Nov. 15, 2021

S1 Ep30: An interview with Tim Glister - author of "Red Corona"

We talk to Tim Glister, who is definitely not a spy. And he tells us about when he REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED at Cambridge Analytica, as well as the time he REDACTED. But what's probably most interesting is the REDACTED REDACTED and the REDACTED, with an ostrich feather umbrella. 
Find out more (or at least as much as one can for such a secretive character) here

And buy his fabulous new book right here 

Music by Dano songs (and Jon)

just before we start this week we've been asked to make a statement by the lawyers of the sean connery impersonation protection society um and that statement reads as follows

sorry you'll you'll see what we mean halfway through welcome to the failing writers podcast where this week blah blah blah blah blah you know the sort of stuff yeah it's just more of that really enjoy

oh well hello everybody how are you doing you're right got a bit of a cough job yeah i heard you got a bit of a cold mate oh i just can't get can't get well mr can't get well late addition to the mr men books um yeah just ever since since like the end of the summer it's basically since uh my kid went back to school she just keeps bringing diseases home yeah they're basically vermin aren't they kids i think we've said this before yeah like a 16th century rat how are you tommy all right yeah uh not bad not bad um plugging plugging away losing the will to live and all that business i think that's what we're meant to be doing this month isn't it so that's fine yeah yeah i think so well let's let's start by uh by asking the question what have we what we've been up to what haven't we been up to this week in terms of writing uh tom you sound like you've you've got a sad story to tell not really um i have been i've been i've started my nanowrimo rhymer um good good um is this with the with the new idea have you changed it is yeah yeah yeah for the one out of the podcast we did yeah are you are you willing to give us a a word count uh i can't quite remember what the word count is but um it's heading towards ten thousand that's about good work from a late standing start yeah yeah that's what yes yes minimal background i finally started to get my head around the idea of just writing and not being hypocritical and not going i'll just have to stop the whole thing because the character didn't say that in chapter three and i can't bother to go and change it it's really hard isn't it it's really hard not to think about what you've written yeah i've written it yeah yeah just keep on going and so we'll just leave that and come back to that i've never managed to do it to be honest but i think that's the only way to get through a whole book in a month is to not be concerned about what you've written and just think about what's coming next isn't it yeah yeah i'm very much treating it as a this is the planning draft because because i've kind of like i said switch classes halfway through and i've not massively planned this one yeah just just getting words just getting words out i guess that's that's the point of it isn't it that's actually what it's trying to teach you so maybe i'm learning something maybe i'm learning something i definitely need all this i definitely need to look sorry i should add in as well it is [ __ ]

but apparently that's not that important of this no get it out we can roll it down with that i've read some nanowrimo updates and most of them say basically that it's not your something like it's not your job to write anything good it's just your job to write something now that is good which uh takes a bit of pressure off i think have you written anything john no still not written a single word but yeah no i'm excited i am excited about starting writing i just i literally haven't had a chance so uh but i will i will good i'll just be a bit later in the day so sorry no news well they say that no news is good news but on this occasion really not is it no news is yeah yeah there you go what about you david uh still going strong yeah oh nice what are we on fifteen sixteen seventeen thousand words ish i think something like that yeah it's going up quick dave i know i'm writing it as i stand here saying these words that's like nearly a third of a book you've got yeah smashed already i had a moment yesterday where i started to think hang on i'm sort of nearly halfway through the plan but i'm not nearly halfway through the amount of words and then i started worrying that i hadn't got enough chapters and whether i needed to replan it and add some more chapters in and then i'd like you to like sort of say no don't worry about that just just keep going tell yourself and go

