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Kirk Houghton

Author of The Dividing Lines and Bad Things to Good People

First draft of Machines of God is complete

Updated: February 2021

Covid-19 did not prevent me from finishing the first draft of Machines of God. After thirty months and 440,000 words later, I am delighted to announce the completion of my second novel. The next process of editing and re-writing begins on 1st May 2021. As any novelist knows, stage two is often a long undertaking, and this will be no different for me. I give myself twelve months from May 2021 to produce the next workable draft.

What are my plans for this book? That should be an easy one to answer - I need to find a literary agent to help me land a publishing deal. Machines of God deserves to be on the book shelves on the high street, at airports, in train stations and in public libraries. But everybody says that after finishing a novel, don't they?

This last year saw me co-found an online music publication called Scream Blast Repeat. That is the logo you see in the top left of this page. We cover extreme metal and dark alternative music and hope to establish our brand as a recognised leader in the metal underground.

Writing reviews and exclusive feature articles on my favourite bands and the best contemporary

artists around is now a big part of my creative life. It also gives me the opportunity to hone my craft and continue writing on a daily basis, something you should never overlook when assessing how you want to develop your creative writing in the future.

Be sure to visit www.screamblastrepeat.com to check out my music reviews and feature articles.

Machines of God is two-thirds complete

Updated: November 2019

Sometimes a novel takes on a life of its own like a song that changes key or develops an offbeat. A better image might be a storyteller who knows what he wants to say but has to incorporate numerous other plot strands at a critical point of the narrative.

Machines of God was always intended to be eighteen chapters, but I’ve had to create an additional nineteenth chapter to accommodate three major subplots that have reached a crescendo for my character, Andrew Fairweather.

The good news is the novel has now passed the 200,000-word mark. Yet I now envisage it reaching 320,000 words by the time the first draft is complete. Most writers have concerns they will not reach a respectable word count. Mine is different – how do I fit everything into less than 350,000 words? A good problem to have, one might say! But the main challenge is how to write with flair and poignancy while retaining an economy of style based on less than twelve words per sentence.


Here is a tip for first-time novelists: always know how many chapters your book will have and the approximate word count for each one. My third novel alternates each chapter between three main characters until their fates meet in the last third of the book in a seminal event that affects them all. I developed this style using the great Victorian novelist, Thomas Hardy, as an inspiration.

These last six months have been as enjoyable as the first few months of starting Machines of God. For you other writers out there, I’d be interested if you also find a novel easier to write for the latter half of the story. By this stage you’ve introduced your main characters, explored their complexities, unearthed their skeletons, and can turn to dialogue-driven scenes to flesh out the forward momentum. I keep repeating the same cliché (never a good sign), but it’s true that a novel writes itself if you build your foundations and give the characters room to evolve.

Music is at the forefront of my life these days. The year 2019 will go down as a remarkable year for Progressive Metal. Periphery and Devin Townsend remain in my stereo when I write. Ukrainian Metal sensation, Jinjer, deserve a special mention for the quality of their work. I’ve not been so excited about a band since I first discovered Dillinger Escape Plan in 2000. Those of you interested in Extreme Metal should buy Jinjer’s new album, Macro, and snap up the preceding EP, Micro (released in January this year). A personal highlight for me was meeting Spencer Sotelo, the vocalist of Periphery at the London Kentish Town gig on 15 November.

We’ve also seen new novels from Haruki Murakami and Michel Houellebecq in 2019, both of them instant classics. Murakami fans will be thrilled to learn that the great man has written another book in the vain of A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance. Anybody deliberating whether to buy Murakami’s Killing Commendatore should stop procrastinating and get to their local book shop to buy a copy. And what is there to say about Houellebecq, who continues to write trademark state-of-western civilisation novels that are so perceptive and often hilarious? Serotonin is as good as Platform and somehow better than his last one, Submission.

The next update to follow in six months’ time should be the most important one, when I announce the completion of the first draft of Machines of God. I welcome your input even at this stage if anyone wants to proof read the first half of the book. Just email [email protected] to request copies of the manuscript.

Oh! We’re half way there…

Posted: June 2019

I’m pleased to report everything is on track with Machines of God. Every writer likes to take a breather when they approach the mid-point of their work. I reached the magic 150,000-word mark last month when I completed Chapter Nine. As things stand, I’d say the first draft will be complete in June 2020.

Creating a piece of fiction is so rewarding. Yes, it can be a lonely experience, but when I finish at the office for the day and get home I have one thing on my mind. And that’s to get a thousand words on the page. My current focus is the way I describe human emotions through facial and body expressions – not as easy as it sounds. There’s only a finite number of gestures to describe, and, if I was a talentless writer, I’d simply tell you rather than show you what a character is thinking. But it’s a challenge I like. For that, I should thank the Japanese writers I enjoy reading so much. 

Another writer who deserves a mention is Rebecca Rae, who astonished the literary world in 1998 when Penguin published her debut novel, A Certain Age, at age eighteen. For those who haven't heard of this book, you should check it out. The descriptive writing is so vivid and the content as dark as anything you'll ever read in your life. I picked up a copy at a book café in Lincoln for £1.99 on a recent visit. The first paragraph was enough to draw me in. I guarantee it’ll do the same to you. Buy it, and tell me if you’ve read anything better in the last twelve months. This is the best coming-of-age novel since Catcher in the Rye.

