There’s an old adage about under-promising and over-delivering and it applies to many things including books. The back cover blurb calls Chasing the Ace “a fast and funny novel with an ending you won’t see coming”. The front cover endorsement from a semi-famous Australian comedian says, “It will fool you, and you will love it.” I’m sure you can anticipate the problem I’m about to outline and that is that the marketing makes promises that the novel doesn’t keep.
When we first start writing fiction, we do it because it’s fun, because we enjoy it, because it allows us to create and exist in worlds and amongst people that we are unlikely to ever encounter in our real lives. Sometimes that includes worlds and people we would never want to meet in real life.
It’s often only when others start reading our fiction that analysis begins and labels are bandied about. Genres are so varied and specific these days that there is almost always one to suit anything that is being written. And if there isn’t, we create new ones.
Beyond genre, though, there are three categories into which everyone’s writing will fall. They are categories that when we are writing we don’t think much about. But our writing will inevitably fall into one or snugly somewhere between two. Those three categories are realism, escapism and absurdism.
I’m going to outline a scenario. See if it sounds familiar. You’re reading an article, a very personal article, a confessional of sorts from someone who has had something go very wrong in their life. It’s moving. It might even be heartbreaking. And it’s taken something beyond courage to write the piece and allow it to be published.
And then beneath it is a small line in italics that tells you the author of the piece currently has a book available for sale.
For anyone who thinks they know what picking up a Hugh Howey book will mean, The Shell Collector is the novel that will prove you wrong. There are small elements of similarity with his best-selling and acclaimed Wool series but disappointingly not enough.
There are probably a number of writers out there who think (and hope) it’s only a matter of time (and getting your writing in front of the right person) before the transition will begin from aspiring author to actual auteur. They might be right or they might be a long way off.
Once an author has achieved a level of success, it’s often too late to give any advice, especially if that success has gone straight to their head. So here’s a few important things to remember aimed at the almost famous author to help avoid becoming an asshole (as famous people so often do).
Not surprisingly, this blog is usually all about me. But frequent readers will know I begin every week by posting a book review. I’m a big reader, primarily of longer fiction, although I will slot in a novella every now and then when I’m coming off a previous longer read or when I’m asked to (most recently, Tracy Cembor’s Gaslight Carnival).
Some might ask why a blog that is ostensibly all about me and my writing should so prominently feature reviews of the writing of others (and sometimes even just the writing of others as guest posts).
Mo Hayder is for the most part one of Britain’s top crime writers – they sure know how to breed crime writers in the UK – and while I’ve read most of her books centred on the characters of Jack Caffery and Flea Marley, it is the standalone Tokyo (published in some territories as The Devil of Nanking) that has stayed with me long after I finished reading it.
I first read it in 2004 and although I rated it 5 stars in 2012 when I first joined Goodreads, I didn’t write a review, feeling it was too long ago to do it proper justice. I recently included it in my top ten books blog post and decided it was time to re-read it and post a review.