I mentioned on a previous post some of the failed attempts at novels I’d been through in the past and I thought, for a laugh, I should try and list everything I’d ever conceived of or started writing since I was fifteen. I probably can’t remember everything, and some are so embarrassing I’m going to cringe as I write them down. But what the hell, this is the Neil Schiller bibliography that doesn’t exist:
1. The Shadow Stalkers
Hahahaha, a really really bad pulp horror novel written when I was 15, abandoned around the 80 page mark. A secret society of Victorian gentlemen time travel (yes, I did say time travel) to modern day Liverpool to battle an ancient evil. Oh god, what was going on in that head at 15? I had a lot of Stephen King, James Herbert and Clive Barker books clattering around in there probably.
A play (of all things) about a politician. It did have a title but I can’t remember it. It had these really subtle chess-playing scenes in it which were supposed to be evocative of the strategy involved in political life. It was garbage. Abandoned somewhere in Act 2. Probably influenced by Henry IV part 1 and Nabakov’s The Defence which I was reading at the time.
Oh, this is a corker. An epic poem in the style of Paradise Lost (guess what I was reading for A-Level English) but in sections. Each section was a Shakespearian sonnet. Are you with me so far? (Why more people don’t write epic poetry in sonnet form is beyond me…) The subject was based on the myth of Robert Johnson about a blues singer making his pact with the Devil. How embarrassing. I think I was 16/17 when I wrote this. Abandoned around sonnet 35. I must have been glue sniffing.
This was soooo very bad. I used to live in a street called Scafell Walk. I read Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul and I thought I could do a similar thing with a cast of local characters. There was a lollipop man and a bloke who hid his bald patch by putting boot polish on it (he was a genuine character, in local folklore he was known as ‘Cherry Blossom’). Abandoned after 3 stories – all I can remember about it is a vivid description of a puddle of vomit I once saw on the bus after a drunk had gotten off it. There was undigested hotdog in it. Oh dear, I’d even forgotten this existed until just now… I must have been about 17.
A collection of poems about the Iraq war and sex (not literally together in the same poems). Again, it had a title but I can’t remember it. The poems in it were written from age 16 onwards. Abandoned when I went to uni at 18. The sex poems were particularly bad as some of them were written probably before I’d even had sex. But that’s the arrogance of a young writer for you. I still remember part of one of the Iraq poems, based on a headline I saw in the Independent at the time:
“Those silver sharks, in morning mists/do float the journalist insists”. Oh McGonagall, move over… “but he does not, in dawn’s first light/experience their fatal bite”. Hahahahah. Why has that stuck with me? I really don’t know…
I so wish I could remember the title of this, but it’s completely gone. It was a collection of poetry inspired by Ginsberg. I wrote it when I was 19/20. It was incredibly pretentious but actually had some good moments to it. Moments are all there were though. I remember vaguely it was about death. I mean, it was crap, but it was the first time I actually started using imagery properly.
7. The Nihilist Manifesto
The WORST title so far probably. (Mind you, Scafell was pretty poor wasn’t it?) A novel about a guy who cheats on his wife. That was it. Literally. The plot was he cheats on his wife, and she finds out. Actually, isn’t that the plot of The Bonfire of the Vanities? Anyway, I actually finished this when I was 20 and sent it to publishers. They didn’t like it. I read it back and I didn’t like it. It was shit.
A ‘novel’ that was supposed to be experimental and fragmented, somewhere between Joyce and Charles Bukowski. Only it wasn’t a novel. It was fragmented, to the point of being pretty unreadable. I finished this when I was about 25. Sent it to some publishers. They didn’t like it. I read it back… oh you can work out the rest…
This is the collection of short stories that I ended up putting out. They were finished relatively recently but started back when I was about 26. Not much of the original work done then remains, but chronologically speaking, this was next. It was also originally called Genus, but I changed the name to that of one of the stories.
A sci-fi novel about an army of cloned soldiers who were surplus to society now that the war was over. Conceived around the same time as Oblivious got started and I wrote 4 pages over and over before ditching it because it was, essentially, an idea with nothing to hang off it. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan anyway and probably couldn’t have sustained that element of it at all.
11. Hinterland (take 1)
The first attempt at Hinterland was a vampire book. I know, a goddamn vampire book. Not in the Twilight vein, I have to say, but I had this weird idea I could write a literary vampire novel in the same way Orwell had written a literary sci-fi one. Probably conceived in my late twenties and ditched after 3 chapters. I think I’d just seen The Addiction by Abel Ferrara.
12. The Haiku Diary
The book of poetry I put out, written in 2008 while I was working on rewriting and rewriting Oblivious.
13. Hinterland (take 2)
Second attempt at an idea for this book was a story about a contractor who works in IT in war zones. Hmmm. The idea was to satirise the corporate way wars are run these days, with private security firms etc. I started doing some research for it and got bored so I ditched it.
14. Hinterland (take 3)
The book I’m writing now which is a literary thriller (kind of) about a guy dragged back into his past, the shadow of his family hanging over him although he’s tried to go off on a completely different tangent. Told from the perspective of a narrator who has either tried or has actually committed suicide (you don’t get to find out). It’s working out better than it sounds, honestly…
15. Eponymous (just a working title)
A second collection of short stories I’m writing now, all featuring music in some capacity or another. Conceived because I’m basically a frugal son of a bitch. Had a story I stripped out of Oblivious that was about music. Thought I’d write some more stories about music so I could do something with that one story and give it a home.
So there we go. If I had more tenacity then I probably would have self-published some of the worst books ever to emerge and The Greek Seaman would almost certainly look like Man Booker material next to the likes of Blue or The Nihilist Manifesto. I’m relatively happy with Oblivious, but it’s probably a good thing to remind myself that not every idea works out – that some of them probably shouldn’t have been entertained at all…