Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lit Critter

I've just finished writing the first chapter of my new novel - as yet untitled - and it's definitely a bit of a curate's egg, even to my paternal eye.

The good news is that I managed to insert my first joke by the sixth paragraph. That's one more joke than I managed in the whole of A Half Life Of One. Since it's meant to be a humorous novel you can guess how relieved I was to get that hurdle over with.

The bad news really emanates from the fact that (so far) the central character is sixty years old. He makes an unintentional joke about Gogol. Of course if he (or me for that matter because the hero so far is a thinly-disguised version of myself) was younger and more more in tune with contemporary mores he'd be cracking jokes about Google, not Gogol.

When I re-read what I'd written I suddenly realised how old-fashioned I'd become. My only hope is that the humour really is timeless. To make matters worse I began to experience the unmistakeable feeling that what I might be doing is creating a new fiction genre, one that is unlikely to surpass Chick Lit in the Amazon sales rankings.

Grandad lit, anyone?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nail on the head

I'm snowbound at the moment, the single track road leading up to our house is pretty much impassable. Officially, it being Easter, I'm on holiday today but in reality I'm at a loose end. So I stayed in and reviewed my writing career. It didn't take all that long.

A Half Life Of One still attracts readers. Someone called Paula emailed a couple of days ago to say, "Really enjoyed reading the book, found it a fascinating insight into how low a person can sink." Thanks, Paula, for taking the trouble to comment on the book: it means a lot to me. Means everything in fact. God, I love readers.

Then while I was in London the other week someone bought a copy of AHLOO on Amazon. Who on earth could it be and why? I guess I'll never know.

Perhaps I should go to the capital more often because while I was there Scott Pack of Me and My Big Mouth fame gave the book what he describes as a Quick Flick review. I'm not sure if he's actually read the whole book but his description certainly hits the nail on the head. Here's what he said:

"It’s not altogether comfortable reading a novel about a man whose business goes bust. Timely perhaps, but not easy reading at the moment. Bill Liversidge certainly manages to capture all the worry and emotion that comes with the situation and the unnerving way it seeps into other parts of your life.

There is nothing earth-shattering about this book so far, but that isn’t really the point. It is a small, self-published affair but it is a good, solid, no-frills domestic drama told, for once, from the male perspective. However, the Amazon reviews suggest it is all about to kick off if I read any further. It is tantalisingly poised.

The author has an entertaining blog and is doing his best to spread the word about his novel. I would certainly recommend checking out his online activities and if they tickle your fancy then A Half Life Of One may well appeal".

What's interesting here is that Mr Pack used to be the head buyer for Waterstone's and was once described as the most powerful man in British publishing, so he knows what he's talking about. His current venture, The Friday Project, is struggling at the moment so you can see why the book won't have been an easy read for him and why it's so impressive that he took the trouble to give the book some welcome publicity. I hope he survives okay - good people like him deserve a break.

I've said it before but it bears repeating. If it wasn't for the internet AHLOO would now be a yellowing manuscript languishing unread at the back of a drawer somewhere. As it is, it now has a life of its own. A modest life certainly, but hopefully a long one. And in such a dangerous and uncertain world where traditional publishers everywhere are struggling against the onslaught of new technology and general indifference who amongst us could ask for more?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Not a journey wasted

I'm still recovering from my trip to London. Not physically but mentally.
Meeting other bloggers - other writers - turned out to be quite a profound experience. I've never met a writer in the flesh before, in literary terms I've lived my life in a vacuum. Sitting in the pub surrounded by a covey of writers and performers I felt a bit like an atheist attending a church service, a rather disreputable interloper. I wished I had their faith in art. I wished I shared their humanity. I returned home more than ever convinced of my own shortcomings, both as a writer and a human being.

A couple of conversations after the performances confirmed what I had already begun to suspect. My new novel - a work in progress called Mummy's Boy - is no good. It doesn't work on any level but in particular the voice - that of a five-to-eleven year old boy - is woefully inauthentic. It's funny, because the book is more or less a straightforward transcription of events that happened to me at that age, events that are still vivid and abiding. That's really the problem of course.

Actually, I'd begun previously to mistrust the book for other reasons. It was in danger of turning into a "misery memoir", a sub-genre I despise. Nor was the writing of it stretching me in any way, other than testing my powers of recall. It didn't feel like a novel at all. It wasn't breaking any new ground. It was, in truth, something of a nostalgic wallow.

I've decided to abandon the book. I'll leave it up on the blog as a potentially interesting failed experiment, an online footnote marking the rubbish bin of my writing ambitions. Naturally I feel pretty gutted but it's not the first blind alley I've ever been down and I don't expect it will be the last.

A week ago, to mark the demise of this work in progress, I went out and bought myself a new laptop, well, a very dinky notebook actually. And then I started work on a new book. This one's meant to be funny and is actually entirely fictitious which must be a good thing in something that purports to be a novel. The trick of it will be to make it serious enough to make the humour work. I'm not sure if I will repeat the experiment of publishing it online as I go. The only reason for doing so would be to get some feedback - but right now I feel like it's best simply to plough my own furrow and see where it takes me.

Oh, the idea for the book came from one of my conversations in the pub with one of the writers. So it certainly wasn't a wasted journey. The very opposite in fact.

It's always nice to meet other writers. Maybe I'll do it again sometime. Perhaps when I've finished the new book and earned my credentials.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Home at last

Finally got back from London last night.

What happened was I missed my train at the appointed time and had to walk. It was a lot further than I thought. Four hundred and three miles from London to Aberdeen apparently, although it felt a lot longer, especially when I got lost in Essex. It took me twenty-four days all told, which isn't too bad considering it was meant to be a three day round trip. The downside is that I wore out two pairs of shoes. And Essex was a real dump. Everything they say about that place is true. Tilbury really was the pits, especially sleeping under that hairpin bridge and getting mugged. East Anglia wasn't too bad though - at least it's flat, which is important when you're walking. Wales wasn't too good either I'm sorry to say - very up and down. Even worse when I realised I was going in the wrong direction. All the road signs are in Welsh, which didn't help.

The lowpoint was when I got chased by a gang of old ladies in Northumberland.

Thankfully, things picked up when I finally got home. It was dark last night when I trudged up the road. I thought there'd be lights on in the old cottage but everything was in darkness. The place was locked up and as I'd had my key stolen in Milton Keynes I had to break in. The kitchen was like a fridge. There was a note on the table from the wife. Not having heard from me for so long she'd taken umbrage and left. That's what happens when you forget to take your mobile phone. We'd been married for thirty-two years so I could understand how she might have wanted a change. The chilli seeds I'd planted before I set out had all come up. The jalapenos looked particularly healthy which really pleased me. Just like the wife the milk in the fridge had gone off.

That's about it really. Nothing of any great significance although I did meet some nice bloggers down in London who I don't expect to see again.