take a little bit of time out this morning to write a log line in the hope that that would help to keep focused oh i thought you did i thought you'd done one no i thought it would be the uh for the blog didn't you do one for the blog that we wrote no oh no i know what but i just threw some words uh a piece of paper for the blog that's different but i actually yeah did a proper log line uh i see well so i think that's helping to like really focus it down and and keep it going yeah yeah but yeah it's going well i'm still enjoying it you're doing what you're enjoying yeah that's great i'm enjoying it i am actually enjoying it i keep i keep sort of suddenly having ideas and nothing to rush upstairs and like write stuff out and yeah it's the dream it is this is i keep thinking why haven't why didn't i do this 20 years ago yeah but um but yeah really i'm actually enjoying putting words on a page that's great well it sounds like the kind of book that people would actually buy so that's you know that's got to be a good thing yeah there's quite a lot of uh quite a lot of profanity in it but i think that's fine that's a good thing yeah yeah that's sort of that's all right hard as nails south yorkshire coppers they're going to they're going to swear every now and then yeah but yeah all good fantastic well on average then we're average average we're just below average do you think you'll actually get it finished then dave in the month is that i think i will get to the end of the plan that i've done yes i think i will all of the chapters that i've planned out i will get written by the end of the month wow and that's all anyone can ask for really isn't it yeah i like the confidence like the confidence how about yourself tom what do you think i think i probably will actually i didn't think so i'd start with because i didn't do anything for a week um which in essence is a quarter of the entire time that's been allocated but you've done a lot in the last few days before i find it if i can actually sit down and do it i can churn words out pretty quickly yeah i was finding that yesterday i was writing what ended up being quite a decent chunk of dialogue and it just it just falls out and it just kind of it's formed and it just you know it's before you know it's on the page how loose was your plan was it uh how many like how many pages was your plan was it pretty brilliant it was next to nothing yeah it was more just a beat yeah than rather than any flesh on it really but that's fine because it gives you something to navigate towards ish yeah so you're not just rambling a lot of it is getting over that psychology of not worrying that you've mentioned a character in the second chapter that's never come up again yeah that was many be your main character's best friend but it doesn't matter could you just get rid of it yeah rather rather than going oh i should make them do something else i'll go back and change that that could be something this is actually great that i'm not doing it as well because i'm learning from youtube while you do it and uh i'm getting all the top tips and then comments yeah you'll be streamlined and just yeah which is good because you have to get it done like in two weeks because then christmas starts and stuff you're not gonna make sure yeah so uh i'll tell you what one thing that i did do like uh of going back over stuff uh because i couldn't avoid it after our last chat i decided to get rid of the name bobby brown oh no

yeah it's my favorite then michael jackson

um dom what dominic brown don brown is good i like that browns yeah yeah that is good and he would be like roughly our age would he dom um a bit younger yeah maybe maybe the age that we sort of think we are sort of late 30s yeah somewhere around that yeah yeah yeah yes yes and i just yeah i was sort of i went back because i thought actually the fact that i call him bobby brown i'm hanging on that as as his character and that's not very good so i gave i changed his name and added a few extra bits to flesh him out as a real person oh nice i just went back and chucked a few bits in apart from that yeah i've been avoiding going back at all just plow on to the end yeah good work good work i've yeah i've never managed to do that i am going to try to do that now that is very good advice but enough of what we've been writing what have other people been writing this year and how have they been getting it out there you talking he's just totally talking about today

so yeah so um we're about to find out from an actual published author by the name of tim glister john john i'm tempted just not to say anything else and just let dear fumble his way to the end of this segue because it's getting fine today just keep going how many questions he can ask himself

well there is something of a mystery isn't it we don't really know what is what is profession where his real profession is i think there's more that meets the eye to mr tim glister as we will as you will find out as you listen to this interview but hang on chaps carry on carry on please interrupt i think yeah i think everyone listening is just interrupt i'm getting that i'm getting that feeling

hang on before we talk before we talk to tim um inspired by our chat with him and and uh and also the recent buzz about james bond and stuff i've um i've actually written a theme tune for the next bond film oh and i'm hoping that like maybe it'll get used and that will launch my music career because i know a few artists have tried that in the past writer they'll write a speculative song in the hope that it gets used you know for the next bond film did well for shirley bassey exactly so that's what i've done and um because there's there's like a there's like a formula isn't there to um to bond movie titles i'm sort of pinning my hopes on them calling the next film golden spies never die with love because if they don't call it that then my song is less likely to get used but anyway yeah do you want to hear it yeah love to hear it and after afterwards will you tell me honestly what you think my chances are did it get chosen yeah yeah yeah i will tell you honestly what your chances are assuming that they do go with that title and helicopters and aston martinis

ships and girls who are highly trained at not exposing their naked breasts to the camera and more guns and stuff and then in trunks looking back because 27 bond films clearly aren't enough this is for the next one golden spies will never die with love

i'd say your chances are uh 50 50.

i mean either it will or it won't so in that sense i'm pretty sure pretty sure that's how probability works stephen hawking said something like that didn't he um either there are black holes or there aren't i mean i kind of i feel like i've kind of covered all the bases i think you've hit a lot of touch points in the bond universe there i think i don't think i think they'll struggle not to use it to be honest yes i felt like i could see the opening credits of the movie yeah yeah yeah that's what i was going for yeah yeah ladies and gentlemen thanks guys just not quite exposing themselves as oversized poker chips fall down from the sky yep you're seeing it seeing it being good i think you should just crack on and write the screenplay for it as well do the full package do the folding right and then it will be called golden spies never die with love oh well that was lovely john hey you're welcome you're welcome uh we should probably move on now it links in very nicely with our chat with tim clister doesn't it because uh we do talk about james bond a little bit don't you when we ask him controversial question who is his favorite james bond character so yeah yeah let's find out talk to tim

