The @Guardian does a fascinating series entitled A New Start After Sixty, which charts people’s entry into worlds they had never considered until they retired. So, I decided I’d share what my new start has been. Why use LinkedIn for that? It contains posts from the young, the up and coming, the slightly older, the already arrived. Self-congratulatory, back-slapping, sometimes abrasive often acerbic insights and commentaries. I recognised that in the recent past I was a part of it. Fascinated to hear of innovation, interested to see who was doing what to whom. I felt I belonged in the fast-moving world of business, commerce, and careers. That was my life. But like it or not, it ends. Not the interest or fascination, but the practical application. That’s life, isn’t it? And what then? What does retirement hold? Is everyone going to become a NED?
As The Guardian articles reveal and as I am testament to, we can all learn new skills built on the foundations business gave us. Determination, application and a little humility.
Keep reading to see how I gained a pen name (@GabrielGalletti) and became a successful writer of crime thrillers and read what it was like transitioning from being the experienced old business pro to the wet behind the ears novice author.
Best Served Cold published Jan 2022. Available on Amazon.
My Name is Justice publishing Sept 2023.
So, everyone has a book in them, do they? Yeah right. Whoever said it didn’t know or care about the struggles and frustrations of putting finger to keyboard. Or maybe they did and wanted everyone to feel their pain. Whatever, let me open a window to my new world.
It’s the evening of the 28th October 2019 and I click ‘Join’ in my Teams invitation.
On the screen I meet Mark Leggatt for the first time. White tee shirt, tousled hair, ear buds. Sitting at a desk in a room resembling a book depository.
“So, tell me er Mark,” he begins. “How do you prefer we work together?” Scottish accent, not guttural Glaswegian more lilting East Coast.
“Tell it like it is,” I said. “It’s the way I’ve always worked. Open and honest communication.”
“Aye right, okay, it’s just that some people, and particularly authors, are a little sensitive to feedback.”
“No,” says I. “I’m thick skinned. Forty years in the recruitment industry gave me that.” I smile into the screen. “So, tell me,” I say with a confidence born of ignorance. “What did you think?”
Let that question hang for a minute. Four months of intense writing on my part culminated in my realisation that it might be a good idea to get an independent assessment of my work so I joined the Cornerstones Literary Agency who, having read the first three chapters, offered me Mark Leggatt, as a mentor and editor. They had sent him the manuscript as it stood, unfinished but 50,000 words in.
Okay, let’s resume the conversation.
“I like the concept,” said Leggatt. “And I think you’ve got some skill but Mark aye, I’ve got to be honest…No-one’s going to read this and it’ll never get published.”
“Why not?” I felt the wind leaving my sails.
“Well,” Leggatt paused, smiled, scratched his head and said, “cos it’s shite.”
Such was my introduction to the brutal reality of becoming an author.
I was like the apprentice salesman on his first day thinking he knows all there is to know when the reality is he’s never heard of open-ended questions and wouldn’t know an assumptive close from a hole in the ground. Like him I hadn’t grasped the essential tools of the trade without which success was inconceivable. I hadn’t mastered Show Not Tell, Point of View, or Exposition – the basic tools of an author, let alone the more nuanced skills of plotting, character development and pacing.
But business had taught me tenacity, and I’d learned patience.
After that call on the 28th October 2019, I learned to write. I spent huge amounts of time and not a little money on training myself to be the best I could be. From the technical writing skills to rigorous self-editing. And along the way Mark Leggatt remained and is to this day a fantastic mentor, ruthless editor and critical friend. It took me fifteen months of hard slog writing every day before we were confident that we had a book that people would read.
My feelings of pride and achievement culminated on the 17th February 2022 when I attended the launch of my first book Best Served Cold to an audience of around eighty people in Leeds.
Look out for the next instalment in which I lay bare the machinations of the Publishing Industry and of the Literary Agents that feed them.