Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Next Big Thing

After a long break, the blog is back! An inspiring fellow writer, Gillian Wallace, tagged me to take part in The Next Big Thing,, a literary blog interview. In The Next Big Thing, writers answer ten questions about their work-in-progress, then tag five of their writer friends to do the same.

What is the working title of your book?

The Third Road. It comes from a quotation from Mao Zedong: "All Chinese without exception must lean either to the side of socialism or to the side of imperialism. Sitting on the fence will not do, nor is there is a third road." But the main character of my novel, Zhao Ya Yin, seeks that third road.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My uncle was a member of the British Special Branch police force in what was then called Malaya, in the 1950s and 60s, during the emergency there. In Malaya, he and his wife had servants and a fairly upscale kind of lifestyle. When they returned to England, they had to live in a drab council flat and he had to take a job as a nightime security guard. The contrast interested me, and I began to write about that, but after about one hundred pages, I realized it was not working. However, by this time, I had done a fair bit of research, and I was very interested in that historical timeframe. A young Chinese girl named Zhao surfaced as a character I wanted to write about, a girl who was uprooted by the British and who eventually became a Communist geurilla.

What genre does your book fall under?

It is a literary work, and historical fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I am not all that up on Chinese actors, so that is a tough one. For the main British character, I think Kate Winslett would be perfect.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After having survived both the Japanese occupation and the forcible relocation  of her village by the British, a young Chinese girl joins the Communist geurillas fighting from inside the jungle.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

 I do have an agent and I hope that with her support we can find a traditional publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I have been researching and working on this book for nearly five years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill springs to mind, another tale of survival. Also, curiously, The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck, for the simplicity of style and the profound nature of the message.

Who or what inspired you to write the book?

As above, the experiences of my uncle, but ultimately, the personality of my main character, as well as my interest in the futility of war.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

The 12 year "emergency" in Malaya, which was basically a war, is a little-known period of history. Documents are still being released today, revealing the truth some of the myths surrounding what happened there. In fact, a law suit by survivors has been in the news recently concerning allegations of a British massacre at Batang Kali during the emergency in Malaya. Apparently 24 innocent villagers were shot by British forces. So I guess the historical aspect, as well as interest in a female character who becomes a geurilla.

And now, visit these links to see what these wonderful writers are working on: (names and links to follow).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Amazon nightmare

I wanted to alert writers to a potential problem on Amazon. I was delighted, as a result of starting a small ad campaign on Goodreads, to get hundreds of potential readers interested in my book, and I even got a request from a reader in the US who wanted to include my book in their book club. Yay! The only problem, the reader noted, was the somewhat steep $85 price tag on Yikes! My book is supposed to sell for $12.99! But sure enough, when I went on the site there was a third party re-seller offering my book for $85 and no mention of my $12.99 price tag. After many e-mails and calls I discovered that the problem originated when I asked CreateSpace to send me copies of the PDF's for my book so I could convert it to e-book format. Instead of sending me copies they pulled the whole thing and left the status of my book as "incomplete", making it impossible to order. Then the third party re-sellers stepped into the vaccuum and began charging what they liked. There are now 4 sellers on there doing the same thing. This is really scary. I am now having to re-start the process again with CreateSpace, which hopefully won't take too long, and I have contacted each of the re-sellers to ask them politely to charge what is appropriate for my book. The sad thing is that I have probably already lost hundreds of sales, and my Goodreads ad campaign, which produced many potential readers, probably killed off any interest once the readers got on the Amazon site. Amazon does not take responsibility for what third party sellers want to charge, so there is no protection. As a self published author, it is hard enough to make one's name out there and find readers, but when this sort of thing happens also, it is heartbreaking. Just wanted to let people know about this potentially horrible situation that happened through no fault of my own!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The long tail or the short shrift? Thoughts on literary self publishing

The Internet is buzzing with advice about self publishing. Money- making sites that promise to promote your book are springing up faster than vampire sequels. Amanda Hocking has become a kind of folk hero to writers rejected by traditional publishers. E-books promise fortune and fame at 99 cents a book for those prepared to go it alone. But what does it really mean to self publish your book? Many newspapers have a strict policy of not reviewing self published books. Many readers still assume that self published books are badly written (otherwise why wouldn’t anyone publish them?). Most major literary awards shut out self published books at the start by making them ineligible. Many libraries refuse to stock a self published book unless it has had good reviews from a legitimate source. So what does this mean for self published books which are well written, well edited, well designed, and which do not fall into the how-to or self help mainstream or the genre category? How do the self published literary works rise above the bustling sea of popular or commercial writing and get noticed? Without reviews, without awards, without the legitimacy of a traditional publisher – how in the world will these new writers be discovered? I find this an interesting paradox. We are told repeatedly how open, democratic and free the self publishing world is.  Hey, in America, anyone can become the President! Yet the traditional outlets still exert considerable control over what people are actually exposed to, and thus what they might actually read. Newspapers, literary journals, libraries, bloggers, literary awards -- places potential readers look to for new books and authors. So until we gain some legitimacy in the traditional channels, the world of self publishing for certain kinds of writing still has a ways to go. Thoughts?