so welcome to the pod mr tim glister hello tim hello thank you for having me well thank you for coming on we always i mean we've said it an awful lot if you've listened to any of the podcasts but um thanks for being daft enough to come on a podcast called the failing writers podcast i mean you approached me shortly after the paperback came out and i was like

uh but no i it's you know it's it sounded like a really kind of a fun way of talking about it because i think particularly for for those of us writers in the early stages of our career um it's something you're thinking about quite a lot yeah maybe he doesn't maybe but um your first book seems to have been quite a success quite well received yeah so um so red corona uh yeah name of the novel the best titled novel of the year and and i think that that partly goes into into part of the thinking about kind of what it's like to be a debut writer because i'm in i'm in a relatively unique position with my novel um a lot of people obviously went through that kind of 2020 experience of having things pushed and and changed um or delayed we had we had a particularly big issue that we needed to grapple with on our on our road to publications yes yeah so what so what came first then well the the novel uh well actually the novel used to be when i first wrote it was just called corona right it's it's inspired by the american corona satellite program the novel itself is is a blend of fiction set in a factual environment so it's it's the story of richard knox who is an mi5 agent who's kind of on his uppers um and believes that his way back into the service and his good graces is to uncover a mole working at the highest level of the security service and as he's doing this the american corona satellite program is also being developed and launched and this is this kind of fantastical almost sci-fi almost bond-esque piece of global surveillance technology that was being launched in the early 60s that was where the inspiration for the novel came from really when i discovered the corona satellite and then i kind of built the narrative in my head over the years got it all kind of like squared away when went through my kind of journey to finding an agent finding a publisher getting a pub date getting a jacket and then obviously we we hit spring 2020 and as i like to say this this funny word um that was you know felt a little bit chris a little bit odessa uh suddenly took on a completely new year yeah yeah it did a little bit yeah was that you know the whole because that sounds like a completely classic sort of spy espionage sort of thing has that been was that you growing up in terms of your stuff you're reading and like getting excited about were you a massive james bond fan what was the yeah i was i was a huge james bond fan um growing up i mean the really flippant joke i say is that i kind of ran out of bond novels to read so i just wrote one but you know those those bond novels those len dayton novels um can follow frederick forsyth all those um right yeah people i grew up reading and and watching um who's your favorite james bond tim uh see now i've if you read my twitter at the moment it sounds like i'm coming out very strongly in favor of daniel craig uh interesting yeah well i think my my reasoning at the moment for liking daniel craig's bond is that in my mind he's the closest bond to the bond of the books right right um because we we went through this character trajectory of kind of him turning a bit dark and hard and cruel and um malevolent because of everything that was going on around him that said the obvious answer is actually sean connery right you know you know you're not going to do much better than russia would love a goldfinger really yeah am i weird because i i actually really like timothy dalton i think you are weird but i don't think it's particularly not because yeah just out of interest tom have you re-watched them uh no i haven't yet don't don't do that because it will ruin them forever why why have they not dated you in what sense in the misogynistic way or special effects or all of the sort of everything really yeah just everything yeah it's funny how things change isn't it where it's no longer pc gone mad isn't it it really is the walk society we're living where it's no longer okay for a for a spy just to walk into a ladies shower and announce the way the world has changed yeah it's crazy the things you just can't do anymore oh terrible terrible although i feel like didn't uh daniel craig do that in a recent film i'm sure angelina jolie does it to him in uh the tomb raider film there you go though i mean that is one tomb raider is one of my favorite bond films that's literally i do go quite kind of i i'm very broad in my kind of reading and watching taste so yeah i'll i'll take on everything from tinker taylor soldier spy or the night manager right through to you know tomb raider or even the red series which i think are kind of like a super fun guilty pleasure old people can be spies too

i'm guessing it was the reading of those books that kind of made you feel like you were qualified to write a spy novel because i was thinking you know you've you obviously you spent your career uh i think mostly working in advertising and as a literary agent but the the leap to a to writing spy novel seemed quite big and there was a period i was thinking well you're clearly just a spy aren't you um and this to be honest this is a this this is an opportunity for you to just admit it just come out and just say you know um because it just it just doesn't wash for me the whole well my theory has always been that the best cover for being a spy is telling people you're a spy because it's so oh it's doubled it's gone double down on us now and it hurts my head so i told you it was clever yeah do you do you own a macintosh coach i do and i'm interested and i may have bought it in east berlin

there's dropping clues the funniest thing about that is i didn't buy it in eastern

