Archive for Authors

To Defy Homophobia of Original Publisher, Read/Buy “Woven” When it’s Published!

Michael Jensen and David Powers King got an awful shock when their YA fantasy novel, Woven, was just about to be published. On the final proofs, Jensen noticed that the reference to his living with his boyfriend in Salt Lake City had been removed. At first, the publisher said that this was because they could reach more “LDS [i.e. Mormon] buyers” if they took out that reference. But when Jensen said that was fine and that they could just use the word “partner,” the publisher balked at that too. There was to be no reference to Jensen’s domestic relationship at all. Unlike King’s bio, which happily mentioned his own domestic relationship (wife and kids).

Note: the publisher, Sweetwater Books, a division of Cedar Fort Publishing & Media, already knew Jensen was gay when they signed him. But when the book was in its final stage before release, they changed his bio without mentioning it to him and without getting his permission–which was required, incidentally, by their contract.

The International Business Times sums things up quite nicely in this article: Publisher Cancels Novel Because Author Is Gay? Michael Jensen Says Cedar Fort Publishing Axed Project Following Boyfriend Reference. The writer, Christopher Zara, quotes Jensen: “Lyle [Mortimer, the company owner] started yelling about my ‘agenda’ and how I was trying to destroy families…He even started saying inappropriate things about how God had given me a penis for a reason.”

Of course Jensen wasn’t going to back down, and he was fully supported by King. Eventually, after Mortimer blustered and the authors casually mentioned all the bad publicity they could create for Cedar Fort, they got the manuscript and all their rights back. Apparently, the advance reviews had been very good, and Cedar Fort had expected Woven to be a best-seller. So I think we can say that Cedar Fort seriously lost out due to its institutional anti-gay/human stance.

Yay!

This email exchange of the events and the final press release are very interesting. Start with the first email at the bottom.

Some Sad News from Author Iain Banks

Photograph of Scottish author, Iain Banks

Well-loved Scottish author, Iain Banks

Very popular Scottish author Iain Banks has announced that he has been diagnosed with advanced gall bladder cancer and that he has no more than a few months more to live. The Guardian published the news this morning: Iain Banks diagnosed with gall bladder cancer.

Employing his trademark deadpan humour to reveal the news, the Scottish author wrote in a statement posted on his website that he was “officially very poorly”, that he was expected to live for several months and that his latest novel, The Quarry, was likely to be his last.

According to the Guardian, Banks has married his partner Adele, and the couple is having a honeymoon and visiting friends and places that are special to them. The article mentioned that Banks announced the news on his website, but when I tried to go to the website itself, I got a “Not Found” message. I wonder if the site has been taken cown completely.

This is extremely sad news to his many fans from both in the literary fiction and science fiction genres. There is one more novel to come — The Quarry — but Banks may not even live to see it published despite the publisher trying to move the book’s publication date up by four months.

The Wikipedia article on Banks mentions the author’s atheist views and quotes something he said on a BBC 4 program less than a year ago, regarding death:

Firmly restating his atheism, Banks spoke of his belief that death is an important ‘part of the totality of life’, to be treated realistically, not feared.

How unfortunate and sad that so soon afterward, Banks is being called upon to live out his beliefs on the matter. This is devastating news to all who have read and enjoyed and cared about him.

Eoin Colfer: Get Ready to Laugh

Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Reference Library

Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Reference Library

Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl YA novels and several other books, is a very, very funny man.

In a recent book event and interview at the Toronto Reference Library, Colfer kept the audience laughing as much as he informed them about his work. He was actually in town promoting his newest book, Plugged, but naturally there was as much discussion of his other books as there was of that one. In fact, there is a lot to talk (and laugh) about, when it comes to this prolific writer.

Even when he writes a book like Plugged, which is a darker crime fiction novel and a decidedly not-for-kids book (“It has some bad words,” says Colfer), you can’t escape the humour. The book itself was predicated on a pun. And the main character’s constant inner dialogue resembles imaginary conversations that Colfer says he conducts inside his own head, with his characters, with reviewers, with interviewers, and anyone else who wants to join in.

