Excerpt from Honeysuckle Lane
Frank’s palms slipped on the steering wheel. He was in a full panic attack now. Was the car following or not? His eyes flicked constantly to the rear view mirror. Hunched up over the wheel, his body hummed with tension.
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” he said giving voice to his worry. He had to hit the brakes hard when a red Micra pulled out of nowhere. He had been so absorbed in the mirror, he failed to notice it coming from the slip road. The car behind him blasted its horn angrily, surely that was good. If they were tailing him, why would they draw attention to themselves? Frank’s exit was coming up, then he would know for sure. Leaving it to the last minute, he swerved into the turn off, not even indicating. When he looked in the mirror it was still there, taunting him, its grill smiling. It kept well back, but always there. The windows were tinted, a man’s car, an angry man’s car, a violent car. Whoever it was, they were following him for sure, and Frank had a damn good idea who was behind the wheel. He had no choice now. He had to get home and quick.
Before long, Frank was weaving through the rabbit warren of houses, which made up the cities commuter belt. The grid pattern of seventies estate design had been replaced with graceful swirls and twists. Each, revealing a small cluster of houses, while cleverly hiding the massive number of identical clusters, the miracle of modern living. Down along ‘Ivey Terrace’, the black car stayed behind him, around ‘Elder Close’, the car was still there. Turning on to ‘Elm Road’. Wait, it didn’t turn. The car was gone. Frank waited for the car to re-appear, but it never did. Five minutes later, Frank pulled into ‘Honeysuckle Lane,’ and his own driveway. Frank sat there, breathing hard, willing his heart to slow a little. He looked behind him and the road was deserted, he must have been letting his imagination run away with him. He had to get a grip on things.
Nine, identical detached, houses stood in a crescent, facing a small tree planted green. Front gardens with no dividing walls, window boxes and hanging baskets abounded. Not a person to be seen. People didn’t work or socialise here, they merely sleep, that’s commuter living. All kinds of people housed in identical boxes, those that couldn’t afford city prices, but still lived the city life. Frank stepped out of his car, taking his bag from the back seat. He walked towards his door and behind him, his car beeped, knowing the key was leaving, the car automatically locked up. When he first got it, he’d thought it was cute, like the car was saying good bye. Now it just depressed him. Locking the car, yet another task modern technology wouldn’t trust to a stupid human. Were we becoming obsolete, only useful for consuming and breaking things?
Frank strode quickly up the drive to the house, the feeling of being followed lingered like a bitter after taste in his mind. Once inside he locked the door behind him. At last he felt safe, in his own place. He rested his head against the timber, taking long calming breaths. Sweat stuck the shirt to his back, upstairs a floorboard creaked and Frank held his breath.
Hi Squid, welcome back to aliisaacstoryteller! It’s been a while since you were last here, and I can see that you’ve been very busy indeed during that time! Can you please tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book, Honeysuckle Lane? What inspired you to write it?
Sometimes, things happen during the most mundane of tasks, which make me prick up my ears and pay attention. The idea for Brendan, the main character in ‘Honeysuckle Lane’, came to me in Tesco’s, of all places. I was wandering around the dairy area, when I noticed a tall man pick up a pot of natural yogurt. He looked at the pot for a few moments, then slipped it back on the shelf.
Perhaps my brain works differently to other people’s, because the first thing I thought wasn’t “Some yogurt would be nice right now” but “Imagine how easy it would be to slip a poisoned pot of yogurt on the shelf, letting fate decide who might pick it up.”
That idea that gave birth to Brendan. Over the coming days, I imagined what a man, who would place poisoned yogurt, on a supermarket shelf, might be like. I fleshed out his bones in my mind and wondered what other weird stuff he might indulge in.
The canal scene in ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ formed when out walking the dogs one evening I came up behind a lady walking alone. As I got closer, I could see her tense up. In my case I gave a cheery greeting and hurried past. Brendan, on the other hand, would have gotten right up behind her and stayed there, matching her pace, knowing that every step was making the woman lose her mind.
