Saturday, 28 June 2008

Why a novel is a bit like a glove collection...

Writing a novel has something in common with my daughter's collection of single gloves.

She finds them lost in the street, brings them home, washes them and pins them on her notice board wherever they seem to fit in among the others.

And a writer, in the throes of a novel, does much the same while out and about; spots things that will add to his novel, pounces on them, brings them home and in they go.

(The sequinned shoe? No, I don't know what it's doing there. Inexplicable and unexpected. But then, it's not a bad thing for a novel to have something inexplicable and unexpected in it, either).

Friday, 20 June 2008

A book called...not sure yet

My third novel...

I wrote the first page of my third novel today, and no, I'm not going to tell you what it's about. I don't want to talk about it in detail until it's well under way, for fear of dissipating my creative energy.

I can say it's a different genre from Torbrek...and the Dragon Variation and Trav Zander. It will, I hope, benefit from all I have learned from writing those two novels.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Authonomy 2

The beta version of Authonomy is flourishing; nearly a thousand members, almost a quarter of whom have loaded books, or extracts of books. Some of the novels are very good indeed; so good I'm not sure why they're not in print already. Which got me thinking about how Harper Collins are going to use the site once it's fully up and running. Because there are two possibilities.

1. They can treat it like an online slush pile, with the better stuff conveniently shuffled to the top, and then use their normal methods of selection. Or,

2. They can use it as a way of finding slightly different novels from what they would otherwise choose; take a chance on books the site members love, but that an agent, with his specialized knowledge, would reject on various grounds.

I'd like them to go with 2, but think it unlikely. Which may turn out to be a missed opportunity. I read a fascinating article in the Bookseller by Alison Flood, Tops and Flops at the LBF. It's about how some of the books that got the most hyped London Book Fair deals have actually sold thus far. A few examples;

'The biggest d├ębut thriller deal of the year'; sales to date: 3,281 copies. Simon & Schuster secured the two books with a 'very high six-figure pre-emptive offer'.

Harper Collins paid seven figures for world English rights, excluding Canada, for a new novel set on a Canadian military base in the 1960s. Sales to date: 14,436

Orion bought Kate Mosse’s ‘Barbara Erskine-ish’ novel Labyrinth in a deal rumoured to total seven figures. Sales to date: 1,076,509

The point being that agents and publishers do not always get it right. One thinks of the first print run of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - 500.

Sometimes the public knows best. After all, it's the public who buy books. Or not.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Heroes and Villains

The characters in my fiction almost always come from within my mind; they represent disparate aspects of my personality, and I think this is quite normal for a writer. How else can you know how they think and feel?

My friend Alan Hutcheson agrees, and says even his cold ruthless killer Leslie in Boomerang has some Alan in him.

The result is that I like all of my characters, even the horrible ones; I know their redeeming features and why they are the way they are and do what they do. And I think this is what makes the reader engage with fictional people.

I dislike white and black characters. Superman - boringly virtuous. Voldemort - boringly evil. Bring on the rich and subtle shades of grey; Alan Breck Stewart - a fascinatingly flawed goodie. William Elliot - an intelligent and witty baddie. Give me heroes who trip over while rushing to the heroine's aid, and villains that impressionable teenage girls will secretly want to redeem.

Don't tell me what to think. Let me decide that Fanny Price, though the heroine, is a pain, and Henry Crawford is better off without her.

Much more fun.