My US ebook team is about to give one of my stories away, in the lead-up to publishing the novel related to it. I say ‘related to it’, because it’s neither prequel nor sequel, nor quite what I’d intended it to be – an opportunity to sneakily write 6000 words of my novel as a short story, then paste it into the novel later.
Maybe it wasn’t exactly that. The character was in my mind when the chance to write the story came along, and maybe it was an opportunity to try her out on the way to writing the novel.
The story is called The Italian Job, and the novel is The Thompson Gunner, soon to be known as Tumble Turns in much of the world when it’s released as an ebook in a couple of weeks. The story was written for Big Night Out, the third in a series of fundraising anthologies for the aid agency War Child. I’d started on the peripheries of the project, but by then had become deeply embedded. With volume one – featuring a roll call of the biggest and best in chicklit – I’d intended to help behind the scenes, but ended up drawn in as Nick(ola) Earls. By volume three, I was chairing War Child in Australia, a co-editor of the anthologies and they were on their way to raising $3million. (By US volume two, not longer after, Nicki Earls appeared and Publisher’s Weekly talked about the book featuring ‘the shiniest names in chicklit’ and called her piece ‘hilarious’, but that’s another story …)
I had a story to write, it had to feature a big night out, I had a female character in mind and a loose page among my potential novel notes that I thought might have what I needed. Meg’s a comedian on tour, and a driver is hired to take her around to interviews. I’ve done my version of that, as an author, and there’s an odd fragmented rapport you develop as the day (or days) pass. Particularly if your driver parks outside the radio station and tunes in to every interview.
I had my Meg notes – plenty of them – and I needed my driver. What was he going to bring to the story? What could I find for him that would work for Big Night Out? Unexpectedly, the answer was a penile prosthesis. There was an article I read during my medical degree that had always stuck with me. It came out of Italy and it looked at satisfaction levels with penile prosthesis (at that time, the brand spanking [sorry – couldn’t help myself there] new top-of-the-range pump up jobs). Satisfaction rates of 77% among recipients and 78% among partners. To me, that 1% had always told a story, so the article stuck. The story I was about to tell wasn’t going to be about that 1% though – it was going to be about a guy who was down on his luck, but who was now packing a super-deluxe Italian job downstairs.
I had Meg, I had Mal and his Maxi Taxi, and I was ready to send them on a journey that felt very Big Night Out to me. I gave the story what I thought it needed for the anthology and, once it was done, kept quietly accumulating ideas for the novel. Thinking the story would slip into place somewhere near the middle.
But then I got to know the novel and, the more sense I got of it, the less this excursion with Mal seemed to fit. The novel was veering away from the anthology in tone, and Mal’s Italian job started to look like a tangent and then, perhaps, a distraction. Mal deserved better, and the novel deserved whatever I could give it. Which seemed to mean 6000 new words.
So, I unspliced Mal and his Italian Job from my novel notes and found a new way through – a way that let me keep my eyes on the main game, and keep my focus.
So, The Italian Job, rather than being a prequel or a sequel, ended up an interpolated story from a parallel world to the novel. A world free of the novel’s subplots and its big story arc, a world where Mal could shamble in with a Ferrari in his shorts and entertain me.
The Thompson Gunner has had its time in Australia, and now, as Tumble Turns, it’s set to have its time elsewhere. So why not give away a few copies of The Italian Job? Meg travels to a festival in Perth in both the novel and the story – the same festival, at the same time – and here’s two very different ways it works out. They can’t be part of the same story, even though in one way they are.
Anyone want one? Exciting Press has 10 e-copies of The Italian Job to give away to anyone anywhere with the hardware to read it. If you’re interested, just say so in the comments section below, send your email address to excitingpress at gmail dot com and mention whether you’re looking for Mobi (for Kindle) or ePub (for everything else). If you aren’t in the first 10, @excitingpress is giving away a copy each day to randomly selected new followers on Twitter, so that’s an option too.