After Brendan’s personality began to solidify in my head, I wondered what it would be like to live alongside such a person. Then again, you could be living right next door and who would be any the wiser, until it was too late of course. That was the spark, which kicked off the other stories, and the idea that they should all take place in the same row of houses and run concurrently.
The story outline quickly came together, and I wrote each chapter as it would happen in real time. I had a vague idea where ‘Honeysuckle’ would go, but I had to let the story take its own road to get there. Lots of things happened that I hadn’t planned, or even thought of, until the words appeared on the screen in front of me. I often wondered if I would be able to hold the whole thing together for the duration of 100K words, but I did, and the proof of the pudding is there for all to see.
Hmmm… sounds intriguing! So tell me, what was the deciding factor which made you go down Kindle Scout route?
This is my first go at a novel, and to the publishing world, I am an unknown entity. It’s very difficult to get an agent or publisher to take a punt on a wet-behind-the-ears prospect. It would have to be one hell of a book to come out of the blocks and straight into a publishing deal. I always felt if I got ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ finished, it would have to be self-published.
By the time ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ was eventually finished, I had spent hundreds of hours writing, changing, rewriting, and editing, the thing. I had fallen in love with it, and the thought of just casting it into the vast ocean of books, that is Amazon, filled me with dread.
I sent submissions to a few agents, but the length of time they take to even read something is daunting. That was when Kathleen Rothenberger, the lady who edited the book, told me about Kindle Scout. What appealed to me about this platform, is vetting of manuscripts before they are accepted. I think the volume of books appearing every day in the self-published arena is killing everyone’s prospects of success.
I like the fact that the public have a vote in what they like and what they don’t, on Kindle Scout. I like that it is a secret ballot, and the voting is not influencing potential readers. I don’t know who has voted for ‘Honeysuckle Lane’, and neither does anyone else. I truly believe this is a good thing for E books and could well be the way to go in the future. As they say, a rising tide floats all boats. I hope that ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ will make the grade but only the public and the good people at Kindle Scout can decide that.
Well, best of luck with that, Squid! Writing one’s first novel is a huge learning curve for any author. What is your top tip for aspiring authors just starting out on their writing journey?
I think that the most important thing for any writer, is to enjoy what they do. If you get into this game for fame, or fortune, you are going to be very disappointed. I would also say that new writers should not fear criticism. No work is universally liked, none.
Reading is vital, if you love to write, you should LOVE to read. If you don’t, I think you should take up a different hobby.
Lastly, I would ask them to decide if they would still write, if they knew the works they penned were going to sit in a dusty box, for the rest of time. If they still say yes, then they are born to be writers. It is a human trait to want to share our thoughts and experiences with others. I get such a buzz when someone takes the time to read one of my stories, and to be honest, I can’t get enough of the feeling. I think that’s factor which is driving me to get ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ published.
Yes, that sure is a great feeling! So how do we go about reading and voting for ‘Honeysuckle Lane’?
Oh, that’s very easy indeed. Just go to https://kindlescout.amazon.com. You have to log in. Some existing accounts cannot access this, or are told ‘USA only’. If that happens, any account opened with a new E-mail will allow access. (I am not sure why this works, but it does.)
Find the cover of ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ and click on it. This will open up the first 5000 words for you to read. Then at the bottom, you get to nominate the book by pressing the big blue button, if you liked what you saw.
You are allowed three nominations at any one time. When the books you have picked run out of time, they are either selected for publication, or not. If the book is selected, then all who voted for it get a free advance copy. You can see how Kindle Scout reviewers could quickly build up a nice little library.
And now, a little about you. Do you have a day job when you’re not writing?
Normally you can find me standing behind the bar, polishing a few glasses or pulling a pint or two. My job was something I had to give a lot of consideration to when I started writing. In my life, I hear more than a few personal details, and some of the people who have confided in me would be upset if they felt I was using them in my writing. That was why I decided to mask the exact location of my little establishment, to protect the guilty in a manner of speaking. Some of the customers know that I write and even follow along on my blog but I tend to keep it under the radar when I can. Eventually it will all come out I am sure but that is a bridge to cross on another day.
