05 March 2020

Adam Simcox: ‘feedback is a huge part of writing and publishing a novel’

Adam Simcox, author
by Katie Smart Author Interviews, From Our Students

Adam Simcox is our 81st former student with a publishing deal. He has an exciting three-book deal for his supernatural crime series from Gollancz. Adam is also one half of our first-ever published alumni married couple! His wife Kirsty Eyre’s debut novel Cow Girl is set to be published by HarperCollins later this year. They both took novel-writing courses with us in London, Adam in 2016 and then Kirsty was inspired to study with us in 2017.

Here we talk to Adam about his debut novel The Dying Squad, his path to publication and what it is like living with another writer ….

You were a student on our London-based novel-writing course in 2016 what impact did the course have on your writing?

The impact of the course for me was possibly a bit different to other people, as I’d written a fair few film scripts by that point, and one other book, so I had my writing routine down. It didn’t change my approach to writing a huge amount, but that wasn’t what I was really looking for from the course. The benefit I was looking for, and got, was to work within an agency for six months, alongside writing peers. Having a book published can seem like a huge, unobtainable dream, particularly if you don’t know anyone that’s achieved it; the CBC course makes it real. That was hugely important to me. The feedback sessions were vital, too. As a filmmaker I’m used to feedback, and consider myself fairly thick-skinned when it comes to receiving it. The CBC course showed me the lie of that, in a very good way! You need to get acclimatised to it, as feedback is a huge part of writing and publishing a novel.

You’re also one half of our first-ever published alumni couple; your wife Kirsty Eyre’s debut book Cow Girl is to be published later this year. Does being in a writing couple influence your writing routine? Do you have opposing approaches to the process or any habits the other finds odd?

Adam Simcox: Kirsty and I are polar opposites when it comes to writing. She needs silence and tea, and I need noise, confusion and coffee. We both struggle to write in the same room, as she says I type too loudly (and quickly). It’s been a real godsend though, both coming up together. It meant that we could identify what the other person was going through when they were looking for an agent/publisher/had a bad writing day.

Then Kirsty started to be more successful than me, which was awful, obviously.

Kirsty Eyre: Adam and I are definitely different writing beasts. I annoy him when I leave tea stains on the desk we’ve got at home and yeah, he types dead fast and REALLY LOUD… but what really drives me crackers is when Adam manages to hammer out a chapter or two when our kids are in front of the telly, whereas if I try, I can barely open my laptop without them punching each other or needing a snack or pausing for me to agree how ferocious the latest Harry Potter baddie is. I write at home, in loads of jumpers (please buy our books so we can get double glazing) around my job and the boys. Adam writes in coffee shops around barefoot hipsters playing chess.

You’ve received an exciting three-book deal from Gollancz for your supernatural crime series The Dying Squad. Can you tell us a bit more about your premise and how you approached researching the gritty reality of police work while constructing the fantasy elements of the world?

This was the premise I sent out in my covering letter to agents: When Joe Lazarus storms a Lincolnshire farmhouse, he expects to bring down the county lines drug gang within it; instead, he discovers his own bleeding-out body and a ghostly teenage spirit guide called Daisy-May. She’s there to enlist him to The Dying Squad, a spectral police force who solve crimes their flesh and blood colleagues cannot. Joe reluctantly accepts and must face dangers from both the living and the dead if he’s to discover the identity of his killer and bring them to justice.

It was important to me to base the story in as much reality as possible, as that’s what interests me from a writing point of view. I’m a massive fan of the British filmmaker Shane Meadows, and wanted to incorporate the grittiness and heart you find in his work, with the more fantastical elements of the supernatural. Fingers crossed, I pulled it off.

Which writers are you most inspired by?

I’m a life-long fan of Stephen King. I love his style, and I always feel I’m in good hands when I’m reading one of his novels. I’m dementedly evangelical about Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb series; he writes witty, fast-paced books with absolutely killer dialogue. Kill Your Friends by John Niven was the book that made me want to write a book. It’s one of the few novels I re-read every year. All of these writers have been a big influence/people I’ve fought hard not to rip off too obviously!

If you could pass on one piece of advice to aspiring authors what would it be?

You’ve got to be able to take the hits. There is one absolute certainty, if you have dreams of being a writer: you’ll get hammered with rejection. How you take that rejection will determine how successful you are, I think. Before signing with my agent, Harry Illingworth, I wrote three books that collected around 150 rejections from agents. At times it was hard to take, but deep down I had the faith that it was worth keeping going. If you have that same faith, then you shouldn’t allow any force on earth to stop you.

Finally, what’s next for you? Can you hint as to what’s coming next in The Dying Squad series?

I’m currently writing the second book, which is a very exciting, very new experience! I’ve never written a sequel before. I’m sworn to secrecy on plot, but Japan’s going to have a big part to play in it all…

If you want to work on your novel with like-minded writers and publishing professionals take a look at our spring three-month novel-writing courses, which are open now for applications – study online with Suzannah Dunn or in London with Charlotte Mendelson

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