The journey from idea to published book by Rob Boffard – Guest Post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Rob Boffard, author of Tracer to the blog. Here Rob discusses the journey from idea to published book.

The journey from idea to published book

Deep on my hard drive, there’s a file called ‘In 2070’. It’s the first thing about my novel TRACER that I ever wrote down. 

I even remember where I was when I started writing it. In 2011, I was working at a recording studio in London, and it was a slow day. I don’t know why I started writing about a space station that held the last of humanity, but I do remember that by the time my lunch break rolled around, I’d written down its entire fictional history (skipping a lot of the details of course).

That afternoon, as I edited vocals and hit the record button on a steady parade of voice-overs, I couldn’t get the station out of my mind. What would life be like up there? The thing was old – over a century – so stuff would be broken down and falling apart. What kind of people lived there? What stories did they have to tell?

Most Serious Authors will tell you never to write an outline for a novel. It’s a poisonous, pernicious thing, they say, which strangles creativity. But in 2011, I didn’t have the faintest clue about how to write a novel, so an outline it was. A couple of weeks later, I had the barest bones of a story: a tale about a high-speed package courier, and what happens when she discovers she is transporting something very dodgy indeed… 

I started writing in October. I aimed for around five thousand words a week, finishing in April 2012, and I can honestly say that those six months were a total blast. I hit the halfway mark while I was in South Africa over Christmas, and drove through Johannesburg with the windows open and the music blasting out – as loud as it could go.

Of course, a first draft is a first draft. By the time I figured out that I could actually do something with this 100,000 word monster I’d cobbled together, I knew enough to understand that would take a lot of work. So I went back and rewrote it. Then I sent it out to agents, and got rejected by every single one of them. I rewrote it further, and toyed with the idea of self publishing – even going so far as to have a cover designed. Then a friend told me to stick with traditional publishing, and I figured one last go couldn’t hurt.

In October 2013, two years after I first started the book, I rewrote it one final time, and sent it out. A week later, I was at the pub with an old friend from the studio when an e-mail came on my phone. An agent wanted to represent me. Two days later, I received a second e-mail, and then a third. Suddenly, I had three agents fighting over me. It was…weird.

All the agents were fantastic, but I could only pick one. And I will give him his due: he earned every cent of his commission. He and I reworked the book, sharpening it up, and then he went to war for it. Ed Wilson is a tenacious, majorly tough dude (as well as being a really great guy), and he found a potential suitor in Orbit Books.

While he was closing the deal, I was in South Africa at a friend’s wedding. On the day I was due to take a call from Anna Jackson, Orbit’s commissioning editor, my fiancee and I had driven eight hours back to her home city of East London. The call was scheduled for 6pm, and there was only one place in her parents’ house to take it: her father’s office, next to the garage.

It was baking hot, and I couldn’t find the damn light switch. The call with Anna lasted forty minutes, and while she was amazingly friendly, I was sweating buckets in the dark. But whatever I said must have done the trick: Orbit signed me to a three-book deal. All we had to do was edit the book, copy-edit it, decide on a cover, start marketing it, print it…

I’m writing this with a month to go. By the time you read this, the thing I started on that slow day at the studio will be available to read. I hope you like it.

About the book:


“Imagine The Bourne Identity meets Gravity and you’ll get TRACER, the most exciting action thriller set in space you’ll ever read.

Sarah Lotz, author of The Three calls it “fast, exhilarating and unforgettable”.

A huge space station orbits the Earth, holding the last of humanity. It’s broken, rusted, falling apart. We’ve wrecked our planet, and now we have to live with the consequences: a new home that’s dirty, overcrowded and inescapable.

What’s more, there’s a madman hiding on the station. He’s about to unleash chaos. And when he does, there’ll be nowhere left to run.

In space, every second counts. Who said nobody could hear you scream?”

Tracer is published by Orbit on 2 July 2015

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