This week, I will be going back to my books, at last.
I will be starting re-reading the third draft of I Am a Muse, which will lead to a fourth draft. This is needed before I start the self-publishing process.
Then I will get back to The Book of Thoth. I am aiming at finishing the first draft over the summer, and then hopefully will have completed the book by next December, ready for self-publishing too.
Then I will get started on the third book, Anti, in January 2013.
“And Wild Thing is out there. On the frost-silvered black hillside. I know what he’ll look like; I’ve watched him so many times before. He’ll be a dark shape cut out of the icy ground and the sharp diamond glitter of the freezing stars; sinuous, silent, full of power; a shadow moving this way like thunder creeping over the horizon. You’d never spot him if you didn’t know how to look for him. But I know. I know.
He’s on his way home.
He loves me.”
Thus ends the first chapter of Joolz Denby’s freshly published novel, Wild Thing (Ignite Books).
If there were any justice in this world, then Joolz Denby’s latest novel would win quite a few literary prizes. It would be taught at GCSE and A-Levels, and would find its way into the English, Sociology and Philosophy departments of our universities around the country, and beyond. Wild Thing has captured the Zeitgeist of our times with razor-sharp precision, but with poetry and humour thrown in, with just, maybe, a dash of supernatural. And Rock’n’Roll. Loads of it. It will make you sing – there are actual songs in it!
Wild Thing is a work that started its life as a “literary virus”. About two years ago, award-winning novelist, poet, artist, tattooist, band manager Joolz announced that she was giving away her new novel for free because Wild Thing had been “turned down by publishers both in the UK & US on the grounds that though 'beautifully written' it is not 'in genre' and therefore cannot be 'marketed' - also that it is 'too harsh for the modern reader'. I would ask whoever gets it to pass it on & ask those whom they send it to to pass it on to people they think might like to read it and so on and so on - a kind of benign literary virus. However, if you don't like it and think your friends would not be interested, that's also fine, just delete it.”
I jumped at the opportunity and was one of the privileged people who were able to read the novel then. I read it in about two days, fascinated, overwhelmed.
Now it is back in “proper” book form, published by indie publisher Ignite Books, a small press launched as an act of defiance by Joolz and accomplice Steve Pottinger.
And you know what? It was even better the second time. I wouldn’t recommend reading it on the train unless, like me, you go from one terminus to another. You’d miss your station.
To quote one of Joolz’s sentences in this very novel “it is the book of the year because it’s so raw and powerful and cutting-edge.” It is all that and more. But I will not reveal too much of the story here, because it would spoil the experience.
There is so much in this book that it would probably take too long to list all the recognisable elements in it. What there is, though, is a cracking gallery of grotesque characters – comedian Phill Jupitus, in a short review of the book, correctly mentioned Dickens – from Annie Wynter’s horrifying “respectable” family to the corrupt politicians, the drugged up rock stars, the weak box-ticking civil servants and the pathetic, self-destructive underclass. The baby P case, the media circus, our revolted fascination for feral children, celebrity culture, our rabid voyeurism, but also our craving for love – this book is so full of LOVE that it could possibly bring the pages to spontaneously combust –and stability, companionship, relevance, recognition: it is all in the book, cleverly rearranged and weaved together, beautifully and vibrantly written. You can feel Joolz’s passion for her book, it burns the pages. Her prose is feverish, flowing and so very much alive.
Wild Thing is gripping, haunting stuff. It plays with your emotions at an alarming rate. One paragraph you could be laughing out loud, then further down the page, you freeze with terror and gasp in disgust).
Let me just say this: this is an important book. Not a self-important book, but one that concentrates the essence of the grotesque society we live in and of the ridiculously vapid and arrogant race us humans have become; our illusion of civilisation built on feet of clay.
Reading Wild Thing is like holding up a mirror to society, you know, one of those fabled mirrors that only reflect the real you, the one that shows the decaying, rotten bits beneath all that controlled, glossy, smooth surface. Or, on the contrary – and most certainly in the case of the book’s central and gutsy character, Annie Wynter – the magic mirror would find the beauty beneath the seemingly unpolished surface.
It’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” revisited, with Adam, (one of) the Wild Thing(s) of the title, acting as our portrait:
“Adam was the beast that lives in all our hearts, in our brains, the primitive creature we distanced ourselves from in order to be civilised, to eat pallid, cold meat we buy in Sainsbury’s, to go through ridiculous mating rituals and get married dressed in ludicrous outfits, to kill our enemies at a safe distance by pushing buttons and raining Hell down on them from a satellite. We didn’t eat raw, steaming meat straight from the kill, fuck anything we could catch, fight hand-to-hand or stink of our unreasonable selves anymore. We were nice. We were proper little ladies and gents. Weren’t we?
Adam was the man-beast […] Beware the man whose eyebrows meet in the middle – he’ll do more than break your heart, he’ll eat it. The loco lobisón that is a shapeshifting terror red in tooth and claw, the mark of the beast burning in his hands plain as the carnage he leaves in his howling wake. The most primeval of demons, the most feared of all the echoes of our long crawl into the light. He must be eradicated, or we acknowledge where we came from, which would never do. They wouldn’t spare him if they caught him. And me? Oh, my God – they’d throw away the key.
I was a traitor, the wilful betrayer of civilisation; the anti-mother, the False Maria. Anathema.”
A word of warning though. The last few pages will leave you numb for a while, and stay with you for a long, long time.
After you’ve finished it, Wild Thing will be gnawing at your minds and will make you rethink your nature, the world around you. You will have the impression you’ve been through Heaven and Hell and made it back in one piece – apparently.
