The end of things, the start of things

I’ve realised it’s time to move on. A number of things have happened recently, happy coincidences in many ways, that together are making this blog and this website feel a bit moribund, something hungover from a time when I was still feeling my way into what it meant to try and be a creative person full time. It—the website—will still exist, in a static, not-updated kind of a way, for a little while yet. But, like an old sofa left out in the rain, it will soon be replaced. You see, I’ve started a Patreon.

I suppose what that means in reality is that I’m seeking to be paid (the cheek of it!) for any new work I may post. And that, in turn, will mean that I post more, allow more, show far more of my work than I ever would here. Assuming someone subscribes to it, I will be serialising at least one novel, for a start.

Besides that, I use Twitter far more than is probably good for me (@4ndrewjames), and most stuff that I’m happy to have on a public forum resides there, along with writing snippets, news, et cetera. In the face of that, what use is the humble blog?

So those things that have happened: I moved house back in December, switched location entirely, from south west London to North Yorkshire, first into rentals and then in March into a 120 year old house that, while it has what the estate agent described as ‘good bones’, was drastically in need of some significant home improvements. So new windows have gone in, walls and ceilings have been replastered, new carpets, a new fireplace, some hardcore redecorating, and it’s starting to look like home. Next year will see an extension to the kitchen and dining room, a new bathroom. The year after that, a complete garden redesign. And I’ve never been happier.

I also split with my literary agent after two frustrating years. Promises of interest from big publishing houses never materialised and the book being pitched (which is now coming out in November 2022) never caught light the way my agent thought/hoped it might. And so the time came to move on and, to use a phrase which in any other context would have me virtually retching, take back control.

During 2020, as we all emerged from the first period of ‘lockdown’, blinking into the summer rays, my friend Alec Bowman_Clarke and I made a short film, helped and supported by some wonderfully kind and creative people. On the back of that we started a thing called Massive Overheads Productions without being totally sure what that vehicle was or might become. Since then, it’s become clearer, and Massive Overheads has developed into a kind of collective, what I’m calling a creative cooperative. A platform for support between artists, somewhere to experiment and grow; Alec has used it as the production backdrop to a number of music videos, chiefly for his wife, the rather brilliant and über talented Josienne Clarke. Josienne has her own record label, Corduroy Punk, which sits outside of the Massive Overheads umbrella but gave me inspiration for a new venture to sit within it, a publishing imprint. I’d been discussing this with another friend, the author Hannah Persaud, off and on for about two years and suddenly there it was. This is what we should do. So we talked some more, decided on a name, Seventy2One (no book longer than 70,000 words, no individual story shorter than 1,000 words) and released it into the wild as a place for short literary fiction. The Bookseller picked up the news, reported it, and now it was happening. As you might have seen, our first book Sunburnt Saints, an anthology of climate-related fiction featuring some wonderful writers (Billy O’Callaghan, Antonia Honeywell, Carmen Marcus, Anna Vaught, Elisabeth Ingram Wallace, Michael Walters, et cetera, et cetera) will be out on 30th November.

As well as plans to publish two full length books a year (by which I mean 40,000—70,000 words), we also want to bring out an annual series of four ‘chapbooks’ on a subscription basis; we’ve discussed adding literary retreats to the inventory; this week I also had a discussion about a live music/film/books event, and a venture into other types of publishing. (Once upon a time I ran a publishing company specialising in corporate magazines and books, so I feel I’ve paid my publishing dues.) So there is lots to get on with.

In a month when both Salman Rushdie and Chuck Palahniuk have signed to a new revenue-generating platform, Substack, it felt like the right time to explore putting some of my own writing into the world on a subscription basis. Not that I think I’m going to generate the interest that Salman and Chuck will. But it’s a start. I looked at the Substack platform and seriously considered it but right now it all feels a little complicated. Patreon in contrast was a little more simple. A bit like me.

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