was this novel bouncing around your head for years and years then was it was it the classic first novel of being in your head for ages it had i had actually started so when i when i left publishing um and moved into advertising i started well i did a uh i did one of those guardian weekend courses in script writing all right yeah because i thought i might need to write radio ads or tv ads and i don't know how to write dialogue so i started doing that and from that i started writing a few scripts in my spare time and they all kind of had a little bit of a a spy or a thriller or a kind of puzzle element are these screenplays so this was screenplays right so i started doing that and i wrote a couple they did you know they did okay in those kind of screenplay competitions and then i always had something about the corona satellite ticking away in the back of my head and then when i started to kind of knit a story together it was the first one that i come up with i thought i think this needs more building more development more work more words effectively than i could get in a script or at least if i was going to end up writing a script i'd need to write the novel first and that's so that's that's where it finally came from um i did have to overcome quite a bit of nerves because i i've worked for the agency that represented charles [ __ ] and henry porter and uh ellie griffiths and you know kind of the current like titans of of english fiction um so for me to kind of have the goal to write something myself took a bit of effort and and involved keeping it secret for most of the time yeah the the whole idea of the corona i mean it's such a gift isn't it it's the i always think of that that period in the 60s being a sort of heyday for espionage stories the 50s and 60s you've got the cold war and the space race can you kind of set the scene for us yeah so um the corona satellite will kick off with that was developed by nasa and the cia in the late 50s it was the first ever attempt to create something that could give a superpower kind of full global um surveillance coverage so this isn't the stasi this isn't kind of human intelligence people on the street it's technology it was the most advanced thing that had been created for that purpose on the planet however because it was still the late 50s early 60s um there were kind of interesting technological limitations we'd say now um the prime one being that we hadn't worked out how to um pierce the earth's atmosphere with heavy data signals we didn't we didn't have digital communications at that point we were just using radio waves and that meant that the satellites would blast off up into orbit sometimes they would make it quite often they exploded and the satellites would be positioned over whatever target you wanted to take a photo of it would then take a photo of a very high resolution photo but the photo was on film reel and it was then send it to jessops to get it developed effectively what they had to do was then put this roll of film in a little canister drop it out the back of the satellite have it parachute down over the pacific um and then send a giant hercules transport plane um with a big hook hanging out the back of its cargo bay door to try and grab it to try and grab it out of the air it's like a needle in a haystack image isn't it finding a role of films in the pacific ocean yeah it feels like if you were the guy at the cia who had the idea that people around the table would just laugh and then carry on with their day yeah and also what's fascinating about it is that and this is something that kind of goes in the book but also just about kind of the the history of the technology is the next step change comes quite soon after yeah yeah but and this is on both sides of the iron curtain the corona satellites were still used by america into the 70s and the soviets had their own version uh the zenith satellite which obviously was kind of bulkier and more soviet-looking um and they used that right up until the collapse of the soviet union so as kind of incredible and silly as the technology might appear once they got it working yeah yeah it works it's weird isn't it because i think these days we sort of take it for granted that governments can just spy on us relatively easy you know you've got spy satellites and cctv everywhere and facial recognition cameras and drones and stuff but that uh the corona program sort of represented a big shift in surveillance didn't it yeah and i think what i talk about is kind of being where the world we live in now yeah yeah yeah and that's that's one of the reasons i wanted to to set the story back then because there's a version of this novel that could happen now yeah but it would just be people sacrificing computers yeah yeah that would be a bit less exciting it does make you wonder doesn't it when they invented this satellite whether anyone you know any of the big big brains working on it did kind of say you know in 50 years you'll just be able to view this on your on your television device just to see where the fish and chip shop is or to get directions yeah it will become equal parts utterly terrifying and fantastically mundane yeah yeah yeah yeah it's funny though it's interesting about the um whilst we were sort of researching you for this i was thinking about the amount of research that you can do into a book like this is it quite hard to sort of research certain areas of something that's as secretive as spying um some of it is for a spy like exactly