You’ll take sides and make up your own mind as to what you think is right and wrong, if there are such things.
Would you choose passion or self-preservation? Annie has chosen, and in the end, she is vindicated.
In a way.
Because as always, there is a price to pay.
Can you hear me clap?
Bravo, and Encore!
To get your copy of Wild Thing go HERE
Tracy Chevalier's talk at the National Portrait Gallery was rather fascinating. The author explained how she found inspiration in visual works of art for most of her novels: the French tapestries for the Lady and the Unicorn, William Blake's work - Blake appears as a character in my personal favourite Burning Bright - I took my copy of the book to get signed by Tracy!, Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring, the haunting splendour of the vaults in Highgate Cemetery for Fallen Angels, American quilts for her work in progress...
Of course, she talked about Imagined Lives and explained the process she went through to write her two very short stories for the exhibition.
Tracy Chevalier speaks well about her working methods and has a burning passion for art and writing. I could have sat there for hours, just listening to her. I have read all her books, and all of them are different, but written with the same attention to detail and love for her craft.
I myself am a very visual writer, as you can see from the images in The Book of Thoth section of this website. My first novel, I Am a Muse, is about a painter and his muse, and every detail of the book is still vivid in my mind.
Most scenes start as a movie in my head and find their way - not always easily - to the page.
Hearing an experienced writer like Ms Chevalier talk about the difficulties of transcribing the images in your head into words on the page felt really familiar to me. Writing is such a fascinating craft, a slow burning, all-encompassing one...
And I am still just an apprentice, even though I have been writing since the age of 5...
It was a real privilege to be there.
This Thursday, I will be going to the National Portrait Gallery to attend a talk by author Tracy Chevalier. I have read all of Chevalier's books and I have loved all of them.
She will be speaking about the small exhibition that's on at the Gallery at the moment, Imagined Lives, which consists of "fourteen portraits of people whose identities are uncertain." Authors such as Julian Fellowes, Terry Pratchett and Joanna Trollope have written short texts describing the (imagined) lives of the sitters.
That's something I really enjoy as a writer: putting together imagined lives, creating people out of scratch, giving them an appearance, an experience, a personality... I have all of them in my head, as well as all the settings, places, objects... I am a very visual writer and always work from images, even drawing my characters on paper!
I cannot wait to get back to The Book of Thoth. My characters have been waiting for me to pick up the pen again (well, the keyboard most of the time) and have been left sitting around a big dinner table in 1925 for the past three months! Bet you they hate each other by now... Hang on, most of them do already!
It's simply wonderful. Beautiful, funny, poignant, inventive, thrilling, uplifting... and yet so simple!
It's truly fabulous.
I am a lover of old movies who has read a lot on the birth of Hollywood... This was bliss. The actors are perfect, including the cute dog (and no, Michel Hazanavicius, it is not only because of the dog, as mignon as he is!).
Go. You'll feel better afterwards (and, like us, you'll want to see it again immediately!)
I haven't been writing a lot on here lately as I have been really busy, what with a lot of freelance work, an interview in London, more work, trying to finish off Joolz Denby's Wild Thing so I can write a review (when on earth will I find the time to write it?)...
I think about my books all the while and don't seem to find any time to spend on them, what a disaster! It has been three months without writing a line, now... Shameful, really!
So this blog will not be updated as much as I'd like in the next few weeks;
I will still try and do a review of Wild Thing on here in the next two weeks, because it is one of the best books ever - a masterpiece - while starting to read Christopher Fowler's Hell Train (I will try for a little review of this too!).
I will do my best to keep up with the blog as I enjoy writing it so much... Keep coming back, you never know what you might find...
Today, I will be away from my desk and will be seeing The Artist and then Christopher Fowler in Foyles... (See BLOG HERE) A bit of culture does you good!
OMG! The Guardian have just discovered the 20s!
I have had a Louise Brooks bob for the best part of the past 15 years (if not longer... er. Wait. 1997, actually, so yes, that's 15 years!) and adopted the 20s look ages ago. I love Art Deco, silent movies, the visuals, the culture... Women were bloody alluring, in a gamine, slightly androgynous yet ultra feminine way. Ambiguity is always attractive... Louise Brooks and Clara Bow embodied the new, independent, determined, individual woman of the era.
With the 20s look, it was not about being gorgeous/pretty but interesting, mysterious and darkly seductive. It is perfect for small yet athletic bodies, with narrow hips and small breasts (so far away from the ghastly looks that are "in" now!). So completely not on trend and therefore interesting... Of course, you still had the ingénues, like Lillian and Dorothy Gish and Mary Pickford... Lillian Gish is a firm favourite of mine (ever since I read her biography - she was such an amazing person!), but she never adopted the "flapper" look and stayed strangely Edwardian looking: delicate, doll-like, the picture of innocence and purity.
Let's see how many people follow the trend like sheep.
I was there first! :-)
Maeve Hayward, one of the characters of my novel The Book of Thoth, is partially based on Louise Brooks
My sample chapters and synopsis (still been trying for I Am a Muse) have just arrived back from an independent publisher to whom I had sent them back in September.
For the first time since I've started sending to literary agents/indie publishers, I got a *very small* bit of feedback, saying that my "story is exciting and beautifully written [...] I believe there is a market for this type of work."
Then of course, they go on saying that they would not take my book, which is fair enough as it would probably not make them much money...
I will not be sending the book to agents/publishers now until it is self-published, and then I might think about it again...
I think therefore I write.
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