I’m really happy today to host a guest post from Shotgun Honey and Fahrenheit author Aidan Thorn. I’ve read and reviewed three of his novellas over the last year, and really enjoyed all of them. Aidan has also been a huge supporter, backing #Fahrenbruary to the hilt and also this week for #IndieCrimeCrawl week he has supported the week across the board and kindly agreed to write about his experiences with recent release Rival Sons, which I reviewed late last year, you can find that post here. As always, I can’t hand you over without dropping in links to buy the books:
And so, without further preamble, I’ll leave you in Aidan’s capable hands.
As a writer of what many have termed “gritty” crime novellas I’ve always been realistic that my books aren’t going to end up on bestseller lists, or take pride of place on the prestige plinths that customers have to negotiate as they enter high street book chains. For me as a writer it’s never been about that. I write because I enjoy it and so I have to write things that I would like to read. There’s no formula, no intention (at the moment) to have recurring characters book after book and no intention to make it fit a length that’s marketable because it has a spine thick enough to sit on a bookshelf. As a writer I know that limits my options in terms of getting my books published, which is why I’m so grateful to the indie presses that give writers like myself the opportunity to put our work out. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with a number of small press publishers over the years, Close to the Bone/Near to the Knuckle put out my short story collection, Urban Decay some years ago, my novella When the Music’s Over was originally published by Number 13 Press and is now available through Fahrenheit Press imprint Fahrenheit 13. I’ve also just had Worst Laid Plans published by another Fahrenheit imprint 69 Crime, which sees my book in a double-bill with the excellent Bang Bang You’re Dead by Nick Quantrill. But today Matt has invited me to talk about Shotgun Honey who published my novella, Rival Sons in December 2018.
When I started writing I rather arrogantly thought I’d be able to jump straight in and turn out a novel – how wrong I was. In fact, I’ve still never written anything that would traditionally be considered novel length – but I’d argue that both When the Music’s Over and Rival Sons are short novels. Anyway, having realised my mistake I started trawling the internal for things to help me learn about writing and discovered a number of short story websites. I started reading the stories, they were a great way to quickly discover how a variety of writers approach the craft in different ways – a valuable lesson for any writer. One of the sites I discovered was Shotgun Honey. They were publishing 700 word stories, predominantly crime and I discovered some incredible talent on their pages. At first I was intimidated by what I read – I could never write anything good enough to grace their pages, but the more I read the more I learned and eventually I started submitting stories to various webzines and anthologies, including Shotgun Honey. To my delight I started getting stories accepted and I believe that there is somewhere in the region of 50 stories out there in books or online with my name attached to them.
All of the sites and books that published me were fantastic, but Shotgun Honey did always hold a special magic for me. I liked the short form lean 700 word format, the quality of the stories there and when I dug a little deeper I discovered they published novellas. I started buying a few and found that they were exactly the sort of thing I loved to read, great books by the likes of Chris Leek, Ryan Sayles, Tom Pitts and Bracken McLeod to name just a few. When I finished my novella, Rival Sons, Number 13 Press (who’d published When the Music’s Over) were no more and Fahrenheit 13 hadn’t yet kicked off and so I had to think about who I’d send the manuscript to. I’d held off on Shotgun Honey previously because their books were very continental American, but anyone that has read Rival Sons will tell you that although it’s very clearly set in the UK there’s a real old Western feel to it. And so, I submitted it.
After a lot of months I figured I had been unsuccessful and so I started submitting the manuscript to other publishers. And then, one day while I was on holiday in Boston MA I got an email from Ron Earl Phillips at Shotgun Honey saying he wanted to publish the book. I jumped up and down a little, ordered another round of drinks and sent Ron an email telling him how delighted and grateful I was. One of the things Ron said he liked about the book was that I hadn’t set it in the US, and that it felt authentically British – so the very thing that had put doubt in my mind about submitting to them had actually worked in my favour.
And then… something very weird happened, I’d sent Rival Sons to four other publishers when I thought I’d been unsuccessful and over the coming weeks I got acceptances from all of them. This was great for my confidence that the book wasn’t a complete turkey but I had to be honest with them all, Shotgun Honey had been my first choice and I wanted to go with them. I’m still hugely honoured that any of those publishers wanted to work with me though.
Ron was great prior to the book being released, I knew the release month right away – 14 months from the day I was told he wanted to publish it and he basically outlined what would happen next. Because Shotgun Honey is an imprint of Down and Out books I also started getting emails from their team and I did a lot of form filling to help them with the marketing of the book on release, although it was 14 months from decision to publication the time went quickly as there was plenty back and forward along the way.
I think it’s fair to say that for many writers seeing what the publisher comes up with for a cover is a big moment. Here Ron was really collaborative, a little bit like a really good tattoo artist he asked me if I had anything in mind and took my brief rough description and turned it into something really striking and beautiful. I’m biased but I really think the cover for Rival Sons is one of the best covers I’ve seen on a book in quite some time – although my other publisher, Fahrenheit are also knocking out some absolute works of art too.
By the time December 2018 rolled around I was so excited to get my hands on the book. The great thing with Shotgun Honey is they make sure the author gets a good number of copies – these flew out of my house quicker than the eye could see. And now, the book is out there in the world and the critical reaction has been incredible, firstly from this very blog and then what has followed has been great to see. If you take a look on Amazon it hasn’t dropped a star yet – whenever I say that I know I’m tempting fate. But, don’t just take my word for it, go find the book and see for yourself, I believe it’s the best thing I’ve written and it’s beautifully wrapped in Ron Earl Phillips’ great cover design.