Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Before Hell Freezes Over

I need to explain something.

Late last year, the person who had kindly offered to edit my books had to tend to other matters. The job of editing fell back into my lap and I had no idea just how painful and time-consuming the task would be. Sometimes I have had to spend over an hour on a single page and when two of the three books number over 500 pages, that's an awful lot of time I have to scrape together.

Even though the book was finished, the work is not. Editing has led to a battalion of changes for which I had not planned. I have changed the names of a number of characters (including the tale's protagonist). I have also changed the name of the world in which the Caliban's End saga is set - it's no longer Terra. That's a lot of individual changes.

Editing is hard. You wouldn't wish it upon an enemy or a real estate agent. Squeezing the task into the small spaces that exist between work, family, friends and other stuff has been a wee bit challenging. This is the business end of the project and to be honest, it's the least interesting part.

So, if you have been able to sustain even a modicum of interest in this avocation o' mine, thanks for your curiosity - it is appreciated.

I have written a preface to the first book. FYI, it's below.

Caveat Emptor
(or 'Danger, Will Robinson!')

A Preface

Perhaps 'Preface' is the wrong word for it. Forewarning seems more appropriate. Please indulge me as I make one or two comments before your boots get muddy in the world of Caliban's End.

First of all, a confession. This trilogy was not written to be popular fiction. It breaks most of the conventions of popular fiction and ignores most of the sage advice given by writers who know a lot more about the craft than I do. This is not a book that is designed to be a best-seller. It won't pay off my mortgage any time soon.

This begs the question - why spend so much time on something that won't make bags of money?

The simple answer is that financial gain is not the only motivating force in the universe. These books have been a hobby and I have enjoyed writing them as a hobby. Whilst I did not play by the rules in terms of structure, length, number of characters etc. I did follow one piece of advice - write the book you want to write. This advice rests on the premise that there will be others out there in shadowy corners of the globe who are similarly enamoured by a particular approach to writing.

So in that context, I have succeeded. I think I've written the sort of book I would enjoy.

So what does that mean? Let me explain.

I've read The Lord of the Rings books three times. I've read Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter series twice. I've read Peake's Gormenghast novels three times each. As a child I even read the Finn Family Moomintroll series at least five times over. And in all cases, I found myself wishing for more. In my mind, I would expand the universe, follow the paths of characters who were only glimpsed at in the main narrative. For example, in The Fellowship of the Ring, whatever happened to Radagast? I wanted to follow his journey further but could only do so in the form of conjecture.

Caliban's End
is a little different. The world is made a little larger to accommodate the tales of ancillary characters. The first book What Lies Beneath spends some time in exploring the lives of a range of characters including lesser players (some of whom - unfortunately - do not make it to the end of the trilogy). A critic might dismiss this as undisciplined writing. Perhaps it is. But I wanted to properly explore this world I have invented and occasionally that meant I would stray down little laneways that led away the central narrative.

This perambulation means that the reader has to walk a long and twisted path - it is a demanding read. At times, there are more characters on the page than is probably necessary, but I am reluctant to remove them to make the book more accessible. The non-linear structure of the writing may annoy some readers, but I did not want to dumb things down in order to create a book that could be easily enjoyed in an airport lounge. I revelled in creating a dense, intricate world. Some may dislike the novels as a result, some may find them convoluted and some may put the first book down having struggled to get up the rock-face in the first chapter. But it is my hope that there are a few individuals who are captivated by it. The internet allows me to throw my net widely and there is a chance I might snag one or two readers who want to get lost in the stories of the people I follow in these tales.

I hope you will be one such person.