richard pierce

richard pierce

24 November 2015

Tettig's Jewels - my new old novel

Sometime in 1989, I was sitting at my desk at work, exhausted after yet another day of internecine warfare instigated mainly by the management consultants I was working with at the time, and started doodling onto a pad of yellow post-it notes (other sticky papers are available), and, for some odd reason, scribbled two words onto the paper - Tettig's Jewels. I still have no idea where that came from, and I unfortunately no longer have the yellow bit of paper. I do know, though, that those two words grew, not just into a person I have carried around with me in my head every second of every hour of every day since then, but into the novel I most of all wanted to have published. And now that I am what they call a hybrid author (traditionally published and indie-publishing of my own accord), the time has come, after rewrites into at least double figures, for the old man Tettig to see the light of day. In the UK, you can pre-order the Kindle edition here. In other territories, just search your Amazon for Tettig. And here's the book trailer.


And while you're watching that, and listening to the great Better Man track The Post Romantics have very kindly allowed me to use, here's a bit more about how that book has grown.

Originally, it started off as a little kind of comedy in the Douglas Adams vein, with talking furniture and other inanimate objects suddenly becoming animate (they're all gone now, by the way). And that's because, from nowhere (which seems to be where most of my ideas come from), evil and the need to combat it found its way into the frame, and I suddenly had a very beautiful but dead woman on my hands, a woman who wanted to be resurrected.

The idea had always been that the hero would be a middle-aged man, someone no-one would expect to be the hero of a novel, never mind a hero in real life. And that's because, I suppose, even at the age of 29 I felt middle-aged (I always say to people I was actually born an old man). And that's what Dick Tettig has always been; a shambolic, disorganised old man who's trying to make sense of life, who's just trying to keep things together until his life, too, is done. But then this task appears for him, to somehow save this dead woman from being dead, this dead women who turns out not only to be beautiful but also to be the love of this old man's life. But how should he save her? And why is he perpetually so disorganised, with a memory like a sieve?

The simple answer for some would have been to give up at this point. But Tettig didn't, and he never has. Because, like all the characters I've been blessed with, he has always written his own story. I am, as always, and like I will probably always be, just the mouthpiece of this ever-growing cast of people who somehow find their way to me. I'm just the bloke who writes the words down; they are the people who speak them, who do the things the words describe, and who have to fight their way through pain and death and disappointment. And Tettig's choice was to become someone who travels through time in a most unusual way.

So, anyway, at one point I found an agent for this work of art given to me by a cast of wondrous people who had chosen me to speak for them, an agent who said that the first line of the book was the best first line he'd ever read (and it's still the first line). Ah, but the obstacles that were to be placed in his way, and in the way of the assistants he handed me on to. 'We can't define a genre for the book,' they said. 'And?' I said. They said 'It makes it difficult for us to sell. Have you ever thought of ghost writing instead of being a novelist?' So our ways parted, and someone else had a look at the book and tried to make it more 'accessible.' Cue more rewrites and wailing and gnawing and gnashing of teeth, mainly by the characters who were complaining at being distorted. And so the novel was put to one side while, inside it, the battle between good and evil still raged, with every possible ending in sight.

The writing of other things (and the thinking about Tettig) never stopped, though, and in 2012, I was traditionally published with my Antarctic novel Dead Men, for which I am still eternally grateful to that tiny blonde tomboy of a woman called Birdie who appeared to me while I was out running, and to my employer for letting me go out to the Antarctic, and to my current agent, who, for the sake of completeness, I should point out doesn't like Tettig's Jewels at all. And after indie-publishing two other novels close to my heart, I decided this year, thanks to the never-wavering support of my family and the dear dear SJ who knows who she is, that Tettig would have his day after all. I spent six months bringing the book back into shape, making it more immediate by putting it into the present tense rather than the past, just to emphasise that whatever happens in the novel is happening to those characters now, this very minute, in the very blink of an eye that you're reading about them, that there are always battles between good and evil going on somewhere, everywhere.

What I have realised, too, 26 years after starting on this path with this book, and after long email conversations with a new very good friend, is that Tettig's Jewels is far more multilayered than the callow youth who started writing it thought all that time ago. And that's got to mean something.

