Before I completed my first novel which was published, I tried writing several other books (plus more that never got past chapter one…), including one called The Spectrum of Legitimacy. That was my attempt to write Speculative Fiction, which I do love reading (think Clare North, Nick Harkaway, Scarlett Thomas). But I wrote it for one main reason: I thought it was what would work commercially, as opposed to what I specifically wanted to write.
It was an interesting experience, and as much as I enjoyed writing it, when I gave it to a few early readers, their message was very similar: it’s okay, I liked aspects of it, but… I felt you [me, the author] didn’t love it.
That was quite hard to hear.
I wrote Spectrum after The Kosher Delhi, and at the time I received that feedback, I had stopped trying to get The Kosher Delhi published. But when I thought about it, I realised those readers were right. My heart was with The Kosher Delhi and that was the book I wanted to be associated with writing. Why? Because I had written that because I wanted to write the story, because I myself wanted to know What Happened Next! What did Vik and Yvonne do? I liked Spectrum, but not as much.
So I went back to The Kosher Delhi, brushed it up, started sending it out again to agents and publishers and finally that was accepted.
It was a lesson learned: write what you want to write, not what you think people want to read, what you think is commercial.
In the words of comic-book and film writer Mark Millar: “For years I wrote what I thought other people wanted to read, it was only when I started to write what I wanted to read that things took off for me.”
As for The Spectrum of Legitimacy, maybe I will go back to that one day; or maybe I should listen to one of my early readers when they said “it sounds more like a James Bond film”. Hmm, in which case, perhaps I should try selling the title to the 007 filmmakers…