This time last year I posted the manuscript of my debut novel to my publisher Urbane and here I now am itching to write The End to its sequel.

For anyone tracing developments in the follow up to the Life Assistance Agency I apologise. There was to be a webcam, but watching an author working on a new book is akin to observing someone looking for something without knowing what it is they’ve lost. But, there is an update…

The end is in sight. It’s the kind of rallying cry familiar to Edwardian explorers (if there’s any left) before they noticed another perilous crevice of 800 feet to be negotiated before supper using nothing but ropes, crampons and smoking pipes clamped between gritted teeth. However, the only virgin ground left to be trodden before the sequel’s end is a few thousand words. The end is in sight.

I’ve written it at a speed better associated with Londoners pouncing on vacated seats on the tube, which is my own fault for leaving such obvious potential for a follow-up. I should be grateful, as although this new instalment leaves a door open wide enough to reverse a harvest-laden tractor through, there’s currently no more directions on the Life Assistance Agency’s Sat-Nav. They’ve been busy, perhaps they deserve a rest; their office certainly requires a tidy.

Being a writer often provokes questions from people, and not only ‘Can you pay back that tenner yet?’ There’s a misconception that you must be rolling in it. If ‘it’ refers to misplaced punctuation, plot holes and underused characters then the answer is an empathetic YES. I was delighted that fans of the first book were asking for a sequel until I realised it meant I needed to write one.

Some have asked if writing a second novel is easier. In a way it is, but only like the second girlfriend (or whatever it is we’re calling them these days) feels the same yet completely different. Much like the most inept explorers, the endeavour of novel writing is started through the wrong end of a telescope: a distant and idealised destination appears. Although most of the time you’re arguing with automated fake Twitter accounts about Diane Abbott, with each week even the slightest amount of writing brings you closer to arriving, albeit with the occasional crow startling you at close range through the lens.

It’s way too early for saying it’s going well; I verge from rehearsing Not the Booker Prize acceptance speech, to calling Apple support desperately requesting how I retrieve deleted manuscripts from my computer’s hard drive, but I’ve enjoyed the first draft, so the second needs to be for the reader. Then comes the title. The working title of Blind Fury always sounded like it’d already been taken, and annoyingly I have an unused title so good that it demands an entire book to be written, yet in the penultimate chapter the sequel’s finally appeared. It was so late it’s lucky not to be called The End.*

*Title to be confirmed once I ask my publisher and a hundred other people what they think of it.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – –   and is a farcical road trip around Europe. ‘This is what would happen if the Blues Brothers went on a search for the Holy Grail.’

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and it currently on offer at 99p on ebook here –