It couldn’t get much better, short of a Sunday Times top 10 bestseller slot. Stasi Child missed out on that, but still managed to reach number 17 in the official paperback fiction chart in February.
I’d originally tried my hand at writing a novel some 15 years ago as a potential route to escape the day job, but faced the usual round of rejections.
It was this desire for a safety valve from what had become an increasingly unfulfilling job (as a news editor for BBC World TV) which – through a very circuitous route – led to Stasi Child. As a distraction, I began posting songs on YouTube and MySpace. One was a tribute to indiepop legend Edwyn Collins (of the Scottish band Orange Juice), after he nearly died from a brain haemorrhage. Part of Edwyn’s therapy was interacting on Myspace. He heard my song, sent me a message ‘fantastic … beautiful … unbelievable’, and that quote helped my band, The Candy Twins, secure a self-booked tour of Germany in 2008.
Most of the venues were in the eastern part of the country. I found it fascinating that the stamp of the GDR was still evident everywhere, and I read Anna Funder’s non-fiction Stasiland between gigs. One venue, the now defunct Bang Bang Club in Hackescher Markt, became the HQ for my fictional murder squad in the novel (see photo).
Another gig we played was in the Harz, in a small hotel run by a former air hostess with the GDR state airline, Interflug. And as a result the Harz made it into Stasi Child: the climax comes on the slopes of the legendary Brocken, the highest mountain in northern Germany.
The novel was developed from an exercise on the Crime Thriller Creative Writing MA at City University in London. It took a total of two years between starting and getting an agent. But the actual first draft was written in two months.
And this time, I didn’t have to go through multiple rejections. I won the MA course prize, sponsored by literary agency PFD, and a young agent there – Adam Gauntlett – snapped me up. Adam secured a three-book deal with Bonnier Zaffre.
And now – just like the winner of this prize – you can buy Stasi Child off the shelves of WHSmith. As I said, it doesn’t get much better!