Friday, July 24, 2020

With a Little Help From My Friends

By Abir

Writing is a lonely pursuit but the community is strong and supportive. There are many unsung acts of kindness and generosity going on behind the scenes. Tell us who has mentored you in your writing career or gone above and beyond to help you get a leg up in the business.

Welcome to Friday. I smiled when I saw this week’s topic, because it gives me a chance to say thank you to all the wonderful people who’ve supported my career over the last six years, from the publishing team (editors, publicity, sales) to readers and bloggers and journalists and other writers. 


There are a few names that stand out. My first editor, Alison Hennessey, who chose my ridiculously rubbish submission to a crime writing competition and decided it had enough potential to justify offering me a book deal, and my agent, Sam Copeland, who offered to represent me after having read the same rubbish submission and in the knowledge that he wouldn’t see a penny in commissions for at least several years to come. 


The camaraderie of the crime fiction writing fraternity is legendary. I’ve always believed in the kindness of strangers, but even so, I was amazed by just how supportive other crime fiction writers were. Established, world famous authors who didn’t need to give me the time of day, went out of their way to give me advice and to help me.


Whether it was Ian Rankin turning up in London at an event I was part of and then taking me to the pub afterwards, or Ann Cleeves who’s recommended my books to so many other people, or Lee Child who gave me advice on how to break into the US market, or the countless other writers who have been on this journey and have offered unstinting support and friendship, I feel truly blessed to have found my tribe.

This handsome chap bought me a pint


Then there's my writing support group, AA Dhand, Vaseem Khan, Alex Khan, Ayisha Malik and Imran Mahmood, together The Red Hot Chilli Writers, a bunch of British Asian authors who have become some of my closest friends. We were all published around the same time and have been through the highs and lows of the journey together. We even do a podcast together which you can find at or on your favourite streaming service. 

I don't know what I'd do without these idiots.

One writer, though, deserves special mention, and that is the Queen of Crime, Val McDermid. Each year, Val reads every debut crime novel published in the UK and chooses four debut authors for her New Blood Panel at the Harrogate Crime Festival. Being chosen for her panel is one of the greatest honours a new writer can have, and back in 2016 I was lucky enough to be one of her four picks. I remember being in the library, working on my second novel, when I received a tweet from her, telling me how much she’d enjoyed A Rising Man. I nearly fell off my chair. It was an amazing feeling. Here was one of the greatest crime fiction authors in the world telling me they’d enjoyed my novel.


When, a few months later, I met her at Harrogate, I had one of those strange experiences where I open my mouth and speak without thinking.

“you must come to dinner,” I said to her.

To this day, I’ve no idea why I said that, but she said, “okay, yes.” 

So I told my wife, and she was like “I’m too scared to cook for Val McDermid, and as for you, you’ll probably burn the kitchen down.” 

Faced with this difficult situation, I did what any Asian man would do: I phoned my mum.  We asked mum to do the cooking, and invited Val and her partner, Jo, to mum’s house for a proper Indian meal.

I even bought the T shirt
I even bought the T shirt


Mum was happy to oblige, possibly because she thought it was Val Doonican (an old 1970s crooner who was famous in the UK) coming to dinner and not Val McDermid. But the dinner went off swimmingly and Val (or Auntie-ji as I now refer to her) has supported my career every step of the way. I’m honoured to be able to call her my friend.

Writing crime fiction has allowed me to follow my passion, taken me to many new parts of the world and introduced me to so many wonderful people. I will always be thankful for the experience.

Have a good weekend, and stay safe.


1 comment:

Brenda Chapman said...

Lovely post, Abir. I'll give your podcast a listen!