what is what is interesting is working out how you balance the the completely made-up side with enough real-world information that's blended together so the whole thing feels true you know i i found that even reading like le carre i for years in my younger self before i before i delved into the details of what he'd created had completely taken for granted that things like where he put the circus was you know a a it was a part of the british intelligence apparatus what he you know what he used in place of the the bianca and kgb in russia again i just assumed that was real because he wrote it in a way that made me completely believe it i wonder with because when you have people who write police procedurals or you know murder mysteries that kind of thing they often work with like a former police officer or whatever to to check if things are right that they're writing is it can you do something like that when you're right you know can you ring up a spy and say look did you have a watch that could blow stuff up or just like is this does this work i mean sometimes you can um you know there are people you might be able to talk to i i was lucky enough that for some of the kind of the real world details i was able to kind of just talk to family members you're the spies in your family the other spies i think we've unearthed the whole network of spices there are some stories that my father tells about his about his life in london in the 60s which definitely made me question what he was actually but uh but you know it's that kind of exposure that i've been able to pull on it's funny you talk about police procedurals actually because i'm one of those people that always kind of avoids writing about police if i can because i just don't have that wealth of knowledge about how you know how kind of like the chain of evidence yeah no no absolutely all of those things you start writing something don't you about it and then you realize you think oh my god i only know this from from like watching tv and stuff yeah and and the bill wasn't a documentary so actually some of this might not be might not be right and you do feel a bit exposed don't you when you're writing stuff like that you kind of because people do pick up on it yeah but then i was on um i was at harrogate this year listening to a police procedural panel i thought i'd go and kind of like try and face my fears um and half of the people on the panel were saying you know i work very closely with the police to make sure all my details are right uh and the other half were saying like the details aren't important it's stories about people because ultimately it's only the police officers reading it who care presumably to a certain extent yeah and i think i think as long as you know as long as you tell you know as long as you tell a story that isn't kind of contradictory within itself yeah you know then then it's reasonable i used to say a long time when i when i was agenting and i used to give kind of occasional talks to creative writing students i always said like you can you can set your story wherever you want you know it can be on a it can be on a spaceship i just need to believe that it can fly yes yes presumably people don't really watch bond because of its hyper realism today that's not what draws you in that's what bourne's for you know what i was just going to say about you know our only experiences is sort of watching spy thrillers and reading the books and it always seems that for all the sort of different training and techniques and gizmos uh that they have the success of most operations seems to at some point it always hinges on luck so how do you make sure that your sort of plot devices remain uh credulous i suspect i'm definitely a plot first writer yeah and i think that particularly is true in it could be it could be any kind of genre fiction but but the genre fiction that is almost you know you've set up a problem that you have to solve um so you kind of have to know how to solve it in fact the very first ever piece of writing advice i got was from a script writer who said no you're ending yeah and that's one that's a less nightmare is always taken to heart i don't think it's always the case with every form of storytelling i think there are you know if we if you're looking at the more literary end or the less kind of you know puzzle or crime and solution based novel it is easier to kind of create these characters and then see where they take you and go along for the ride with them because that's the fun of that story um but for me it's certainly you know making sure that i have you know you you you draw the straightest line of your plot as you can and then you start to kind of overlay the red herrings and the additional plots and the things that might be important but then phase and then do that so it feels structurally like it would be entertaining enough and those those red herrings are really important because again my experience working in in publishing was you know being wary of things that that require or hinge on a big twist that hasn't been signposted you know your signposting can be subtle but it needs to be there you can't just have it be be a you know a reveal at the end that had nothing to do with the rest of the novel um but once i've done that then the kind of the the skill that i'm still learning and enjoying learning is saying okay how do i make it so that my characters are motivated to do these things rather than just that they need to have done it by page 50. and that that's really fun because that's when the characters start to come alive in my head rather than just being kind of like oh this is the plot device that's running the third narrative strand suddenly it's like oh actually this character has hopes and feelings and ambitions and frustrations so this is why he's doing this um completely unrelated to all of that i've got a question that popped up in my head um so you know james bond uh and we're saying about how things are resolved on a bit of look or something like that you know when in a james bond film he always ends up going to like a banquet or an evening event in a large house that's often hosted by the what we'll find out is the major criminal at the end why does he always when he hands his coat over at the door he always tells him he's james bond well also you know in this day and age because bond is modern it's like when he walks into a room full of his greatest enemies it's like they know who he is yeah sort of they've seen the films haven't they they must know by now the only advantage he's got is when he changes from one bond to another that'll really fall and won't it they're looking out for roger moore and sean connery turns up

