Tettig’s Jewels – my new old novel
Sometime in 1989, I was sitting at my desk at work, exhausted after yet another day of internecine warfare instigated mainly by the management consultants I was working with at the time, and started doodling onto a pad of yellow post-it notes (other sticky papers are available), and, for some odd reason, scribbled two words onto the paper – Tettig’s Jewels. I still have no idea where that came from, and I unfortunately no longer have the yellow bit of paper. I do know, though, that those two words grew, not just into a person I have carried around with me in my head every second of every hour of every day since then, but into the novel I most of all wanted to have published. And now that I am what they call a hybrid author (traditionally published and indie-publishing of my own accord), the time has come, after rewrites into at least double figures, for the old man Tettig to see the light of day. In the UK, you can pre-order the Kindle edition here. In other territories, just search your Amazon for Tettig. And here’s the book trailer.
And while you’re watching that, and listening to the great Better Man track The Post Romantics have very kindly allowed me to use, here’s a bit more about how that book has grown.
Originally, it started off as a little kind of comedy in the Douglas Adams vein, with talking furniture and other inanimate objects suddenly becoming animate (they’re all gone now, by the way). And that’s because, from nowhere (which seems to be where most of my ideas come from), evil and the need to combat it found its way into the frame, and I suddenly had a very beautiful but dead woman on my hands, a woman who wanted to be resurrected.
The idea had always been that the hero would be a middle-aged man, someone no-one would expect to be the hero of a novel, never mind a hero in real life. And that’s because, I suppose, even at the age of 29 I felt middle-aged (I always say to people I was actually born an old man). And that’s what Dick Tettig has always been; a shambolic, disorganised old man who’s trying to make sense of life, who’s just trying to keep things together until his life, too, is done. But then this task appears for him, to somehow save this dead woman from being dead, this dead women who turns out not only to be beautiful but also to be the love of this old man’s life. But how should he save her? And why is he perpetually so disorganised, with a memory like a sieve?
The simple answer for some would have been to give up at this point. But Tettig didn’t, and he never has. Because, like all the characters I’ve been blessed with, he has always written his own story. I am, as always, and like I will probably always be, just the mouthpiece of this ever-growing cast of people who somehow find their way to me. I’m just the bloke who writes the words down; they are the people who speak them, who do the things the words describe, and who have to fight their way through pain and death and disappointment. And Tettig’s choice was to become someone who travels through time in a most unusual way.
So, anyway, at one point I found an agent for this work of art given to me by a cast of wondrous people who had chosen me to speak for them, an agent who said that the first line of the book was the best first line he’d ever read (and it’s still the first line). Ah, but the obstacles that were to be placed in his way, and in the way of the assistants he handed me on to. ‘We can’t define a genre for the book,’ they said. ‘And?’ I said. They said ‘It makes it difficult for us to sell. Have you ever thought of ghost writing instead of being a novelist?’ So our ways parted, and someone else had a look at the book and tried to make it more ‘accessible.’ Cue more rewrites and wailing and gnawing and gnashing of teeth, mainly by the characters who were complaining at being distorted. And so the novel was put to one side while, inside it, the battle between good and evil still raged, with every possible ending in sight.
The writing of other things (and the thinking about Tettig) never stopped, though, and in 2012, I was traditionally published with my Antarctic novel Dead Men, for which I am still eternally grateful to that tiny blonde tomboy of a woman called Birdie who appeared to me while I was out running, and to my employer for letting me go out to the Antarctic, and to my current agent, who, for the sake of completeness, I should point out doesn’t like Tettig’s Jewels at all. And after indie-publishing two other novels close to my heart, I decided this year, thanks to the never-wavering support of my family and the dear dear SJ who knows who she is, that Tettig would have his day after all. I spent six months bringing the book back into shape, making it more immediate by putting it into the present tense rather than the past, just to emphasise that whatever happens in the novel is happening to those characters now, this very minute, in the very blink of an eye that you’re reading about them, that there are always battles between good and evil going on somewhere, everywhere.
What I have realised, too, 26 years after starting on this path with this book, and after long email conversations with a new very good friend, is that Tettig’s Jewels is far more multilayered than the callow youth who started writing it thought all that time ago. And that’s got to mean something.
A paperback edition of Tettig’s Jewels will also shortly be available. I hope you enjoy it.