Friday, March 19, 2010

Guest Post: James Hayman author of "The Cutting"

Today we're joined by Author James Hayman talking about a bit of beginner's luck! A big Thank you for being here and sharing with us! ( I have tell you I enjoyed this guest post!)

Call It Beginners Luck

I took my first crack at writing a novel at an age when my most of my contemporaries were figuring out their Social Security benefits and considering the merits of taking up golf full time.

Not to put too fine point in it, I was more than a little gray. As it turned out I was also more than a little lucky.

While I’d been a writer all my life, I’d never tried fiction before. Not so much as a single short story. I’d spent more than twenty-five years as a copywriter and creative director at several of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. I wrote TV and print campaigns for a long list of major clients that included the US Army (“Be All You Can Be”), Lincoln/Mercury (“The Shape You Want To Be In”) and Advil (“Advanced Medicine For Pain”). After I left the agency business in the late nineties I put in several years freelancing for clients in the financial services and healthcare industries. I wrote articles, brochures, annual reports, and, for the last couple of years, glossy coffee table histories of major institutions.

At the end of 2005 I finished an assignment writing the history of a major hospital based in Portland, Maine. I had nothing else scheduled. I’d always thought I’d like to take a crack at writing a thriller and I decided if I was ever going to do it, this seemed like as good a time as any.

So I asked my wife how she would feel if I stopped working for a year, we lived off our savings (this was, of course, before the 2008 market crash) and I wrote my first novel. If I couldn’t sell it, I told her, I could always go back to writing institutional histories.

“Is this something you really want to do?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, “I really do.”

“Well then,” she said, “You’d better get started.”

And so I set to work. I bought a bunch of books on how to write a novel. Write Away by Elizabeth George and Stephen King’s On Writing were probably the most helpful. I joined a writing workshop led by a woman who taught creative writing at a nearby university. And I started developing plot ideas and a lead character for a thriller series based in my hometown of Portland, Maine.

For the next eighteen months I wrote and revised, wrote and revised. I finished a polished draft of THE CUTTING in June, 2007.

The rest, amazingly, turned out to be easy. And extremely serendipitous. I mentioned to a neighbor of mine that I’d finished the book and she asked me what I planned to do next. I said I was going to start looking for an agent. She said her sister had gone to elementary school with a woman who was now a literary agent in New York and asked if I like her to contact the woman. I said sure, not really expecting anything to come of it.

I googled the agent’s name and discovered she was one of the top mystery and thriller agents in the business, representing writers like Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner and Julia Spencer-Fleming. She told my neighbor to have me to send her a cover letter and the first eighty pages of THE CUTTING. I did.

A week later she emailed me to request the rest of the manuscript. Two weeks after that she offered to represent me. After a couple of months of further revisions she sent the manuscript out to six or seven major publishers. We got two offers including the one we took for a two book deal from St. Martin’s/Minotaur.

Yes, I believe I’m a good writer and that THE CUTTING is a good book. I think it’s fast paced, well-written and exciting to read. Most of the critics and most of my readers seem to agree. It’s gotten terrific reviews.

Still I know I was extraordinarily lucky to have everything fall in place so quickly. I’d be a fool to think otherwise. Maybe the gods simply took a look at all my gray hair and decided if I was ever going to become a novelist they’d better hurry things along a bit.


  1. James -- I loved The Cutting. I read it last year on the beach in about two sittings. Great read!!

  2. Just how old ARE you? ;-)

    I am going to run out and get your book after Spencer's recommendation. I'll read it in Mexico where I will be for two weeks.

    Thanks for your post. I was just reading the blog and today is Tess Gerritsen's day to post. Coincidence that you mentioned her.