you're listening to the failing writer's podcast which guarantees to always leave you shaken and not stirred into action do you get it stirred into action to actually write something it's a clever play on words as you were it's not going to get any better but the other thing about the sort of the spy genre probably more than most others is the amount of sort of pastiches there are and sort of spy parodies so with all that sort of stuff going on how do you go about sort of avoiding cliches um it is a challenge and there are moments where you think oh that's actually just too easy uh or that's too obvious but then sometimes you write yourself into a corner and you're like well actually this the only solution is there's a reason tropes are tropes is because they're kind of satisfying and quite cool yeah you know but what i what i can do is kind of at least acknowledge that i i don't like people that kind of you know when when they learn something that an awful lot of people already knew present it as like oh look at this incredible plot i've invented yeah i i i was that person that would watch kind of a some of black mirror and be like well i can tell you the nine star trek episodes that did this 20 years ago so but i think that i think there's there's quite a fun way of addressing some of those things by kind of fessing up like there's a there's a there's certainly a bit in red corona where i i actually kind of refer to a character coming back into the plot kind of almost as a sex match and it's like well yeah he is for the purposes of that scene you know i'll write a good scene around it and it will be enjoyable but yes he is he is acting as a deus ex machina so that's your first book tim you've got uh another one what is it blue i don't know ebola what what we're going with for this one take that into consideration second one nothing that might happen that we don't know about yeah what's uh what's on the cards for the second book uh yeah so a loyal traitor uh oh nice title thank you thank you it felt kind of quite likare yes yeah yeah that was a great title i was quite i was quite pleased with it i mean of course we'll now wait for you know boris johnson to sell the nuclear codes and make it come true was that was that uh one of those that title just jump out here has that been the working title or was that a hard fought that was no that came quite late i had a right title that was that was different it was called double star right which if i explain the cosmological phenomenon it makes sense but it also wasn't actually in the book um so it didn't really didn't really deserve to be the title and then i started to think about kind of like what what is the true essence yeah yeah yeah yeah story um and that's where i got to a loyal traitor i sent it in with a couple of other options to to my publisher and they said like that's the one that kind of marketing the wreck kind of really latched on and the jacket designer as well because it's it's stunning what they've been able to do with the um with the jacket for it um the the story um it's the sequel so it's richard knox again right okay okay uh we've moved forward into the the kind of the 60s outright so red corona is set in 1961 which is a period that's kind of both the 60s and the 50s and that it's on that cusp of a of a decade change a long traitor moves us forward to spring 1966 um two weeks before the world cup so i didn't have to write about that because i wasn't sure how i could make it relevant

the tv was switched off yeah and what it does is it revisits knox and a couple of the other characters from red corona um in this period where the cold war has kind of become a war of attrition all of these cold warriors and spies who were incredibly patriotic and ambitious and understood what they were fighting for in 1961 are now five years down the line and nothing really has changed so they're starting to question their kind of their role and what they're achieving and what i then introduce is a kind of a bigger more personal cause for knox to to grapple with and look at how that pulls him between his you know his his duty to his country and his honor to his friends and what stage what stage are you at with that book that's completely finished or that's completely finished uh we've got bound proofs last week uh which is really exciting comes out february the 10th in hardback great and i'm currently actually uh starting to crack on with book three oh wonderful so can you tell us a bit about the actual writing of the book tim like the process sorry of red corona uh because i'm guessing you were were you working at the same time or did you give up work and then uh no i still work i still work full time um red corona was very much a to begin with an evening and weekend's secret project you know i'd wake up early on a sunday so my housemates didn't know right that kind of thing take myself off to a cafe it was hand written to begin with and then typed up which i told myself was a way of kind of giving myself a little secret extra edit yeah yeah by the time i was actually typing it up i was kind of rereading a paragraph and going like no that's a bit clunky you know let me fix that or i've used that word a page earlier so first um the first draft how long did that take uh that was oh about eight months right and as i said i it's one of the things that that freaks me out now being an author active on social media is where you see all these writers who have what seems like all the time in the world and they blow through a first draft in a couple of weeks or a couple of months and i'm like sometimes like sometimes i can't write anything a week because of work and life you know sometimes i'll have a great month where i can write ten thousand words and that seems like incredible yeah it takes me a week to write shopping so that's pretty impressive i think what part of part of the thing i learned over the course of it was not to be too stressed about that yeah you know just writing writing when you can um one of the good things with my day job which is in advertising and i'm primarily a copywriter by trade it's that i don't kind of get the luxury of writer's block or sitting in my feelings too much because yeah on a wednesday i might not want to do something but i still have to do it because you're quite well disciplined yeah and i can apply that mentality mentality to myself

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so after that point tim so you finished writing the book um how long from that point to getting it published what was the what was the journey after that uh so wrote the book uh was lucky enough to get interest from my agent gordon wise at curtis brown who's a powerhouse working for a powerhouse he helped me with with again a fresh round of editing and polishing we then went out to publishers ended up with uh point blank which is the the crime and thriller imprint at one world they're a fantastic kind of independent publisher that does really interesting things so i was really really excited to to get to work with them again there was there was some editing uh after that point the funny thing is obviously you're whenever you write a novel you always get to that point where it's like this is it this is the best version it can be uh i'm done until about three days later when something occurs to you yeah so by the time i was getting to have editorial conversations about it with my editor i already had a list of things that i knew i wanted to make better about it and they aligned with her list which was fantastic we were then all set to publish start of may 2020 again you know it's a is a novel that has modern resonances about britain's place in the world it's a novel that has modern resonances about kind of the abuse of personal data um it was an american election year uh we we it was going to be released directly halfway between the black widow movie and no time to die it all felt like it was lining up quite nicely yeah yeah and then that's just what you did you just did that then did you that's what you went and heard and did there's nothing else that was it yeah that was following that perfect you know and then and then of course kind of the world stopped um yeah and we had some very difficult conversations in large part because we'd already printed the book so suddenly the idea of kind of re-jacketing it and changing the name became an expense when publishing didn't know if its market or its business model would survive the year we thought we were being quite clever by just waiting until january have a good slot in january to release it uh in our back of course we then ended up getting the surprise january knocked down yeah yeah so the hardback was was released into a january lockdown where all shops were closed and then the paperback was released in september in the middle of a global supply chain crisis and paper shortage and then i got a request from a podcast about failing writers

