Readers were gripped by TM Logan’s debut novel, Lies, keeping it in the Kindle top 10 for months. Now fans can finally read his second novel, 29 Seconds, out today in eBook. To celebrate, we’ve asked TM Logan to look back on how it all started, as well as give us a hint of what’s to come…
As of today, you’ve got two published novels under your belt. Where did each one start its life?
Most of my ideas come from everyday life – a conversation, a story on the news, a thought that turns into a ‘what if?’ question that might form the core of a plot.
With Lies, it was a conversation with my wife as we drove to Brittany for our summer holiday. She related a story about some friends of hers who had been raising money for charity in memory of a colleague who had died. As part of this, they had used the colleague’s Facebook profile to help publicise their efforts. That got me thinking: what if you did something similar but with criminal motives? Perhaps to cover up a crime? To mislead the police? To frame an innocent man?
For 29 Seconds, I had the original kernel of the idea some time ago, but had been searching for the right setting for the story. Then in the summer of 2016, in my previous job (as head of communications for a large university) I fielded an enquiry from The Guardian – a national investigation into the scale of sexual harassment in higher education, almost exclusively senior male academics harassing younger female colleagues or students. That got me thinking. When I read the story that came out of their investigation, I thought it might make a strong setting for a novel – if the victim was so desperate for a solution that she would resort to desperate measures. It’s been very weird to see it coincide with the ongoing international news story about harassment/#MeToo that has become so huge in recent months.
Now for the hard part – once you’ve had your idea, how do you get your novels finished?
I will spend 6-8 weeks planning a story, getting the plot, characters and key moments clear in my head (I’ve always been envious of people who can just sit down and write off the top of their head, seat of the pants style. I need a plan). My desk – in the spare bedroom – faces the wall so there’s nothing to distract me, no window, no view, no outside world. No TV, no radio. Nothing to tempt me away from sitting in that chair and putting my hands on the keyboard. The walls around my desk are generally covered with notes, chapter plans, lists, reminders and scraps of paper with ideas and quotes for the story I’m working on.
When I’ve got to the stage where I’m just procrastinating to put off the real business of writing, I’ll dive into it and write every day, without fail, until the first draft is done. Writing every day helps me to maintain momentum, to keep on top of the plot and stay in touch with my characters. I keep a tally of my daily wordcount, although it’s less about the number and more about making links in the chain and keeping that promise to myself. If I’ve written for 30, or 50, or 100 days straight, I’m less likely to take a day off and break the chain (at least that’s the idea).
Looking back on your own experiences, what advice would you give an author who’s just starting out?
Being a debut author made me realise how important it is to feed constructive criticism into the writing process. Both Lies and 29 Seconds were improved hugely with constructive input from others. It can be tricky, though: when you’re starting out you have to be so single-minded about writing, to keep going without any guarantee that your stories are ever going to see the light of day – you have to believe that they will find an audience eventually. You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. But you can’t let that single-mindedness, that belief, deafen you to hearing constructive criticism. Essentially, you need to be proud of what you create, but humble enough to know that it can always be improved with input from friends, fellow authors, family members, reading groups – anybody who’s willing to be constructive. I’ve been lucky enough to work with my brilliant agent Camilla Wray at Darley Anderson and the excellent team at Bonnier Zaffre in that respect.
And finally, what can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’ve been writing full-time for a few months now and absolutely loving it! I’ve just agreed a new two-book deal with Bonnier Zaffre and I’m currently working on book 3 for them, which will come out in 2019. It’s a standalone thriller set in the south of France, where four best friends are holidaying together with their families. As the week goes on, their friendship starts to unravel amid secrets, betrayal and lies, until it becomes clear that someone in the group is prepared to kill to keep a long-buried truth from coming out…
For the future, I’ve always wanted to create a series and would love to be able to do that alongside my standalone thrillers. Watch this space!