Words By Neil Harrison
Photographs courtesy of Graeme Shimmin
A MANCHESTER AUTHOR is set to rub shoulders with giants of literary fiction, after seeing his debut novel get snapped up by the international publishing house behind best sellers such as The Da Vinci Code and the Discworldseries.
Graeme Shimmin, who has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University, was offered the book deal with Transworldafter his novel, A Kill in the Morning, was shortlisted for the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award earlier this year. Speaking to Humanity Hallows Graeme explained,
“This is the second time they have run the award. I almost entered an earlier draft a couple of years ago but I decided it wasn’t quite ready for it, so I left it. This time I put it in around Christmas, around six months ago now, and didn’t really hear anything for about three months until the shortlist was announced at the end of March.”
“A woman from the publishers phoned me and told me I was on the shortlist. As soon as that happened, I could see this was going to be my big break. Straight away I thought, This is going to get the book published, probably. Four out of the six books on the shortlist for the previous award had been published, so I knew there was a good chance.”
That chance, and the ultimate goal of becoming a published writer, took a long and, as becomes apparent, unconventional path. Graeme originally left his home town of Manchester to study at Durham University.
“I studied physics, but that was a long time ago and I never really did anything with that. Then I worked in I.T. for a long time. That was very lucrative, but a bit soul destroying. To be honest, I could sort of afford to ‘pursue my dream’ out of that job, but when I worked in I.T. I think every single thing I ever worked on was cancelled, in ten years! So it gets really difficult to motivate yourself when you are just thinking, I could work really hard on this… but it’s almost certainly going to be cancelled. It does become a bit difficult to keep going. You end up just thinking of the money.”
This lucrative, but not very fulfilling, work was followed by what Graeme calls “the classic writer’s dream” of an island cottage off the Irish coast.
“I had a girlfriend in London who’s from Donegal and we bought a derelict old cottage on an island off the coast of there. But it’s a hard job living somewhere like that. It’s just a completely different world. I’m not sorry I did it, because it was interesting, but yes, it’s a different world.”
Perhaps as unpredictable as Graeme’s career trajectory is the plot of A Kill in the Morning, which is set during an alternative mid-20thcentury, in which World War II ended in 1941. The author describes the book as ‘an alternate history spy thriller’, before providing a brief but intriguing synopsis:
“It opens with a guy who is an assassin for the British Secret Service. He’s in Germany, because there is now a ‘cold war’ with Germany, and the story of his past unfolds to reveal how he was involved in an attack on Germany’s nuclear program, during which his friends were captured and tortured. So, now he is basically going around eliminating Nazi and SS guys who were involved in that.”
“He meets a girl out there called Kitty, who is in the German resistance, which is based on a real organisation—a group called the White Rose that was crushed in real life. But in this scenario, the British and Russians have sort of supported it a bit and they have survived. From here on the plot becomes thick with twists and intrigue which take place against a backdrop of recognisable European history. Actual events, locations, even historical figures (the principal ‘bad guy’, for example, is Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi officer who in reality was assassinated in 1942) are employed in a process of plot development which Graeme admits ‘took a hell of a lot of research’.
Transworld Publishers plan to release A Kill in the Morning in the Spring of next year. However, the author is keen to point out that for those unable to wait, he releases monthly, free short stories for anyone willing to sign up to his mailing list. For more information on this and all of Graeme Shimmin’s work visit graemeshimmin.com