A paperback edition of Tettig's Jewels will also shortly be available. I hope you enjoy it.


12 November 2015

Perspective

The sky looks further away through the camera,
And smaller,
Not endless like we expect it to be,
And the moon looks tiny.

The screen lies.

When you listened to my stories
You were a child, and
You believed them all
Until you fell asleep
In the worlds I made for you.

I have forgotten all those words,
But I can remember what they were about:
Dragons and kings and promises and hopes,
With the odd socialist goal thrown in
Before the light of day went out
Behind the already-drawn curtains.

Reality never seemed painful then.

The sky is glorious tonight,
And I wish we were walking towards it,
Hand in hand,
Alone in the wind
And the whispers of the clouds around us

Because I miss you.
 
 
 
For Oscar, 30/10/2015

9 November 2015

On reflection

When I was a 19-year-old punk with red and (some say) green hair, my dad once said to me ‘Son, the only way to change the system is from inside.’ At some point in my early life, though not exactly then, I think I started to agree with him, and grew up repeating the same to my children. They definitely didn’t agree, and are much the better for it. And their successes (and tribulations) have persuaded me that I’ve been wrong about this, especially in the last six months or so.

The expression ‘playing the system’ has mainly unpleasant connotations, akin actually to cheating, to the gamesmanship that makes a mockery of the spirit of regulations and the law in sport and life alike. To become part of the system is not to magically acquire the capability of changing things more effectively, nor does it ever result in the changes we actually need as a society. All it does is make you a first-hand witness to manipulation of the system by those who want to gain an advantage for themselves rather than for altruistic reasons. The fact that some politicians are vilified for being honest just reinforces that.

At the beginning of September, I went to Mid-Suffolk District Council’s planning committee meeting that, amongst other things, discussed the planning application for the Grove Farm development in Stradbroke (44 houses), as well as an application to site one static caravan and one touring caravan on a site in Baylham. In both instances, the presentations to elected members by non-elected officers were remarkably biased, and spun in such a way to achieve the outcomes which the officers partially preferred rather than being objective presentations which would allow the elected members to make up their own minds.

For example, photos were used for the Grove Farm application which showed deserted country roads totally bereft of traffic leading past the planned development site, while the photos used for the Baylham application were taken in such a way as to make two small caravans appear to interfere with the “natural beauty” beyond the site. Needless to say, the Grove Farm application was approved, despite the significant damage to the environment and heritage that will be caused (and the increased likelihood of someone being killed on a very busy road), while the Baylham application was turned down despite there realistically being no detrimental impact on Baylham’s environment or heritage (not influenced at all, of course, by the fact that the land-owning applicant is a traveller).

When I spoke against the Grove Park application, I was given three minutes to make my case. I made it in two minutes. When the elected members asked me questions, I began to answer. I was interrupted by an unelected officer shouting that my 3 minutes were up. It took MSDC’s solicitor to remind that officer that I was entitled to answer questions. Closed systems like this are open to abuse, of people choosing whether or not to abide by the rules, and when deciding not to abide with them making up reasons not to abide by the rules, or making up spurious rules on the spot to ensure that they have their way. A case of the tail wagging the dog? I couldn’t possibly comment.

All this, and more, has led to me, over the past few weeks, looking at my life and asking myself if being in the system has actually helped those around me the way I wanted it to. The answer is a resounding no. It has also made me evaluate how exactly the modest successes that I may or may not have had in my life have been achieved. Superficially, some might say it’s come about because I’m white and Cambridge-educated, and because I’ve been part of various systems as I’ve gone along.
 
But when I dig under the surface, I don’t think that’s the correct analysis. There has always been a touch of the slightly ridiculous and spontaneous in the things I do, including that, in my dotage, I still bleach my hair and am considering a sixth piercing. Many people compliment me on being a loose cannon, on my heartfelt engagement, from the outside, in the lives of people and organisations I care for.
 
In the last six months, though, I have achieved nothing, not for those I love nor those I care for, nor for the causes I support, hampered by rules which I, as an honest man, believe I should adhere to even when others do not, and tired of watching those rules being broken time and time again. But then I’ve never been particularly motivated by the idea of being powerful. And that’s not about to change.

Some might say that only the strong survive, but I believe that the meek shall inherit the earth.