asking me if i wanted to be uniform the good thing is though team once you've hit rock bottom then it's all it's all up from this point in uh but i do actually i do have to say that again that's a it's an entertaining and slightly naval gazing version of the story what's been wonderful is how much the industry and the kind of the writing and reading community has embraced kind of not only just helping people out at the start of their careers but coming up with you know different podcasts from different angles or online festivals and events and that kind of transition and into the digital realm that meant that i've actually been able to do stuff that i probably wouldn't have been able to do in a normal situation yeah um so it's you know it's in a in a weird way you know when you're looking to to write a series kind of the really important thing right at the beginning is building those strong bits of foundation um and i'm getting to do that um you know i'm getting it i'm getting kind of some lovely reviews from kind of important people also some wonderful kind of responses from people that say i would never normally have read this kind of book by yeah i loved it yeah you've got some amazing reviews and then being able to do things like online festivals and events um and podcasts with you guys and blog pieces and you know stuff like that just so that you know again when when you google me you start to find more stuff that sounds like a happy ending doesn't it it does but sorry just going back a little bit speaking of that googling you i did i did see that you worked with cambridge analytica and i suspect you've signed a fairly hefty nda but did that experience give you any sort of insight into like how the corridors of power operate and the way that politics can get quite tasty did it did it sort of feed into the book in any way yeah so i was i worked with well i i was hired by a company called scl in 2014 they just said they were you know a political communications agency called i've worked in tech i've worked in publishing i've never worked in politics it'll be something you know interesting to add to my cv for a bit um the same way that i now kind of work in financial advertising i like knowing how things work and what's going on behind the scenes yeah um so that always draws me to any of my jobs and also probably explains why i write what i write scl after a couple of months of me working there then kind of started to become cambridge analytica and it was fascinating to to see it change and grow and shift from this company that was kind of on the marketing side almost exclusively staffed by kind of wide-eyed centrist political science graduates and me

and then then kind of embrace this kind of really strong dark right-wing edge which meant that kind of everyone on the marketing side left over the course of a few months uh when we all saw was that did that kind of come from the top was that a sort of leadership thing yeah it was where they saw the money coming from yeah yeah you know there was always an attitude that they didn't mess with british politics but everything else was kind of a game and it really did feel like to them it was all the game um what was then interesting was kind of three years down the line to see the the kind of the expose in 2018 you're like god i'm sure i remember being in meetings when they said we'd never do anything about brexit and then then you suddenly find out that they were like all in

but that you know that that kind of you know use abuse fear of what can be done with with a person's data um definitely kind of informed red corona but again i wanted to kind of go back to telling that story i also felt like i couldn't really tell a cambridge analytica story outright because yeah to your point yeah you'd think they'd maybe sign an mba um but when i was working with them they were so charmingly useless everything they did that was almost why everyone was kind of happy to work there because we were taking someone's money but doing nothing of any consequence yeah and then when you started to see them kind of get their acts together that was when we all kind of realized it might be time to move on no it's fascinating yeah very very odd period in my life yeah definitely definitely informed my writing perspective i've just got one more question to ask you i i actually haven't read that many uh spy novels i've read a couple of le carres which i really enjoyed to be fair but do you do you have a favorite spy novel if you were to recommend one to kind of get you into it what would it be so i i mean the the easiest right now it seems very good don't say red corona

