Reading the sucker punch

Disclaimer: I’d unashamedly accept a heap of money from the right publisher for the right book at the right time. That said, all that glitters is not gold. Indeed, I’ve been reading the sucker punch tales of several ‘once feted, long forgotten’ debut authors…

Each year the dizzying heights of widespread press publicity, large scale profile raising, and big figure payouts are reached by very few, extremely lucky, debut novelists. Yet when the breathless hype has gushed away, in the wink of an eye, many such writers feel more than winded – some having been punched below the belt.

The fighting talk of Charles Bukowski can’t do these unhinged tales justice. Perhaps a closer tone can be culled from the soppy Bond spoof, Casino Royale (1967), in which a poker-faced Orson Welles declaims this memorable, and relevant, line:

“The rose garden is already littered with my victims.”

I’m like millions of people who scrap to free up enough time to do that thing they love, that puts them in the zone, that frees their mind from a million competing thoughts and permits them, even just for a moment, to make the impossible possible by catching the slipstream of tomorrow and surfing what the scientists, wonderfully, call “flow”.

I box my way through the many rounds of draft-research-rewrite (repeat). I bob-and-weave towards what could be declared a ‘full-length’ debut novel. Yet I never get punch drunk. There is never a need for smelling salts – maybe because I have lived enough decades (living), put in the road work (loving), done the hard yards (losing) – or maybe because sobering signposts are ever present if only you look…

Author Gautam Malkani reportedly received over £300,000 about ten years ago for his debut novel, Londonstani. A decade later and his second novel is presently being crowd funded.

Author Louise Walters is another beneficiary of the ‘hyped up pay out’ culture prevalent among publishers that froth over first time novelists. She has recently written, candidly enough, in The Guardian about self-publishing her second book.

“One minute I was a celebrated and successful debut novelist the next I was hurled unceremoniously on to the ever growing scrapheap of authors who are neither big names nor debuts. It’s a lonely place to be.”

Hope springs eternal for debut novelists in draft mode, ditto for myself… yet as in many walks of life it’s concurrently a case of being careful what you wish for…


P.s. Another instalment of my first full-length novel, The Imaginary Coup…The Imaginary Coup (graphic)

By the end of May I’ll have added a final ‘free sample’ instalment of this first draft. Meanwhile I am shifting focus to the final drafting of novella number two in The Feng Trilogy.

So the Coup sampling will extend to about a third, more than a quarter for sure, of the book. It will be available for the foreseeable – free to download – and welcoming of reader comments.

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