Its simply ridiculous how I can string thousand upon thousand of words together to create a story, but ask me what my book is about and I instantly become incoherent. It’s nearly a year since I released my first novel, When Rosa Came Home, and I still haven’t mastered the Elevator Pitch. As an indie author, its crucial that I learn how to effectively promote my work – even when put on the spot.
Some of you may have already deduced that I love Dangerous and Difficult Books. The type of books that challenges the reader, in both style and matter. They say that writers should write books that they themselves would like to read. Unfortunately, my novel is neither dangerous or difficult. In fact it’s quite ridiculous. Truly, it’s a ridiculous little book, if I do say so myself. In fact I have said that many times. Even to people ‘in the biz’. Probably not an effective marketing pitch. Such a jagged response; more escalator than elevator.
When asked “what’s your book about”, having the author laugh and call it ridiculous is probably a tad off-putting. I know I’ve already put potential readers off buying my book, and industry professionals from bothering to crack open their complimentary copy. Is it just nerves? Lack of confidence or a off-shoot of introversion? Or another bane of the self-effacing creative? Yes, a little. However, after pondering my (lack of) sales pitch further, I realised that my book is indeed ridiculous. And I’m proud to call it so.
For in addition to Dangerous and Difficult Books, I remembered my love of Ridiculous Books. Like many adults, I have fond memories of reading the works of those most skilled in the ridiculous. And as a parent I shared with my offspring the wonders of the likes of Lewis Carroll, Dr Seuss, Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl. Stories that were absurdly entertaining, delightfully whimsical, and profoundly meaningful. They were ridiculous stories, written by authors brave enough to be truly creative. And still they explored real life issues, in language suitable for all ages, without becoming moralistic.
Having written my novel during yet another difficult time in my life, I purposely created a story that steered away from violence, sex, and dark sides of humanity. Instead, influenced by both the playfulness of the above mentioned authors, as well as the rich prose of other favourites from my past, I had indeed created a book that I would like to read. A delightfully ridiculous book. From the works of the writers of my adolescence (such as DH Lawrence, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Vladimir Naborokov, Francine Prose and Gustave Flaubert), I had developed a healthy reverence for prose. An appreciation of rich descriptions of place, measured character development, complex relationships, and a story that unfolds at a leisurely pace. More than that, I discovered both the power and beauty of words. As a person with dyslexia, discovering the world of literature, after a painfully faltering start to reading, is indescribable.
Anyway, I digress…..back to my ridiculous book. So nearly one year after publication, I have realised that my novel is a ridiculous little book. And I couldn’t be happier. Its set in a nice-enough place, with nice-enough people. However, through the use of wonderful words (delicious verbs, adjectives and….yes Mr Stephen King….adverbs), transformations are possible. Almost magically (well, more a dash of magic realism as opposed to magic) the setting blossoms. (Yes, I said blossoms. Read the book, and you will agree that it’s an apt description.) And more importantly, the cracks of a family, who had shattered into the mundane, are mended. And the adrift lives of the secondary characters are anchored to kin and place. Even villains and foes are treated kindly.
It’s all very nice, really. Who doesn’t like a happy ending? Children’s stories have them, as well as generous scatterings of magic and absurdity. So why can’t we? And, like my favourite children’s stories, as well as in the tradition of folk-tales globally, my story touches on a few topical issues. However it is done so lightly that most readers won’t even notice the hint of Dangerous amongst the Difficult. Sneaky, heh.
It would appear that I am not the only one who yearns for children’s tales (sans fairies and mythical creatures) for adults. Without my knowing, a reader entered When Rosa Came Home into a literary competition. As its been short-listed for a People’s Choice Award in the 2015 South Australian Readers and Writers Festival, it would appear that ridiculous little books do have a valid place on the bookshelf.
Just knowing that other readers connect to my story gives me warm-fuzzies. Perhaps others also yearn for alternatives to commercially popular books. Maybe they are also seeking less action and suspense; more description of place; lots of lovely words, including adverbs (it’s not a dirty word, really). Could it be time for Ridiculous Books? I hope so.