Music plays such a big part of my writing routine. How the hell did I not discover Prog Metal legends, Periphery, when they emerged in 2010? I can’t get enough of their albums. Imagine being sixteen in 1999 and discovering Faith No More – that’s how I feel now with the Periphery back catalogue. Björk is another artist on my stereo. Kate Bush and Tori Amos have few successors, but Iceland’s most famous resident is surely in the same canon as these greats. Her music is always playing in the background when I write. (She’s also mentioned in Chapter Nine!)


Most of my friends have now married and had children, and it occurred to me the other day that my concerns are so petty compared with theirs. These great people are worried about the schools their kids will attend, yet my biggest anxiety is why I cannot seem to get into the music of Swedish Metal legends, Meshuggah. No matter how hard I try, it just won’t click. Maybe I’ll finally ‘get it’ later this year when I give them another listen.

In the meantime, feel free to buy The Dividing Lines and Bad Things to Good People if you haven’t already done it.

One-third of latest novel, Machines of God, now complete

Posted: January 2019

This is the never ending story - just joking! Machines of God is now at the 90,000-word mark and on track for completion in 2020. I finished chapter six on the 11th January and look forward to writing the next twelve chapters until the end of 2019. Fans of the great Japanese novelist, Yukio Mishima, will be intrigued to know that the author of Confessions of a Mask and Temple of the Golden Pavilion has a central place in a National Crime Agency investigation into insider trading at Barclays de Zoete Wedd in the early 1990s. And no story is complete without incest, stalking and the inexplicable events in our lives that have no scientific explanation.

A daily dosage of Extreme Metal music, a persistent deficit of sleep, weekend walks in the Hertfordshire countryside, less alcohol and a healthier diet are keeping me on track. Eventually, the time will come to search for a literary agent. This novel needs a hardback release. (Special pleading, I know.) Until then, the music of Carcass, Celtic Frost, Strapping Young Lad and the Devin Townsend Project keep things ticking over. And with Sky Sports and live Premiership football available at the click of a button, distractions are not far away. Not to mention the possibility of another UK General Election and a Brexit that might never happen.


Those enlightened few who cannot wait know what to do - buy my other two fucking books and review them on Amazon or Goodreads (or both)! If you feel the urge is still too great, email [email protected] for sample copies of the first six chapters.

Work under way on new book: Kirk Houghton’s second novel, Machines of God, takes financial crime as its major theme

Posted: September 2018

Stop Press! Thirty thousand words of the latest novel are on the board and the first draft of chapters 1-3 complete. Fifteen more will follow over the next eighteen months. On current projections, Machines of God should come in at approximately 300,000 words and be ready for editing in 2020.

Meet Tom Fortnam, an archivist at Lancashire County Council, whose dull life takes a bizarre turn when six milk bottles appear on his front doorstep in mysterious circumstances. Events will bring him into contact with Andrew Fairweather, Chief Executive of Freeman-Chancel, Britain's sixth larget high street bank. Fairweather is hoping to acquire Colbourne Asset Management to make his bank bid-proof, but his past is threatening to catch up with him and his room for manouevre limited by the wishes of a secret cabal. Officer Jo Frenchwood of the National Crime Agency is about to stumble onto something far bigger than Essex villains, but isn't sure how Fairweather's brother is involved.

Drawing on the literary fiction of Haruki Murakami, a passion for Corporate & Banking History and the best English TV detective dramas, Machines of God aims to be the first novel of its kind to merge Rock & Roll with Finance. It's a world where the capital city meets the provincial, and the frustration of the individual finds solace in the surreal. Populism can happen anywhere, but what if rogue elements in the insitutions designed to curtail it have the resources to use the anti-establishment sentiment for their own purposes of self-enrichment?

Bad Things to Good People available in ebook format

Posted: December 2016

Story

Notorious serial killer, The Hair Stealer, is on the rampage in Carlisle searching for his mother. The residents are paralysed by fear but fascinated by the man behind the crimes.

Part satire and part thriller, Bad Things to Good People is a collection of six short stories exploring the tensions of a city embroiled in fear. Carlisle’s celebrity asexual, Stephen P, sees his career jeopardised on the verge of a lucrative book deal; nurse, Lorraine Gillibrand, is traumatised by a workplace assault and worries about her grandson’s misdemeanours; freelance writer, Jeremy Foxton, is in Cumbria on a research trip and open to the advances of a mysterious private detective; while Manchester youth worker, Leona Collins, is recalled to the county in emotional circumstances but has her own demons to confront. All will be affected by the Hair Stealer’s reign of terror, yet some don’t know how they’re connected.

At the centre of the storm is Chief Superintendent Tony Gillibrand, the man under pressure to catch a killer. But another nemesis from the 1990s threatens him at a critical stage of the investigation and leaves him exposed to misconduct charges.

It seems the green shoots of recovery are under threat from something far more dangerous than the credit crunch…

The Dividing Lines: England's new literary thriller out now

Posted: July 2015

Story

The lives of three people are changed forever when disgraced Labour MP, Richard Farnworth, is forced to resign his seat.

Disillusioned salesman Martin Reeves is already descending into a world of extreme violence and sexual frustration; conspiracy-theorist Ed Blevins is struggling to cope in the aftermath of his mother’s death; and Muslim convert Miranda Yilmaz is torn between her ambitions for high office and the demands of her imperfect family life.

But the stakes are high and tolerance levels low in this By-Election, and political violence lurks uneasily in the background. The question is, did Farnworth leave his successors a legacy of true power; or was he a pawn in a wider scandal?

Ebook available now on Amazon.co.uk. Download the free Kindle Reader App here for your Smartphone, Tablet and Laptop.