I’m planning on reading at least 50 books in 2012. I’ve tried to pick a variety from such diverse categories as ‘the classics’, books I’ve wanted to read for a while, books that everyone is told they’re supposed to read, books that I barely started once but want to give another go, books I was meant to read at university but didn’t due to laziness, recent books that I hear good things about, and books I’ve been recommended by people. Even though it’s probably hard to tell due to my inherently sarcastic tone, I’m excited about doing this!
I’ve crossed books off the list that I’ve read so far this year and I’ll update this as I go. Thank you for your time or whatever.
I’ve also put them all in this list on my Goodreads.
John Green - The Fault In Our Stars Alan Partridge - I, Partridge Markus Zusak - The Book Thief Lloyd Jones – Mister Pip
Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime And Punishment
Patrick McGuiness – The Last Hundred Days
Stephen Kelman – Pigeon English
Julian Barnes – The Sense Of An Ending
Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol
Arthur Conan Doyle – A Study In Scarlet
Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love In The Time Of Cholera
Joe Dunthorne – Submarine
Stephen Chbosky – The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
J. R. R. Tolkein – The Fellowship Of The Ring
J. R. R. Tolkein – The Two Towers
J. R. R. Tolkein – The Return Of The King
David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas
Steig Larsson – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Played With Fire
Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest
Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – Good Omens
Don DeLillo – White Noise
Jeanette Winterson – Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
Tom Wolfe – The Bonfire Of The Vanities
Herman Melville – Moby Dick
Ernest Hemingway – For Whom The Bell Tolls
John Steinbeck – The Grapes Of Wrath
Allen Ginsberg – The Collected Poems (1947-1997)
Bob Dylan – Chronicles, Vol. 1
Carl Sagan – Cosmos
Mario Puzo – The Godfather
Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere
Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene
Stephen Hawking – A Brief History Of Time
Samuel Selvon – The Lonely Londoners
Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness Of Being
Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar
John Le Carre – The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Arundhati Roy – The God Of Small Things
Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man And The Sea
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Hound Of The Baskervilles
Ray Bradbury – Farenheit 451
Phillip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep
Kazuo Ishiguro – The Remains Of The Day
Virginia Woolf – To The Lighthouse
Robert M. Pirsig – Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance
Irvine Welsh – Trainspotting
Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse Five
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
Yann Martel – Life Of Pi
Some books didn’t make it onto the list for whatever reason, it could have been down to any of the following three things:
1. There are over 50 books in the world.
2. I may have already read the book in question.
3. 50 has decided how big a number it is and we should all respect that.
Another email that put a big silly grin on my face came through this week. It had a publication date in it. The 1st of September this year. It’s more real somehow. Then I realised that I hand in the dissertation for my Masters degree the day after, so that’s not really going to work! I’ve been back in touch with the publishers to see whether they can move it back. As I keep saying, they’ve been friendly and flexible so far, so I assume this won’t be an issue.
Having said that, I’ve come up against the first area that they don’t seem flexible about. I had read about disagreements with publishers in all of the other blogs that I read back when I was scouring around for advice on how to get published, and this is probably the first time it’s happened to me, and it ended fairly well. It’s to do with the title - after a few changes and working titles I had settled on A Very Important Book About Mooranity as a title. It was something that reflects the mood of the book and yadda yadda. And even though email exchanges between me and publishers let me know they were concerned and hopeful there was a better title, it was only in the most recent one that they put their foot down. They have informed me that they have decided to go with Cult Fiction as the title. At first the instinct to feel as though they were tampering with something they shouldn’t be washed over me. But as I look at the title written down and think about it on a book cover, and on a book shelf, and on an online book store the more I warm to it. And, to be perfectly honest, it’s way better. At times I wonder whether I’ve been swayed by the fact that these people have agreed to publish my book, but I don’t think that’s true. I genuinely prefer it.
So, in sum, it’s out in September and it’s called Cult Fiction and if you fancied reading it then I suppose that’s up to you.
I got an email through earlier this week from my publishers, and it put a big grin on my face. We had been trying to establish whether I could use a quote from Douglas Adams’ Most Harmless as the Epigraph to my novel. I had wanted to use the quote as soon as the idea for the plot had begun forming in my head a few years back. I think the quote probably helped me along the way, as well as reminding me of the writings of such a genius as Douglas Adams, a big influence on me. It also sums up pretty well the general theme of the book, so that was another reason I wanted it. At the very least, I could guarantee that at least one bit of fantastic writing was between the front and back cover somewhere.
This will now be the epigraph to my novel:
A few villagers wondered why Almighty Bob would send his only begotten Sandwich Maker in a burning fiery chariot rather than perhaps in one that might have landed quietly without destroying half the forest, filling it with ghosts and also injuring the Sandwich Maker quite badly. Old Thrashbarg said that it was the ineffable will of Bob, and when they asked him what ineffible meant, he said look it up.
