Wednesday, 20 April 2011
I’m a big fan of novel approaches to any genre. Any author who looks at the accepted conventions and promptly marches sideways will catch my interest if they do it well. Gene Doucette has managed this with the fantasy genre in his novel Immortal.
The premise itself is interesting enough; Adam, the main protagonist happens to be something in the region of sixty-thousand years old, his memories stretch so far back through human history that even he has trouble recalling his origins, but in the twenty-first century, with its obsessive need to keep track of everyone, his immortality can prove more tricky to conceal. The casual sarcasm and grounded pragmatism make for an accessible character, even when he’s recounting events from centuries before, but as the story progresses we begin to learn a lot more about human history and the strange creatures from which our myths originated.
Gene has been promoting the novel largely through social networking, both as himself, @genedoucette and as the main character Adam, @adamtheimmortal on twitter and through his website. This is increasingly becoming an attractive method for indie authors to promote their work, but it takes a lot of hard work, especially if you choose to write as your main character as well as yourself. This blog slot has allowed me to put a few questions to Gene about Immortal and his writing.
A great deal of the story is a first-hand account of the past. Did you have to do a lot of research?
Not terribly much. I’ve read my share of history books, so for details I just had to go to my own bookshelf and flip through a book or two to get the information I needed. For example, Barbara Tuchman is almost entirely responsible for the plague-era France story. And when I needed an extra bit of information, there was always Google. It’s also useful having the story told in first-person; I only need to provide the details Adam feels like imparting.
How similar are you and Adam? Is he “you”?
You mean is he a “Mary Sue” for me? I don’t think he is. On the one hand I have coworkers who insist Adam is me, but they only get my sarcasm, dark humor, and the occasional bitter email, and that’s pretty much the same place Adam comes from. On the other hand my wife doesn’t like Adam, so if he’s me we have a problem.
Adam is fully capable of murder if he thinks it’s necessary; he’s mildly chauvinistic; and he’s an alcoholic. I hardly drink, I don’t think I’m a chauvinist (but who does?) and according to the first appellate court, it wasn’t murder. (Joke! Laugh now!) We share a sense of humor because while it’s possible to create a character that is smarter than you are, it’s not possible to create one that’s funnier than you are. And we’re both INTJ personalities. So I’d say we’re similar, but not the same person; we keep separate Twitter feeds, and you can tell us apart.
Is novel writing all you do?
It’s just what I’m doing currently. I have at one time or another been a playwright, a humor columnist, an op-ed writer, a satirist, a blogger, and a screenwriter. And for a short period of time, a standup comic. I mostly concentrate on screenwriting, blogging and novel writing nowadays. And I don’t even think of blogging as writing; it’s more like what I do when I’m not writing a screenplay or a novel.
When did screenwriting come into the picture?
Immortal had a long dark journey to publication, and there was a point—my agent had just dropped me after not being able to find a place for it, and had passed on my next novel Fixer—when I decided I needed to try something different. A friend of mine who had known me first as a humor writer but was aware of my playwriting background dragged me to a meeting of the Rhode Island Film Collaborative. I left that meeting thinking screenwriting might be fun. A few months later I had turned an old novel of mine (Charlatan, which came before Immortal) into a feature script. I’ve since gotten involved in a number of short film projects and Charlatan has won a few awards. It hasn’t been optioned, but that might be because I don’t live in Los Angeles, frankly.
Immortal offers a flavour of a new form of urbanised fantasy that eschews any direct references to magic while toying with the standard perceptions of the genre. If you aren’t normally a big fantasy follower, but want something written with imagination, or you do like the genre but just fancy a refreshing change from the usual fare, then Immortal is worth checking out.
It’s available from a number of online distributors in ebook format, but paper copies can only be obtained from the US Amazon site.
Friday, 1 April 2011
A new virus-form has been detected, infecting ebooks available for download onto the Kindle or reader-apps on Android based devices. The virus, dubbed the Hemmingway Virus after the Nobel prizewinning author Ernest Hemmingway, has already found its way undetected onto numerous devices after being unwittingly downloaded from Amazon and other sites distributing ebooks.
A spokesman for Amazon stated ‘Last night we were made aware that a number of ebooks had become infected with the Hemmingway strand. We are currently taking steps to identify which have been affected and deal with them as we find them.’
No reports of any Hemmingway affected books have been made yet for Apple’s ipad, but it is believed to be only a matter of time. In a statement Apple have said that they ‘are monitoring the situation’. Waterstones have also said that they are concerned that the Hemmingway strand may have already found its way into printed material, though so far they are playing down any rumours that Hemmingway books may have made it onto the shelves.
The Hemmingway virus exploits a feature in ebooks using the Iceberg theory as well as the economy of style loophole. Though no antivirus software is made for the Kindle, Amazon are working on a patch for the system that will provide additional verbosity in any infected titles. In the meantime it is believed that they have a large number of writers working round the clock to address the problem. If you are concerned that you may have inadvertently downloaded an ebook affected by Hemmingway, literary experts have advised that it may be identified by the following method:
1. Open the ebook and read the first page, then jump to page 100 (or a page near the middle of the book), and read that page also.
2. Check the meaning of the text, is there any evidence of understatement?
3. Now check the way the sentences are constructed on each, do the sentences show signs of succinct editing, the removal of redundant clauses, overused phrases or adverbs?
4. Is the style compelling, does it make you want to read on?
If the answers are all yes, then you most likely have an ebook that has been affected by Hemmingway. So far, the only method proven to deal with a book that has been affected by Hemingway, is to read it through from beginning to end and then put up a post advising friends and colleagues to do the same.