that I’ve been published and have also published myself. This means that one minute my name was being bandied about by literary editors in the big Sunday papers, and the next I was being studiously ignored by the same critics as being unworthy of their attention.
I was luckier than most because I spent many decades as a journalist writing about computers, so I’m reasonably techno-literate. And self–publishing is, of course, all about technology. But no matter how clued up you are, the big internet players like Google, Amazon and Facebook are always making up new rules and springing surprises – usually unpleasant ones.
I had the good luck (or was it bad luck?) to have a big hit with my first book. It was a nonfiction critique of the way Darwinism has become a sacred dogma in schools and universities, even though recent science has raised fundamental doubts. This resulted in acres of free publicity as Darwinists like Richard Dawkins foamed at the mouth and tried to depict me as some kind of religious nutcase.
But the downside of being successful in one genre is that the market tends to pigeonhole you, making it twice as hard to be taken seriously in a different genre – in my case moving from nonfiction to fiction. It’s like winning a medal for darts and then trying to get picked for a cricket side. People are reluctant to even give you a try and it’s even harder than for a complete virgin.
I did eventually get my first novel published by the agent–publisher route, but sadly the publisher in question went into liquidation soon after, so the book crashed on take–off. Since then, it’s been a matter of using Amazon to publish paperback and Kindle versions of my subsequent novels and nonfiction books.
I got the idea for my latest novel – a WWII espionage thriller called “When Sally comes marching home”, while reading about the incredibly brave women who volunteered to become trained as agents of the Special Operations Executive, and parachute behind enemy lines at night. This was the first time that women had been trained in weapons, explosives and combat, and sent into battle to kill the enemy. You might think this was a step forward for women’s equality of treatment – until you know the real reason. Young men who were parachuted into France stood out and were often quickly rounded up. The Germans were so misogynistic, they found it impossible to believe the young woman riding her bicycle through town could be a soldier who presented a military threat.
But even worse, after having fought so bravely for three years from 1942–1945, the women of SOE were simply dismissed as soon as the war was over and sent back to jobs as teachers, secretaries or sales assistants – jobs “suitable for a woman”.