Turning the Tide
… Not another new book, surely…
Well, after getting two blogs last week, you’ve certainly had to wait right up until the eleventh hour, for this week’s instalment of ‘A Writer’s Life for Me’. It’s not because I got myself arrested after writing about the awful air pollution that’s been plaguing Chiang Mai recently, but because I’ve been busy, working on my latest book project, a controversial and highly gritty drama, provisionally entitled ‘Turning the Tide’.
Set in the self-proclaimed ‘Cultural Capital’ of Thailand, that’s Chiang Mai to you and me, folks, ‘Turning the Tide’ follows a group of beer-swilling, cigarette smoking, middle-aged expats, who tire of the endless petty corruption and nonsensical policymaking that impacts their daily lives and decide to do something about it, with disastrous results for all concerned.
It’s the first time that I’ve ever tried (or dared, for that matter), to write anything like this and I have to say that I’m enjoying it immensely. All of my previous books have been pure works of fiction, dredged from the bottomless depths of my own twisted imagination, whereas this story is based, to a large extent, on my own experiences as an expat bar owner in the Land of Smiles. And while the characters are most definitely imaginary, despite what anyone might think, the locations aren’t and centre around the little corner of Thailand’s second largest city that I call my own.
I started it a little over three weeks ago, after a couple of extremely interesting and insightful late-night conversations with several of my regular customers and it has to be said that the central theme reflects a change I’ve been seeing, over several months now, in expat attitudes towards Thai policymaking, especially that which impacts on foreign visitors to the country.
One of the biggest talking points in the bar recently, has been the proposal by the Thai Immigration authorities to require people staying in the country on a retirement visa, to show evidence that they have at least 800,000 Baht (approximately 25,000 USD) in their Thai bank accounts, not only for the two months prior to their visas being granted, which was previously the case, but also for three months thereafter, with a minimum balance of 400,000 Baht being maintained throughout the rest of the year.
While there are those who enter the country without sufficient funds to support themselves, who in my humble opinion are foolish in the extreme — Thailand is NOT a cheap place to live anymore — most expats rely on their monthly pension payments to survive and prefer to manage their funds from their home country, where they can earn a better rate of interest than is available in Thailand. And it is hard to see how this change will benefit anyone other than the banks, who will effectively be given a huge amount of free money to bolster their lending operations with.
Anyway, back to ‘Turning the Tide’. It’s not going to be a big book. I envisage the whole thing being about sixty thousand words long; seventy thousand at a push, but then it’s not really about the word count, it’s about the story and if I’m able to do it without creating a door-stopper of a volume, then so much the better. So far, I’m just over thirty thousand words in, so with a bit of luck, it won’t be long before I’m writing to tell you that the first draft is finished!
And then there are the characters. Normally, I keep away from swearing in books, as I feel that it tends to undermine the storyline. But then, when you’re writing about people who spend most of their time drinking in seedy Thai bars, it’s a bit unbelievable if they all come across sounding like Bertie Wooster or the people at the start of the Madness song, ‘Return of the Los Palmas 7’. Needless to say, ‘Turning the Tide’ is definitely going to have a ‘parental advisory’ sticker on it, when it eventually does hit the shelves!
Finally, there was the decision, consciously made to set the book right at this particular time of year, which has given me the opportunity to reference not only the blistering heat that assaults us after the cooler ‘winter’ months, but also the poor air quality that we are currently living through and the build-up to Songkran, the Thai New Year, which is where most of the book’s action takes place. All in all, I hope that this will help add credibility to the story and make it all the more enjoyable, by setting the fictional struggle for a new political order, against a backdrop of real issues and events.
As for publishing, well, therein lies a dilemma. You see, despite being a work of fiction, the book is likely to be seen as highly controversial by the Thai authorities, even though it isn’t really, and may even make it onto the country’s banned books list. So, regardless of whether it is ultimately traditionally published or put up on Amazon as a self-published ebook, I’m starting to think that I’m going to have to leave the country before ‘Turning the Tide’ sees the light of day. Otherwise, I could well be writing to you in the future, on a piece of second-hand toilet roll, from the comfort of a Thai prison cell, along with sixty or so inmates looking over my shoulder. Not a nice thought, I can assure you!
That said, I do want to do this right, so if any of you would like to act as a reviewer and give me honest feedback on the drafts, as and when they become available, then please do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see what I can do.
So, there you have it. I’ve certainly been a busy boy over the last few weeks and there’s a lot more to come… Once ‘Turning the Tide’ is finished, I’m going to be starting work on another comic fantasy offering, followed by my long-awaited Sci-Fi comedy novel. Honestly, I ask you, will this man ever stop writing!