Book cover: The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl)He puts himself (and his friends and relatives) very much into the books he writes, yet surprisingly, Artemis Fowl is not his own alter ego. Artemis is in fact patterned after his brother, who had a very “James Bond mastermind” moment during a solemn picture-taking at a church. This brother, according to Colfer, is “quite pleased” with his fictional transformation. Another brother was the source for kleptomaniac dwarf Mulch Duggums, primarily inspiring Duggums’ rather “windy” characteristics. This brother, understandably, is “not so happy about it.” Holly the diminutive leprechaun, who is the moral centre of the Artemis Fowl books, was also patterned after someone Colfer knew: a plucky girl he used to teach, who was eager to learn, and who never backed down from anyone.

Discussions about Holly, and leprechauns in general, provided much of the laughter throughout the evening. Colfer mentioned that people are always asking whether Artemis and Holly will eventually “get together” — if you know what I mean. Aside from the fact that Holly is about eighty years older than Artemis, there’s another problem. To explain, Colfer leaned toward the audience and informed us solemnly, “I have a rule: only the same species.

He also described how a doctor arose in the audience of one interview and pointed, his hand shaking with anger, to say, “That high a dosage of that medicine would have killed that leprechaun!” Colfer talked to him afterward, and agreed that the dosage should have been less. Another man in an audience said indignantly, “There’s no such thing as a female leprechaun!” So, as Colfer said, “I had to explain to him that there’s probably no such thing as leprechauns at all.”

Book cover: Plugged, by Eoin ColferColfer plans another two Artemis Fowl books before the series winds down. He is also likely to follow Plugged with a couple of sequels. Airman, in his opinion, is as perfect and complete as it can get, so it’s likely to remain a standalone book. But the sequel he’s probably most famous for, and notoriously so, is And Another Thing…, a completion of Douglas Adams’ unfinished sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series.

Colfer felt he could never do the book justice, yet also felt he couldn’t say no, especially when Adams’ widow, Jane Belson, welcomed the idea. But even here, Colfer ran into some amusing sorts of trouble. He was on Facebook at the time (he isn’t now), and Facebook’s randomly generated “you might like this” page suggestions brought up a group wanting to stop Colfer from writing the book! So naturally, he joined the group.

Some writers view their work very seriously, and spend years and much angst as they produce their great work of art. Eoin Colfer makes sure to do a thorough and well-crafted job, yet refuses to take himself that seriously. And as the audience at the Reference Library discovered during the interview, that more light-hearted attitude takes him (and us!) a long, long way.

Joanna Trollope: Queen of Character Development

What makes Joanna Trollope’s contemporary novels so good is that she takes ordinary people, living fairly ordinary lives, and shows how they gradually transform and grow while dealing with difficult situations. This sounds rather mundane, yet each time I read one of her books, I can hardly put it down. You barely see it happening, but by the end of the story, almost all the characters are different people from who they were at the beginning.

The same holds true for Friday Nights, the Trollope book I just finished. It follows the lives of six women who have developed the habit of getting together at each other’s homes every Friday night, for companionship, conversation, and friendship. While one of them is married, all the others are currently unattached. So the appearance of a man in the life of one of the women, and the other women’s response to and interactions with him, provide the catalyst for the character developments in the story.

We go through everything: feelings of abandonment and jealousy, selfishness, tension between sisters, people facing their own insecurities, kids feeling forced to take sides. I worried, at first, that with six women and the people connected to them, Trollope might have taken on much more than she should have this time, and that she wouldn’t do justice to some of the characters. But I shouldn’t have worried, because once again she takes care to follow each character, showing how their experiences teach them to be better people and treat each other, and themselves, in more authentic ways.

Trollope is simply the queen of quiet character development. In each of her books, when the really thorny problem arises, you wonder, “How are these people going to get out of this one intact?” The ways they face the problem, the mistakes they make, and the clearer vision they end up with at the end — all of these things develop plausibly and humanly. You even learn empathy for the dislikable characters, as you get inside their heads and understand why they behave as they do.

All of Trollope’s contemporary novels are quiet, and at first you could be tempted to think nothing actually “happens.” Yet you can’t stop reading, to find out what the people do next, how they will misunderstand or finally understand each other, and how they will grow. For people who love books about character development in real-life situations, Trollope’s books are exactly what you’re looking for.

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