Thursday, 30 September 2010

Why I Write for the Mormon Market

As I write this I am appearing as the featured author on the Walnut Springs blog. ( As you'll see, I answered some questions about myself, sent in some photographs, and wrote a piece about "Why I Write". (Believe me, it's not for the money.)

I was pretty honest and said that the reason I initially started writing for the LDS market was because I was hoping to get a foot-in-the-door with "real" publishers. My problem was this: If you write a novel and send it to a publisher, or an agent, the chances are they won't even read it. Almost certainly they will simply reply with a standard rejection letter. Various journalists have tested this theory by sending in the text of Booker Prize winning novels or literary classics, only to have them rejected by the oblivious acqusitions editor.

For a new writer, it's extremely difficult to get published because you don't get taken seriously. You're a new commodity, an unknown, and even as the market was in 1998 (when I started writing seriously), publishers are very wary of investing in unknowns.

My theory was that if I could get a book or two published in the fairly small, niche and friendly LDS market then I could send my Magnum Opus to a "real" publisher or agent with a covering letter explaining how both my previous books had been bestsellers in their genre (I would probably fail to mention that that genre was religious fiction) and I had received armfuls of accolades and floods of fan mail. Maybe then they'd take me seriously enough to actually read my manuscript.

In 2002 the time was right. Both my books had made the Deseret Book top ten, and I had received accolades and fanmail. It was the ideal time for me to make my assault on the "real" publishers.

And yet I then wrote four more manuscripts for the LDS market, Christmas at Haven, Landscape in Oils, Honeymoon and Easterfield. Why? Had I had a crisis of confidence? Abandoned my ambition?

It wasn't even a conscious decision, I think. Looking back, I suspect I just found I liked the LDS market and felt comfortable writing the sort of thing my established fans wanted to read. Maybe I recognised that whatever talent I had was God-given and I owed Him a little more back before I exploited it for personal glory.

Perhaps too, I realised that I couldn't write certain explicit scenes which are expected in the national market. I take the view that intimate behaviour should always remain private between the (married) couple concerned, even when that couple is fictional, and I refuse to write anything I wouldn't want my children, or my parents, to read. As I've complained here before, most mainstream books are expected to be peppered with sex scenes.

I also believe that LDS literature is as good as anything in the national market. In Stephanie Black, Kerry Blair, Robison Wells, Chris Heimerdinger and many others, the LDS market can hold its head high and I am proud to be associated with it and share shelf space with such talent. Stephenie Meyer, the most successful author since JK Rowling, is LDS.

The LDS fiction market is an exciting place to be right now. Jennie Hansen wrote an excellent article on how it has changed in recent years ( and it continues to develop with LDS publishers now looking to break into the general market with clean, quality literature which is moral but not religious. I want to be part of that.

I haven't forgotten my ambition. I am currently writing a fantasy novel which I will market to UK agents in due course. But I love the LDS market and an happy and proud to be part of it.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Winter Woes

I've just learned that my next book, as yet untitled, is due to be published in February 2011. That's really good news, partly because it gives me something to look forward to during the long dark winter months.

I hate winter. After Christmas, there really doesn't seem any point in it being so cold and wet and dark. We've already passed the Autumn Equinox and our heating goes on next week, so winter is coming. But ever the optimist, I'm trying to think of things I do like about this time of year.
  • No wasps, flies, fleas, maggots or other general nasty creepy-crawlies making the cat bowl smell bad or scaring the children.
  • Being able to have warm, dry towels in the bathroom, courtesy of the radiator.
  • Good stuff on TV. The winter schedule is so much better than the summer offerings.
  • Christmas. I love it so much I'm already halfway through the Christmas shopping.
  • Dreaming of the day when I won't have to face winter again. Roderic and I plan to be snowbirds during our retirement, with a winter residence in Florida.
  • Not having to mow the lawn or, in a similar vein, shave my legs.

