February, 2003 – I’ve now completed three novels. A year ago, I was fortunate to have all three manuscripts in the hands of three different literary agents, who had asked to see them at the same time. Writing to several agents at the same time is not something that’s generally recommended, but what the hell? The probability of acceptance is small, and so it turned out to be in this case. Nevertheless, the feedback I’m receiving is sufficient to build my confidence and I’m accumulating favourable reviews from a range of readers. In addition, the thesis has been totally re-written into a publishable form, with encouragement from colleagues in Holland, and was accepted for publication last year. The Internet has been a godsend.
Time has to stop when you’re writing. There’s the task at hand, and that is all. So you have no idea of the time, and you tend to forget important things, like eating. I was writing so frantically over Christmas that I didn’t notice that a storage heater had stopped working. The result was frostbite in my fingers, the first time this has ever happened to me when sat at a computer. The stone building I’m living in is like a greenhouse in the summer but gets incredibly cold in the winter, especially when the freezing fog arrives. The cold was causing my Apple Mac to have seizures, so I’ve been migrating stuff to a PC for my health and safety. I’ve not only re-written the thesis but brought it up to date by taking into account the latest research. But there are limits, otherwise you enter a Tristram Shandy situation whereby a book can never be up to date because someone has published new research in the time gap between sending your work to a publisher and its publication, or even during the time you’ve spent adding new material to bring your work up to date. In my case, the publisher has acted promptly. After various transformations and changes of title, my book is finally published as A Multidisciplinary Study of Fiction Writing and I have a complementary copy in my hands, now recovered from frostbite.
The publisher, I find out later, has a reputation for being an author mill, producing a large number of books but in small quantities, and selling mostly to university libraries at a price that students themselves cannot afford. However, I also find that many of the criticisms levelled at the publisher are undeserved and misinformed. It’s true that many of their books deal with obscure topics of interest only to a minority, but that has to be seen in the context of what other academic publishers are up to, such as wanting to publish books that can be integrated easily into existing courses, giving priority to the textbook and the easily marketable, promoting a house style that emphasises the snippet and the sound bite rather than depth, with the result that original research, arising out of a PhD for instance, is extremely difficult if not impossible to get published – even more so if it criticises conventional wisdom and doesn’t correspond with a reviewer’s perspective. Having spent 12 months turning an unreadable thesis into an accessible form, and having written to over 30 academic publishers in the UK and abroad with negative results, I am more than pleased to see the work out in the marketplace.
The book cover (illustrated) incorporates a photograph of James Joyce’s tower, Dublin, taken when I was doing research for a film script based on A Portrait of the Artist, way back in 1986. My book on fiction writing has a long history.
[Book Information: A Multidisciplinary Study of Fiction Writing.]
[Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press.]