7 Things That Made My Year

31 December 2018 Robert

1. Hitting 100% Funding on Unbound

Confession: I hadn’t expected the experience of crowdfunding The Iron Bird on Unbound to be such an emotional rollercoaster: the sense of elation when the pre-order come in, the sense of dejection during the quiet periods. And so it was wonderful when the novel hit its funding target after a flurry of activity on Twitter on 31 December 2017 – what a great start to the New Year!

2. Putting together the Catalan Retreat

I’d been eager to organise a writing retreat in Spain for quite some time, so in 2018 I decided to test the waters and set up something along the lines of an Arvon course, but on a smaller, more intimate scale. Some great writers joined Lindsay Clarke and I in a converted masia near Begur, Catalunya, including Artis Henderson and Karen Raney, whose debut novel, All the Water in the World, is out soon.

3. Watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

A still from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Perhaps not the greatest film ever made, but I just love dinosaurs. In fact, I couldn’t resist slipping one into the novel – a feathered dromaeosaur called Lucius. What politician is he? Well, that would be a spoiler. All I can say is that he’s sometimes called Lucy for short.

4. Editing The Iron Bird

There are two phases to editing a novel: the structural edit and copy edit. In fact, it’s a bit like building a house: the structural edit is the joists and rafters – the characters, the setting, the arc of the story – and the copy edit is the interior design – the shape of an individual sentence, the choice of one word rather than another.

I was allocated a structural editor at the top of his game: Craig Taylor, who lectures in editing at Oxford Brookes. For some reason, I’d imagined the process would consist of cutting, but in practice, I guess I must have added six or seven pages to the manuscript – a paragraph here, a sentence there, sharpening the contours of the novel, and giving certain aspects a little more fullness. What would Craig make of it? I wasn’t sure, so I was over the moon when he got back to me to say that for the first time in his career he had no edits to give – great!

The Iron Bird was then passed to my copy editor, Mary Chesshyre. I was hugely impressed by Mary’s patience, and attention to detail, and delighted when she said she thought it read “magnificently”.

5. Working with Clive Russell

I’ve admired Clive’s work since his 1985-6 season at the RSC, when I saw him in a stunning production of Trolius and Cressida set in a crumbling mansion – long before his roles in Game of Thrones and Ripper Street. And so it was exciting to work with him on the audio incarnation of The Iron Bird – more news coming soon. In the meantime, here’s a trailer he recorded for the novel…

6. Putting on a crowdfunding masterclass

…at the Arnolfini as part of Bristol Festival of Literature with six other Unbound authors. From left to right: Stevyn Colgan, Robert Woodshaw, Lulu Allison, Mary Monro, James Ellis, Anita Mir, Stephanie Bretherton.

Authors at the Arnolfini

7. Listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton

…at full volume while driving across a wintery Somerset with my partner, Cristian, on New Year’s Eve. Why? Well, I think there’s something inspirational about Lin-Manuel Miranda: such self-confidence, such creative energy…

It seemed like an uplifting note to end the year on.