from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 20 July 2012

'Imago' and the cross-genre novel


Many people before me have spoken of what an odd business this writing thing is. The relationship is between you and your pen/cursor, alone in a room, locked up together (if you're in the process of A Project) 24/7 (or so it can feel). It's like a drug, or a transcendent experience, or a love affair, sometimes. At other times it resembles something dysfunctional and distinctly suspect; the kind of relationship you'd counsel your best friend to escape from.

Let's assume you suspend 'reality' long enough as to create something you're proud of (and often you don't know whether you are or not until you see it in print). If you're lucky enough as to find a publisher (and for my novel Imago this took 17 years and a great many near-misses; plus it really is like buses: after 5 fallow years I've had 3 books appear in the 12 months between May 2011 and May this year). After a day or two of not really believing it, there is a jubilation unlike almost anything except giving birth, or falling in love (perhaps that should be the other way round??). 

Then there's the underwhelm when it's actually out there, and you have no idea if anyone's reading it; plus it's a long time to the first royalty statement and a longer time again till the first royalty payment. If you were paid an advance, as I was on my first two books, both put out by relatively big players in the publishing field, it takes a year or two to offset that against royalties, especially if your work is 'minority interest'. With the smaller publishing houses, with no advances, the royalties, in my experience, are in two figures, or the low threes. In other words, it won't keep you even in the style of poverty to which you'll need to become accustomed.

And the book seems to have been swallowed into the belly of the Great Cosmic Void – this thing, this entity, you've nurtured so long simply disappears.

But now and then you get some feedback – by email, or post, or as a review. This makes it all worthwhile – if only one person enjoys it, you think to yourself, that's OK. And I've just had a lovely review, which also raises some questions about classification of fiction, and whether a publisher accepts or turns it down on such grounds; so forgive that I boastfully post it in its entirety from Shirley Wright's blog:


'Imago' and the cross-genre novel

There’s a lot of discussion at the moment around the topic of genre, or more precisely about the problem of so-called ‘cross-genre’ novels. It seems that readers love them – viz the success of, for example, ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger or ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ by Mark Haddon. But agents, publishers and booksellers, so we’re told, are not so keen. How do we market this thing? What shelf does it go on?
  And writers, especially début writers, are having work turned down because it doesn’t fit neatly into someone else’s pigeonhole.
  On the other hand, before there was genre there were books. For hundreds, maybe thousands of years there have been stories, tales passed on by word of mouth. And to my mind the story is all. If you are gripped, transported, moved to tears, who gives a damn about classification? So how has it come about that the tail now wags the dog? Could it be yet another aspect of our wonderful world of commercialism gone mad?
  I’ve just finished reading ‘Imago’ by Roselle Angwin, a cross-genre novel if there ever was one: a modern-day romance morphing into historical fiction crossed with metaphysical musings, poetry, an exposé of twelfth-century religious heresy in France and esoterica.
  In her Author’s Notes, Angwin explains the difficulties she’s had, over many years, getting this book published. Thank goodness that she and Indigo Dreams Publishing eventually found one another. Thank goodness there are still publishers out there (OK, smallish publishers, independents who have the courage to stick their noses above the parapet) willing to take risks on the hard-to-categorise.
  I loved ‘Imago’. It’s absolutely the sort of book to appeal to me: a romance set in the south of France, written in a style that evokes all the colours and smells and tastes of the Languedoc (and in so doing, testifies to the author’s credentials as a poet). But ‘Imago’ also makes you think, makes you question, because it’s unafraid to tackle the eternal themes: life, death, the soul, reincarnation. The reader is required to pay attention, engage the brain and join the debate. 
  So if you like grown-up books, I think you’ll like this one. And you can thumb your nose at the tyranny of big-time narrow-minded publishing.

Shirley Wright

Big thanks, Shirley.

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