I started working on Crude Sunlight way back in 2006. I don’t think there were even iPhones back then, and iPads were just a dream in the twinkle of Steve Job’s eye. In short, it was a long time ago, and I had just finished my first stab at a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The result was a strange and badly formed little novella called ‘Moses’, and even though the final product was absolutely unpublishable, the very fact that I had churned out some 50k words gave me the confidence to roll up my sleeves and try something serious.
So I wrote the first 30k of the first draft of Crude Sunlight, and then staggered to a stop. Visions of basements beneath abandoned State Asylums danced through my mind, existential horrors composed of shadows, of a decaying city in the Rust Belt. Not enough, however, to write a novel on. A year later I picked it up again, and finished the first draft, immediately sending it out to friends to review. I quickly discovered that it was chock full of problems, such as my using too light a touch in explaining the mysteries at the heart of the plot–and that the end didn’t make sense. Cue the second draft, and then the third.
I moved to NYC. There I labored on the fourth draft, staying late at the Penguin Publishing offices after everybody had gone home to put the finishing touches, and then by pure luck Jeff Vandermeer announced on his blog that he was up for some freelance work, and did anybody have a novel that needed editing? I pounced, and after working out some terms (Jeff, as I’m sure nobody will be surprised to learn, is an incredibly generous man and went out on a limb to help me), sent him my manuscript.
Cue about a month or so of waiting on tenterhooks, and when he finally got back to me it was with both praise and gentle criticism. He said, “A promising first novel from an interesting stylist with a lot of atmosphere and chills”, and then went on to list some ten or eleven problems he had with the novel, ranging from the fact that it wasn’t ‘Urban Fantasy’ (it’s actually more of a ghost story, or dark fantasy at best), to piercing insights into the characters that needed addressing.
Draft five. Then begins the process of submitting the novel to agents. Let’s get published, I decide, and spend a few weeks crafting a query letter. Off I send it to some six agents, and they all turn it down. I think one or two asked for partials, but that was it. The problem, one agent explained to me, was that Crude Sunlight sat astride two different genres, and thus would be hard to market, despite the quality of the writing. Oh well, I thought, dropping it in my drawer, time to start writing something new.
Flash forward a couple of years, and suddenly it’s 2011. iPhones are de rigeur, and everybody’s sporting a fancy iPad. While I’m not wearing huge shoulder pads and zipping around on a hoverboard, it is most definitely the future, as evinced by the revolution in publishing. Namely, that now any man or woman with ambition can self-publish their novel on Amazon and B&N and a host of other platforms, a brave new world where one can eschew the traditional route and plunge into the deep end of the pool by one’s self. Following the success of The Grind Show, I unearth Crude Sunlight, blow the dust off my flash drive and decide, you know what? Just one last draft and I’ll see what this baby can do.
Edit six. Or is it seven at this point? It’s a nostalgia trip going through it, culling purple prose, removing redundant descriptions (‘Thomas raised his eyes and looked up’), further clarifying conflicts and so forth. I shoot it off to my friend Will who reads it while giving lectures on space in Austria (he leads a glamorous life), touch it up once more following his suggestions, design a cover, write new back-copy, format it for the Kindle, and bam! After six years of work it’s published.
At which point I heave a huge sigh of relief, sit back, and wait. Silence. Crickets. The ticking of the clock. Nothing really happens for the first week other than a few family members and friends picking up a copy. So I roll up my sleeves once more, don my marketing cap, and do a little leg work. The results? The first few reviews have started to come in from people who are in no way indebted to me.
So: you can read the reviews on my GoodReads page and on my Amazon page, but here are a few choice excerpts:
“Yet it is the three dimensional human protagonists that make this book work. They harbor their own personal torments that we can identify with. This tends to make the supernatural aspects only more frightening. If you like a horror novel that will keep you awake at night but also makes you think and feel, this is worth your time.” – Marvin
“… beware, this story is gonna scare the crap out of you. Philip Tucker doesn’t create monsters you can kill or control or reason with. The evil that Thomas has to face will make the hair on your arms stand up.” – Tammy of NovelOpinion fame.
“Long story short – Philip Tucker is definitely one to watch, and he has the skills to back up his ambitions. Crude Sunlight is absolutely worth checking out.” – Brooke
Somebody pinch me. After six long years, Crude Sunlight is finally out there, and you know what? It looks like it’s getting a warm response.