This was a problem because Old Thrashbarg had the only dictionary and he wouldn’t let them borrow it. They asked him why not and he said that it was not for them to know the will of Almighty Bob, and when they asked him why not again, he said because he said so. Anyway, somebody sneaked into Old Thrashbarg’s hut one day while he was out having a swim and looked up “ineffable”. “Ineffable” apparently meant “unknowable, indescribable, unutterable, not to be known or spoken about.” So that cleared that up.
As far as publishing process stuff goes (as that is supposed to be the idea behind this blog, after all) there’s something to be said about this: I knew permission would have to be attained from the start, but only when drawing up the drafted and completed contract did I find out it was my responsibility to get this permission (I don’t know if that’s the policy with all publishing houses, but it was with mine). It was also established at this stage that there may be a small fee, and that it would also be my responsibility to pay this if it arose. So I decided there and then that I would pursue getting permission and would decide whether I wanted to pay for it if it came to it. More than anything, I didn’t know what ‘small’ meant. I think for me a ‘small fee’ is £2, but for the publishing industry a ‘small fee’ might be £50. I would’ve paid the former, but definitely not the latter. I started pursuing the right people in the publishers that own the rights to the Adams quote to no avail. I kept trying but eventually had to report that no one seemed to be willing to help me out. The publishers did some rooting around and found that the rights had actually transferred to Adams’ estate, and they said they would pursue this for me.
Some time passed and I had forgotten about it, but then the email came through, and it’s funny how different the outcome was to what was agreed at the start. Not only did I not sort out getting permission, but I also didn’t end up paying the fee that there ended up being, the publishers said they would pay. So, I suppose if there’s some kind of vague lesson to pick out of this, maybe it’s ‘there’s normally room for negotiation, and sometimes you don’t have to negotiate at all to get your way’. No, that’s no good, not a very applicable lesson. Perhaps it’s ‘Think Lucky’? Except luck is meaningless. Ok, I’ll go with ‘See how it goes’.
It really has been quite a while since my last post. Things at Uni have become excessively busy and show no sign of stopping any time soon. That’s why it’s a bit strange that, at some point, I’m going to have a book launch to deal with in the middle of all of that. Yep, still no release date, but I feel like things are pushing forward from the publishers’ perspective. Part of that is because I had a proof version of my book sent to me, something that I knew was coming as part of the contract I signed. They have done most of the initial editing as well as dealing with the layout - it actually looks a little bit like a book, which is pretty good. I had trouble deciding my dedication, there were too many people and I hadn’t figured out a collective noun for them all (despite bringing it up in a car journey with some of them and trying to establish a gang name that sounded cool, but not too cool, for our dispositions). So I threw a sentence together that I think summed it up.
But a bubbling issue from the publishers rose to the surface in the email containing the proof copy - they’re still not sure about the title. I changed it from its previous title - The Platinum Staircase - with very little persuasion. I agreed with them, it didn’t really reflect the mood of the book (a bit silly), and sounded more like a fantasy quest or something. So after some thought and a few more working titles, I settled on something that I felt reflected the mood of the book as well as being intertwined with the narrative itself - A Very Important Book About Mooranity. The reason I say it’s intertwined is because of the narrator - he/she (though I think he’s a he) is extremely concerned with getting his message across (even though he does sometimes get a little distracted) and is very keen to point out at various intervals that this is all very, very important. Once I had established the new title, I emphasised this a little more in the narrative during my final few edits, with some more references to how important this all is. And, as the narrator is aware that what he is writing is being read (and, as far as he is concerned, needs to be read) it makes sense that he would choose a title that would sum up nicely exactly what the book is about as well as explaining the imperative nature of its consumption. But, at the same time, people will be a bit confused as to what Mooranity actually is, so that should at least stir a bit of interest. It all comes down to this, I suppose - The publishers are concerned with selling a load of copies (obviously), I am concerned with holding the first copy of my debut novel. This difference in interests is obviously something defining about the publishing industry that I am learning for the first time being a part of it.
Ultimately, though, the publishers that are releasing my book have been very reasonable and friendly. I feel like they have my interests at heart as well as being concerned with getting some sales out of this. And though they have suggested a couple of titles, we have both agreed on the fact that none of them are quite as good as the current one. I’m open to suggestions and ideas, but nothing’s quite reflected the book like the current one. They have said they will be happy to use it if nothing else comes up, and that looks increasingly likely. They’ve also said they’ll decide by the end of the week (which, actually, has passed). So with all of this happening at once, and with the release dates of their other publications being fairly soon, I’m starting to see the release date of mine looming somewhere on the horizon. It’s weird. Just weird. All of this Uni work has taken all of my attention over the past couple of weeks, so any time I have to think about the book is minimal, the part of me thinking about the book is like another person. Like mild schizophrenia.
So, I just thought it best to update the blog as it’s been a while. And when things start to move forward a little, I’ll hopefully have a little more to say. For now, the other part of me that needs to get on with Uni work is becoming impatient, and so I better get him a cup of tea and get on with it.