23 March 2017
Journalist turned novelist Adam Brookes explains how he got his spy thrillers published
Adam Brookes, whose second novel Spy Games came out last year, shares his path to publication and how he got published
‘I never intended to write fiction. I did try in my late twenties and the result was awful, so I threw it away.
‘But many years later – years spent in journalism, mostly as a journeyman foreign reporter – I decided to try again. This time, I felt I had a story. It grew out of a strange episode in China, where I was working as a correspondent. A Chinese man offered me secret documents, and tried to persuade me to act as his go-between with the British Embassy. I refused, of course – but I always wondered if he was genuine or not in his attempt to spy. I began to spin a story around him. The story nagged at me and I thought about it at odd moments, in the shower, on a plane. I started to write it down.
‘Five chapters in, a very kind agent (a family friend – yes, I was very fortunate here) consented to have a look. She told me to keep going, which was the encouragement I needed. Another year, a great deal of spousal support and a chunk of unpaid leave later, the thing was done: a spy novel set in China, called Night Heron.
ADAM'S TOP TIPS TO GET YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED
• Get your draft in front of an experienced, professional editor. There is a cost, but I think it’s worth it.
• Learn to love the rewrite.
‘The agent made me rewrite. Too linear, she said. Not enough complexity. So I did. Then, when I’d done that, she urged me to send it to a professional editor. I sent it to The Literary Consultancy in London, who put the very talented Karen Godfrey on it. Karen wrote a detailed appraisal. She told me the beginning didn’t work. Nor did the end. Oh, and the middle had problems. Some of the characters weren’t functioning properly and the pacing was patchy. Strangely, this was not disheartening because Karen was showing me a way forward very clearly. This was a real turning point for me.
‘Another rewrite. I was learning that good stuff happens in the rewrite.
‘My agent said it was time to submit to publishers, so we did, and Little, Brown/Sphere bought Night Heron. The novel came out in May 2014, nearly six years after I began writing it.'