The word is even pejorative in most literary circles.
I can’t believe it. Especially in light of what I wrote BACK HERE on how much Stephen King’s The Talisman meant to me.
So I decided. I am on a quest to BRING BACK DIDACTICISM. Sure, there are clumsy, awful ways to do it, but there are also wonderful, subtle, genuinely life-changing, genuinely world-changing ways to do it.
If you’re a writer, there’s nothing more worthwhile you can do than teach your readers something real.
Well, no matter what happens, I’m going to push the merits of didacticism until the wheels fall off.
Just a quick one – I’m super busy right now but I thought I’d drop you all a line to say that, unfortunately, the book deal died.
So close to the finish line!
It was a couple of weeks ago now that Royal James Publishing announced they were closing up shop, effective immediately. I guess I should have seen it coming: other publications went to print with mistakes; I frequently had to correct factual information regarding my own book; the NOVEL I reviewed tells a story of its own of the kind of publishing house that would represent it.
But I was willing to let all of this go, everything of which I slowly became aware, because they were going to put my work out there. That fact came to mean less and less as I saw the quality of some of the other stuff they published, but still . . . it was an important milestone for me.
On the other hand, the milestone hasn’t disappeared – it’s where it always was: in front of me.
I’ve got what I believe to be one of my best works slowly (oh, so painfully slowly) taking shape, and the optimist in me says that this one, this one for sure, is going to be read by more people than myself and my long-suffering friends.
A story with potential, inexpertly handled by a heavy-handed and condescending author.
I was recently lucky enough to be handed an advanced reader copy of Steen Jones’ “The Door Keeper”. It’s the first book of a trilogy that will span worlds and – if the epilogue is anything to go by – generations. It is, unfortunately, hounded by the jarring and relentlessly middle-class voice of the author.
For those of you thinking my second sentence was a spoiler, worry not: the entire book is a spoiler. Each metaphor is spoiled by the painstaking explanation that follows it – just in case you aren’t bright enough to get it on your own. Each instance of symbolism is dissected, for readers who are unable to recognise it without help. I’m not exaggerating:
“Storm clouds rolled in. They were thick, dark, and ominous. I couldn’t help but feel like it symbolized the oncoming shift in my life.”
But then Ms Jones throws around specific dress vocabulary as if everyone should know what a “light cream, flowing maxi dress with spaghetti straps and a semi-plunging neckline” is.
Jones has the ability to create scenes like this one:
“I heard my name called behind me, and the figure before me broke into a million pieces and floated away. Tiny, silver pieces, as thin as paper. They flew through the last remaining sun’s rays, like pieces of ash. I watched, painfully, as the memory of her floated across the lake until I could no longer see the tiny particles.”
As we travel across both the world we know and through others of Ms Jones’ creation, several of these paragraphs pop up. They paint really quite visceral images of what the author no doubt sees in her own head, but I was constantly jolted out of these worlds and back into my sitting room by the intrusion of Ms Jones herself. It feels strange to read words like ‘ginormous’ and ‘tizzy’ used without a hint of irony. At one point, she uses not one, or even two, but three questions marks.
In a row.
And yet, a distinctive voice is important. Authors without one are never truly loved, and always quickly forgotten. But there has to be a balance. There has to be a balance between genre and the author. This is a modern fantasy novel, but I don’t get that sense of wonder and surprise that people who read this genre expect. Instead, I feel only the naivety of the author – the same naivety of a middle-aged book club truly believing their pseudo-intellectual “insights” are original or even worthwhile.
Should a first novel appear naive? I’m not qualified to answer that question, I think, as I have yet to publish a novel. If and when I do, Jones is welcome to read it and tear it to pieces.
It was a few months ago I got handed this advance reader copy of a debut book by Steen Jones called The Door Keeper. It was published last month by Royal James and has a rather pretty cover:
That’s really pretty, right?
Unfortunately, it became pretty clear pretty early that this wasn’t going to be my book. The thing was, my review was supposed to coincide with the launch of the book, and since my review was bound to be critical, it was more likely to kill buzz than create it.
I wondered what I should do. I toyed with the idea of simply lying, but quickly threw it out. Next I thought about selecting the best parts and focussing only on them, but that was too dishonest for me as well. My whole philosophy of writing is honesty: “Write what you feel.”
And how did I feel? I felt like nobody had proof read the book at all. It was full of mistakes. Even for an advance reader copy, it was overflowing with them. I felt like Ms Jones had been far too eager to get herself published without taking the time to develop her skills. And I felt that Royal James – instead of a publishing contract – should have given her that time.
In the end, I buried my review but I didn’t delete it. I had a feeling the right time would come – and I believe it has. For clarity, I’ll let this post serve as an introduction, and then upload the review separately. The book has been released, and my book – from the same publisher – is on its way, so its time to put my money where my mouth is.