Today I’m pleased to share with you a guest post from Nick Rippington as part of the blog tour for the launch of Spark Out: A hard-boiled suspense thriller (Boxer Boys Book 2)
Think Arnie Dolan was trouble? Now meet the old man…
MAURICE ‘BIG MO’ DOLAN is prone to headaches and there is one main cause: his family. He believes eldest son Chuck, 7, needs toughening up, his wife Beryl is too lenient, his career-criminal father has no respect for him and he is about to lose his younger brother Clive to the army.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. With Margaret Thatcher’s government backing initiative and suggesting people get ‘on their bikes’ to find work, Mo believes it is the perfect time for him to expand his business… into armed robbery.
As he plans the ultimate raid to drag him out of the poverty trap, he believes his fortunes are bound to get better… but with the Falklands War just around the corner they are about to become a whole lot worse.
A hard-boiled suspense thriller that’s not for the faint hearted.
Road to Publication
When did you first decide to get your ideas out of your head and onto paper?
I was standing alone in a dank, dark, unwelcoming car park in east London with a black bin liner full of my assorted belongings, the only souvenir of two years in my dream job. In just 48 hours my world had crumbled around me. I was being made redundant for the first time in my life and at my age it was a worry about what I would do next.
To backtrack, I had been a career journalist who had progressed well to becoming a senior Managing Editor on regional newspapers, but I still wanted more. It had taken me some time to climb the slippery pole to the summit but one year shy of my 50th birthday I got the call. The News of the World, Europe’s biggest-selling Sunday paper, wanted me to become their Welsh Sports Editor.
Despite people warning me that it might not work out quite as I hoped I ignored them. It was the chance of a lifetime. Of course, I had heard the rumours about phone-hacking but I thought they had all gone away, the police treating them as the ravings of touchy-feely celebrities who didn’t like it when the publicity released about them wasn’t the stuff put together by their PR company.
I was wrong, though. When the Guardian revealed – erroneously as it turned out – that the News of the World had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, things happened quickly.
Media Mogul and News of the World owner Rupert Murdoch, believing the story would poison the brand and alerted to the fact that some major advertisers were already pulling out, announced he was closing down the paper and Sunday’s edition would be the last one. I wasn’t even there, having taken a week’s holiday with my wife Liz and 11-months-old baby daughter Olivia in Bristol, from where I was commuting each week. When a friend told me the news over the phone, I laughed, thinking it was a joke. But News 24 confirmed the worst, and I was later informed that as it was a crime scene I could no longer go back into the building. That was it, game over. What was I to do? Well how about writing that novel I had always dreamed about. That’s what I decided to do.
How long did that last manuscript take to perfect?
Four years. It began as a comedy involving newspapers and, in particular, sports journalists. The idea was for a hard-bitten London national newspaper hack to find himself marooned on a regional paper in south Wales and to highlight the different cultures. I paid £600 for a published author to critique my work, of which I was immensely proud. He destroyed it. I thought about giving up but in the cold light of day realised that he was making some valid points and that perhaps I should make some changes. That was the real start of the UK gangland thriller Crossing The Whitewash, my first novel. I had other help too, from people like Kerry Wilkinson, who used to work on the Daily Star and gave it up after his first few novels went top of the Amazon charts. It earned him a big deal with MacMillan.
How did you get it in front of publishers?
To be honest, I didn’t. I went to an all-day conference run by the Writers & Artists Yearbook called Self-Publishing in the Digital Age. There were a lot of top Indie authors, marketers and the like who gave some really sage advice and showed me that you didn’t need to have a traditional publisher to put your book out on the streets. It was a revelation to me, as I have a cupboard full of rejection slips in the spare room.
Did you have an agent?
No, but I am open to offers!
What was the first reaction of people?
There was some humour in the fact I was writing a book, mainly because I had once done a blog entitled What I Cooked Last Night, which charted the exploits of Wales on Sunday journalists in a tongue-in-cheek way. When people started reading it and giving their thoughts and reviews, though, everything changed. Even my dad, who loves the thriller genre and can be pretty reserved with his praise, said “It’s just like a real book. I read it in a day.” High praise indeed. I then took the plunge – and the expense – of going on Net Galley and the response there, and on Goodreads, from people I didn’t even know totally blew me away.
Did the publishers want to change a lot? All? Nothing?
As the publisher myself I still want to change stuff now but I guess that’s the way with all writers. At some stage if you are serious you have to push that button.
Did you agree? Or stick to your guns?
See previous answer really. I stuck to my guns.
How long did it take from them to get it out to the public?
That is the absolute joy of self-publishing. You don’t have to wait two years for a “slot” as you do with traditional publishers on occasion. I had a marketing idea: that I could sell it on the back of the Rugby World Cup, which was taking place in September that year. It provided the backdrop for the novel, so I rushed to get it out in the preceding months then contacted newspapers, radio stations and book shops and sold them on the idea of a “Rugby World Cup thriller”. It certainly got me plenty of advanced publicity, though I am not sure it didn’t narrow the field when it came to potential readers. Too many people thought it would be about rugby when that was only a very small part of the story.
What input did you have on the cover? Font? Etc. …
I had the final say, but my cover designer Jane Dixon Smith of JD Smith Designs is the expert. I think she’s brilliant and couldn’t be happier with the cover of Spark Out, which has the air of menace I was looking for. It’s another advantage of going it alone, you get a much bigger say on the whole “look” of the book.
If you could do it all again, what would you change?
I probably would have tweaked the Rugby World Cup theme and just sold it as a UK gangland thriller. I think I narrowed my potential readership in order to get mainstream media coverage.
Since leaving the News of the World I have found alternative work, on a casual basis, with the Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday. It is regular work which cuts down on the time I get to write, but I am very grateful because the money is helping me develop a platform as an author.
NICK RIPPINGTON is one of the victims of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal you never hear about. Having proudly taken his dream job as the newspaper’s Welsh Sports Editor, he was made redundant with two days’ notice when Rupert Murdoch closed down Europe’s biggest-selling tabloid six years ago. The dramatic events prompted Nick to write UK gangland thriller Crossing the Whitewash, which was released in August 2015. Spark Out is the second novel in his Boxer Boys series. Married to Liz, Nick has two children – Jemma, 35, and Olivia, 7. A Bristolian at heart, he lives near