Nope, that's all I can think of. Except to reiterate that I can look forward to my new book in February...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Fan Fiction

I have recently started writing fan fiction, as you may have realised if you've been reading these posts. I've joined a lovely online community of people who not only love the books that inspire me, but enjoy speculating about - and writing fiction based on the series (no prizes for guessing which series it is). Mostly it's short stories exploring a particular character or continuing where a book left off.

Fan fiction is something of a murky world and treads a difficult line. The author automatically owns the copyright of a work, and publishing anything which purports to be related to it breaches that copyright. I could not write another book in the Harry Potter series, for example, because JK Rowling owns the copyright to Harry, Hogwarts and even the word "Muggles". And if you're thinking that you've seen a lot of Jane Austen inspired works (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for example) that's because Jane Austen's copyright has expired.

These days "publish" is a relative term. When I finish writing this blog I will click a button labelled "publish", and anyone copying and pasting this very same blog under their own name has breached my copyright. So when fan fiction is uploaded to a website, is it breaching the author's copyright? And with so much of it around, is there anything the author can do about it?

As a published author myself, I tried to think how I would feel to be the "victim" of fan fiction. How would I react if strangers took my stories in directions I had not planned for them to go, or had characters I created say things I never intended them to say? And I'm something of a pedant; how would I feel to have a sequel to Easterfield published online and discover it to be full of incorrect apostrophes, spelling mistakes and poor use of language?

Are you kidding? I'd love it!

  • I'd love knowing that someone has enjoyed my book so much that they can't bear for it to have ended.
  • I love knowing that I had inspired someone to write, or to improve their writing ability or style.
  • I'd love seeing the extra publicity (and thus sales) that fan's devotion was likely to bring me as they proclaim and disseminate their appreciation for my books.
  • I'd love reading what they've written to see what extra insights it gives me into how my readers perceive my books, and I might even get a few ideas for sequels myself.
I take the view that fan fiction is extremely flattering and mostly harmless. The vast majority of fans don't benefit financially out of what they write, and don't injure the author's royalties or reputation in any way. For me, it's a great opportunity to practice and hone my writing skills without having to worry about finding a new idea - instead I am inspired by the skill of someone else.

I'm planning to add a page to my website which will have some of the short fan-fiction stories I write. And one day I really hope I can also post stories which fans have written based on my books. I think then I will really know I've achieved something worthwhile.

Monday, 6 September 2010


One of the things I actually like about myself (the other two are being tall and being blonde) is being left-handed. OK, so it's not that uncommon, but it is a slight quirk which marks me apart from many other people. It adds an interesting dimension to my life, and most right-handed people can't imagine the struggles involved in managing with everyday items. For example:
  • My mother bought me a very pretty floral oven glove. I put it on my left hand and burned myself getting something out of the oven because all the padding was on the other side.
  • My kettle has a little light on it to let you know when it's switched on, and a gauge to show how much water is in it. With the handle to the right (for right handed people) you can see both the light and the gauge, but with the handle to the left, where I naturally have it for easy of filling and pouring the kettle, they face towards the wall.
  • My ironing board has a wire attachment to hold the flex of the iron and stop it getting in the way as I'm ironing. Natually it is on the wrong side, and pokes me in the stomach as I do the ironing, while the flex of the iron goes wherever it likes.

That's before you even get me started on tin openers, pastry slices and cake forks.

Two of my three children are left handed and it's interesting watching them face the same problems learning to write as I did. Writing from left to right means that your hand covers the letters you have just written which makes neatness and accuracy a challenge. It means a very dirty ink-covered hand at the end of the day, and smudged writing. On the plus side, both Gwen and I can write backwards (mirror writing) as easily as we can write forwards. Ceri is only 5 but it looks as though she will too, given than she writes her name backwards as often as not.

Sadly it seems that left-handed people live an average of seven years less than right-handed people. However, since I also live the LDS Word of Wisdom (no tea, coffee, alcohol or tobacco) and that's been shown make people live seven years longer (what do you mean it just feels like longer?) I reckon I've evened the odds.

Left handed people are also reputedly more creative. If true, this is yet another reason why I am proud and happy to be of the sinister persuasion. Who knows whether I would ever have had a novel published had I been right-handed?