Before publishing the novel The Drama Merchant, we sat down with the author and asked him where did this strange and intriguing drama come from?
“The story began life as a film script,” Tim told us with a wry smile. “The initial idea was a love story between a soldier and a pacifist. A simple idea, really. I was pleased with the finished script that I titled, Compromise with Circumstance. I had meetings with two producers who liked it a lot. One producer who worked mainly with the BBC eventually said no because he felt the BBC had produced a few military dramas that year. I argued that the core element of the story was a twenty-one-year-old soldier in pursuit of love, but he felt the military aspect was also a strong element. The other producer that was very interested asked me to censor Steve’s opinions and I refused to do that. Whilst Steve does express views that will be perceived as controversial by some, he has a right to express them, in my opinion, anyway.
“The end result was the script was shelved for many years. I stumbled across it again when cleaning out boxes in my parents house shortly before my mother died and I sat down and read it. By this time I had written the thriller Raw Nerve and had my memoir, In Sights, published by The History Press. After finding the script, the story began to gnaw at me and the day after my mother died I needed to focus on something – anything other than her death, so I started to convert the script into a novel.
“It was an amazing experience. The words just poured out of me and I had completed the first draft in six weeks. Normally when I begin a novel I am meeting the characters for the first time, but with The Drama Merchant, I already knew the characters and I think that’s the main reason I was able to write it so quickly. However, strangely, I didn’t refer to the film script once, I literally forgot to, so absorbed was I in my imagination, thus the scene setting and dialogue is hundred percent original. In fact, the storyline completely changed due to the characters doing things which led the story in a different direction from the original script, although, at the core remains the idea of the soldier in love with a pacifist.”
You brushed upon the controversial nature of Steve’s opinions in the story. Did you set out to be controversial?
“Not at all, but Gemma is a Christian pacifist and I needed a character to push against that and, yes, argue some ideas I have on the subject. But I also couldn’t have a character that was right all the time, so that is the reason for the scene where Steve expresses opinions on male and female roles in life. That scene says a lot about James’ and Steve’s relationship through their banter and it also tells the reader or listener that Steve hasn’t thought his argument through properly. It’s important to remember that James and Steve are only twenty-one and they are still very much growing as independently thinking individuals. At that age I was just beginning to formulate ideas about life, the universe and everything.”
The sex is very explicit. In our opinion, as the publisher, it is well written, but we have to admit it made a few of us blush. Was it necessary to be so graphic in the detail?
Tim laughed at that question and scratched his head thoughtfully before answering.
“I hope I’m not spoiling the story for the reader or listener when I say that the first sex scene is on Battery Road in Tenby. Ally and James started kissing and everything happened very quickly. When I had finished writing that day, Ally and James had had sex and, as I always write through my imagination, I’d written it as I’d watched it happen in my mind. Once I had opened that door and written the scene depicting sex in, perhaps, more detail than I’d planned, I felt I couldn’t close the door when it came to sex scenes later in the book. Also, in novels I’ve read, I’ve always been left with the feeling the author had ducked out from describing sex between characters and had just skimmed over the event. (Tim laughed again) For me sex is about pounding passion. I found writing the sex scenes a challenge and I love a challenge – I was always asking the question, how far do I go? I think my mother’s passing freed me from the reins that may have been there – you, know? You don’t want your mother reading what goes on in the secret corners of your imagination – so I think I did go further than I would have had my mother been alive. I also challenged myself to steer clear of cliches. I’m now pleased with those scenes. I think they are important scenes for James and Ally’s relationship to feel real for the reader and later James and Gemma.
We would like to congratulate you on a tremendous novel. All of us at Wales Press loved it when we first read it. For me, as I was reading, I wondered how it was going to end; how could James situation sort itself out. I loved the natural twists with Ally and, I don’t want to throw a spoiler in here, but there was that one twist that really made me laugh outloud and shout out ‘wow’! I’d like to finally ask: how did you bring the story to such a satisfactory conclusion after all that had happened?
“Well, thank you for that. I think I know the scene with Ally you mean (Tim smiled broadly). Writing a novel is an evolution. As I said earlier. I knew this story from the time I had written the script, but the novel is very different now. The wonderful thing about The Drama Merchant is the fact it evolved naturally, perhaps a better word is organically. It is a novel about one man seeking love and his life crashing from one drama into another. I personally love the way the characters grow and change naturally given the circumstances. The tough part for me was keeping the novel under a hundred thousand words so you guys would consider the novel in the first place. I actually hate the fact that now an unknown novelist is restricted to a word count. I understand it from a business perspective. I understand that to commit to a huge print run to hit price point is a big financial risk, but the novel was the last place an artist could explore an idea without limitation, but now it’s not. Thankfully, The Drama Merchant concluded at a natural break in the story of James.”
To my knowledge, everyone I know who has read the novel has asked the question: will there be a sequel?
“I don’t know yet. Let’s see how the readers receive The Drama Merchant first.”
Listen to Tim read the first chapter: