Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Back Story

Long ago, says David Isaak, at least as time is measured in the blogosphere, I posted on the subject of unpublished works and the number of unpublished novels many well-known writers had piled up before they published their debut novel.

What, he asks his readers, do we have in our trunks, or our drawers? And, yes, he does acknowledge that unsold writing is ‘apparently always stored somewhere synonymous with points south of your navel.’

So, what’s in my nether regions?

Novel one – Making History – a non-murder crime story featuring a police officer protagonist and a historical element based in the Rebecca Riots (a theme I’ve returned to in the wip, see below). The agent who read it said that she wasn’t sure I was really a crime writer and that the book was more concerned with other things. I think that was very astute of her.

Novel Two – Hugo’s Words – a novel for teenagers about a boy (the eponymous Hugo) who has invented his own language and whose disaffected brother convinces a television celebrity that Hugo has – through some kind of spiritual contact – channeled a native American language lost to science in to the modern world.
Yes, I know…

Novel Three – Hearts and Minds – a homeless girl accuses a vicar of paying her for sex. The son of the psychiatrist who treats the vicar is, quite separately, drawn to spend time with a homeless youth, the best friend of the girl in question.
Much angst ensues. One of the publishers who read the novel (sent by an agent I had briefly persuaded to represent me) said that the psychiatrist (who I allowed to intrude into the action, erroneously as it turns out) emoted so much that if there was any more angst she would bite her own leg off, or words to that effect. She was right. Though I still think that the teenagers in the book were strong.

Novel Four – Testament. My MNW debut novel. Originally called Toby for reasons that will immediately be obvious to anybody who has read it.

Novel Five – the only novel I’ve ever abandoned unfinished. It’s also unnamed. Another children’s book, this time the beginning of a trilogy. Essentially a semi-supernatural quest novel but including a twins-separated-at-birth theme and a grandmother-granddaughter relationship which, I have realised (by reading my own writing) is a major preoccupation for me.

Novel Six – the work in progress. Details scattered here and there on the blog and on my website.

I’ve returned to the theme of book one in the work in progress in the sense that it concerns the Rebecca Riots in West Wales in the 1840s and an incoming entrepreneur in the present day who wants to set up a historical visitor attraction based on the riots. These two central ideas are the same, the rest of the book is totally different.

I’d quite like to return to the central premise of Hearts and Minds at some stage as I feel I’d do the idea more justice now, but we shall see.

As for Hugo’s Words. I really liked it but never attempted to get it published as everybody at the time told me that there was no market for teenage fiction.

Given the varied works outlined, it always feels weird referring to the wip as ‘my second novel’ and I sometimes qualify this with reference to the distinction between writing and publication.

Publication, unless you’re Faye L. Booth it's a long road.


KAREN said...

It's funny because I've noticed a preoccupation with grandmother/granddaughter relationships in my own writing - probably because my own grandmother was such a strong influence growing up. Maybe you should revive that one, but the others sounded good too!

Alis said...

Thanks Karen! It's interesting what we learn about ourselves by reading our own writing, isn't it?

David Isaak said...

Hugo's Words actually sounds fascinating--it's a marvelous premise.

On the other hand, it's not what we would expect as a follow-on from the writer of "Testament."

Glad to see someone else has the same problem I do (being all over the map in terms of genre, that is.) Pen-name time!