red corona um i'm just looking at my looking at my bookshelf and i'm trying to think i'm going to give you three recommendations yeah and i would say spy who came in from the cold by john le carre is the prototype kind of grizzled real world bleak but so clever you you have to keep reading it spy novel i think it might be his shortest novel it's certainly the easiest one that i've been able to kind of wrap right wrap my head around because he's very cerebral sometimes on the bond side because there has to be one um it has to be from rush with love you know a bond novel where one's not even in it for about 80 pages is a fantastic you know achievement to to tell that story to give those extra perspectives and it's you know and it's a it's a classic bond novel so it's just entertaining um and carries you along uh and then the other one i'd suggest would be a man in havana by graeme green because it combines both of the things that make le carre and fleming great with those two books and then just adds this fantastic layer of satire on top of it it's just like it's a it's a clever spy novel in its own right it's indictment of society at the time in its own right it's also just so witty as well great recommendations that's something to get into there you go tom in terms of films you say you say austin powers and johnny oh yeah yeah yeah yeah cool cool you take the books lads i'll take the films um but yeah thanks ever so much coming on good luck with the second book oh my god and it sounds like you've even got a third in the in the brain there is that you like you said you're starting to work on the third already starting to work on it yep uh not gonna say how far i'm through because there's a deadline that i don't want to get stuck to uh yeah it's uh it's it should be fun i'm really excited about writing i'm really really kind of relieved that the three in i'm still enthusiastic yeah yeah it's still got legs and it's still there and this is another knoxville brilliant or can you do this yeah this will be this will be another knocks a slightly shorter uh leap in time this time just moving to 1967 but again with a with quite a major global political event was the backdrop and then knox kind of working his way behind the scenes thank you very much for coming on my pleasure thanks for having me cheers to you guys later bye

brilliant well that was tim glister um we'll put a link to his book red corona in the uh in the show notes as well yep so if you fancy a riveting 1960s spy novel that would be a good one to choose i think it's got very very good reviews buy it now before it's classified you know what i thought was interesting what he was saying about um that it's set in 1961 and he said that's kind of like it's still the 1950s and the 60s because he was saying about his sequel being set later in the 60s and that was the 60s in 1960s and i was thinking that's so true of decades isn't it how we kind of put them in this slot of like the 80s the 90s yeah but there is that weird overlapping in between a bit in each one in each little era where you don't realize until you're out the other side that there's like a weird yeah that weird melting point of the 80s and 90s yeah where there were shell suits which were very 90s but they were kind of still in 80s colors like they're still really like yeah before kind of the red and gray and black of the 90s came in and sometimes there's just that weird in between but in between decades the stone roses yeah yeah yeah the emergence of stephen hendry and his long hair yeah yeah a sign of what was to come i'm not sure we get we do we get decades still like i don't know i think i think smushed into a yeah continuous change rather i don't think there's been one there hasn't been one since uh the 90s has there i think it's partly because the big events in the world annoyingly don't always like usefully end up falling on the actual end of the decade do they it's like things like brexit or well you say that but i remember the millennium celebrations doing that it was quite almost exactly that was quite a big one though the 90s didn't they yeah and there hasn't you're right that is the exception that hasn't been a decade since was there so yeah do you know what it's funny to like i i'd forgotten about this one when we were talking to tim i had an idea for a spy thriller set in 1966 because it's all that cold war sort of stuff like you think about russian someone must have done this if you think about russians in unusual places what about yes what about a spy thriller wrapped around the russian linesman who gave the goal against germany there's got i there's someone's got to have done sometimes surely like a cold war time traveling thing where if that guy gives the goal a sliding doors thing you know goes one way this it goes the other way that wow yeah hey it's even got a good name they think it's all over but it's only just begun oh that's the strapline yeah it's right in itself in my head um anyway that's uh that's the next you heard it here first folks the russian linesman nice that's the end of that interview but what else have we got coming up soon lance i think we've got more in the pipeline we certainly did andy stanton next week yeah again yeah we'll all we'll all be around for that won't we we'll make sure we're all present and correct for that yeah yep yeah yeah yeah it should be fine definitely won't be embarrassing with it with john hero worshipping him and stuff yeah i know i'll be fine yeah i'm sure it won't get uh it won't get weird at any point will it i don't think so lads there's still there's still been no take up on my little feature what the book i know it's something isn't it so if you've written a book if you want some free advertising assuming that you want people to buy it then email as a voice memo pitches your book to failingwriterspodcast just remember it has to be exactly 30 seconds just to make a bit more fun and who knows we might even buy it we might even buy it we might even read it we might even talk about it on the podcast i mean you literally you have nothing to lose it's free so just please give it a go although it doesn't want well exactly so the feature will just disappear won't it into the mists of time like yep so many other of my ideas so you know it would be nice for me senders you pick give john this one thing please um but yeah until next week we should probably just say au revoir or toodle-loo whatever the russian is for goodbye that's the one that's that's not i don't i'm sorry if i've said something really rude in russian that's yeah that's probably probably inappropriate come back when you think you're over the corner you might give a little

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Tim Glister

Tim Glister is a creative director working in advertising. He's worked for a range of famous and infamous global brands, and in a previous life he was a literary agent. He lives in London.

Tim's first novel Red Corona was published in January 2021.