Ok, so tell us a little something about your background that no one else will know…
I have shared a fair bit about myself in my stories and on my blog, so picking something big that is unknown is difficult.
It might seem strange, but I love storms, big ones. My favourite place to go when a storm is raging through the night, is the local pier. I love to hear the wind howling, the feeling of the spray stinging my face as it is driven on hurricane force winds, and watching the waves explode high into the air. I walk out as far as I can and stand there, feeling the force of nature drench me to the skin. It makes me remember just how small I am.
Interesting! I like watching storms too, but from the nice dry interior of my home preferably, lol! So, what is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? How do you start your day?
Ha! Mornings and I don’t get on so well. Most days, the sun is coming up about the same time, I am going down. But the first thing I do every day when I get up, is open the curtains, feed my gold fish and I always say “Morning Fish.” I have a shower while my two hounds sit on the landing and wait for me. After that, we all go down to the kitchen for breakfast. Once that is done, no two days are the same.
I’m definitely not a morning person, either! But nor am I a night owl! Do you have any other interests that you manage to slot in between your day job and writing?
Oh yes. I play squash, golf, and surf. I like to gather my own firewood. A man who cuts his own firewood, heats himself twice. I go fishing now and again, snorkelling in the summer when there are no waves for surfing, and of course, walking the dogs.
What is your next writing project?
I have a short story to finish called ‘Shovel Head’ about a mother who feels taken for granted by her family. However, when she gets a flat tyre on the way to the shops her life takes an unexpected turn towards fulfilment.
I was asked to write that story by a friend of mine on G+ and it’s about half done. I have an idea for another longer story, possible novel, but that will have to wait until ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ is over the line.
Something I’d personally like to know; you have written some great stories on your blog based on your personal experience as a barman. Will you ever publish these in a book?
That is a more difficult question to answer than you might imagine. Yes in a way, and no in another.
I wouldn’t like to publish them, not just for the possibility of making a few Euro, even though a few Euro would be very nice indeed.
Over the last two years I have gotten something from my writing that money could never buy. In the beginning, it allowed me to get some things off my chest that I felt unable to do in my day to day life. Writing my worries and memories down cast out more than a few ghosts. Then a strange thing happened, people began to see themselves in my words and were affected by them. They cried and shared and became my friends. They helped me and in a way, I hope I helped them.
So you see, the stories grew to be more than a few words on a screen, they became a connection, stretching across the globe. If I thought that by publishing them they would bring something to someone else out there, then I would do it without a second thought. I know you might thank that is a load of sentimental codswallop, and it might be, but it’s how I think of them.
On a final note, I would like to extend my thanks to you, Ali. From day one, you have been such a fantastic friend and mentor. Your help and encouragement has been beyond amazing and it’s thanks to people like you, that I ever finished ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ at all. I never believed that this day would come, but you never seemed to have a doubt.
Before starting my blog, I often thought singers were being insincere when they thanked their audience so fervently. Now I know that they mean it to their very core. It is the people who take the time to say ‘Hi’, to comment on a story, to give a post a plus, or give a book a vote, which make my days so wonderful.
Every time I make a new friend through my writing, I know it’s because we have glimpsed the world through shared eyes. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has ever read a story, visited my blog, voted on ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ or said hello on twitter, Facebook or G+. I am the luckiest man alive to have friends such as you.
If you would like to find out more about Squid, and read many fine samples of his writing, please visit his blog ‘Where it Began’ . You can also follow him on Twitter, or on Google+. You can read one of his short stories on The Friday Fiction.
And finally, most importantly, you can vote for his book, ‘Honeysuckle Lane’ on Kindle Scout. Last day for voting 20th June 2015. Best of luck, Squid, and thanks so much for joining me on my blog once again.