How I Wrote: The Paris Ripper
The Paris Ripper is a crime novel set in the 1930s. It features Chief Inspector Belmont and his squad from the Judiciary Police. Belmont’s milieu is one hardened by the Great War and made desperate by the depression. His Paris is teetering on the edge of civil war while, unknowingly, counting down to the German occupation.
This book emerged from a completely different novel. After my first book, Salazar, was published in 2103, I got the idea I should storm through the first drafts of future books. Write fast and don’t look back until the edits. After-all, the first draft is not meant for human consumption.
A draft of Salazar #2 was finished in short measure. Leaving that to dry, I moved straight on to Salazar #3. When that was complete I returned to work on #2. But I didn’t like what I found.
With Salazar #2 failing muster, Salazar #3 seemed destined to rot on the vine. However, where the previous books had been written from the first person point-of-view, #3 wasn’t. Although centred on Salazar there were large sections focused on Chief Inspector Belmont. Why not, I wondered, give Belmont the lead role?
Extracting Salazar meant gutting the text. The book which became The Paris Ripper bares only a superficial resemblance to Salazar #3. Sergeants, who’d been loitering around the Quai des Orfevres for dramatic effect, now wanted names and home lives. And I wanted good cops and bad cops and for it to sometimes be hard to tell which were which.
I had a main plot line from the original text. Nothing else. The void had been filled by Salazar’s personality. Belmont didn’t have a personality beyond being a foil for Salazar. I needed to flesh him out with a back story and to find a way to bring that story to life. What would it be like, I wondered, if the Chief Inspector had a promiscuous wife? And why would she be that way? So Madame Belmont was born, giving Belmont something to think about outside of the office.
With a working first draft, I began editing. Instead of looking for poor sentences and badly constructed paragraphs, I decided to edit from the point of view of the main/medium players. Sergeant Gracianette, for example, got his own edit. I concentrated on the scenes where he played a part and skipped the rest. It helped define a consistency to his speech, his actions and his desires. This process revealed one or two characters who served no purpose. I either amalgamated them with an existing character or eliminated them.
After the character edits I found myself asking: why is Sergeant Jouvin doing this, why is Inspector Tabaraut doing that? It wasn’t that these characters were dictating what they should do, it was that certain actions were out of character. People do behave out of character, it’s why we might overhear someone say: ‘that’s not like him at all, he never normally eats apples for breakfast, I wonder what’s gotten into him?’ However, out of character acts should happen for a reason and not because one character has been poorly amalgamated with another.
The character edits were single sweeps through the text. The general edits were Sisyphus pushing his rock up the mountain. I’d print out a chapter and go over it again and again until I was happy, then move on to the next. When I reached the end of the book I returned to the beginning.
I eventually reached the point where I could read the whole novel and not make more than a few changes. (I believe it might be impossible to read your own work without, at least once, reaching for a red pen). At this point, I sent the text out for some feedback. The advice I received was incredibly useful: tighten it up here, lose the Americanisms, if you swap the last two chapters around you’ll get a more dynamic ending.
Finally, I sent the manuscript out on submission. A new crime-focused publisher, 280 Steps, liked what they saw. As a result, The Paris Ripper will be released on Feb 18th 2016 as an eBook and paperback. Available from Amazon and your local bookshop (if you ask them nicely).
Salazar will be re-released, by 280 Steps, this autumn. It will be followed by Salazar #2: A Dead American in Paris, later in the year.