Guest Post: Questions, answers and rollercosters by James Walley
“So, what’s your book about?”
That’s the familiar question when someone learns that you’ve decided to take the plunge and put pen to paper, and it always sends me scrambling for some kind of genre busting definition of what has sprung into being from the depths of my mind. It’s like trying to describe a colour, and unless you are particularly proficient at interpretive dance, can be a little tricky.
In truth, The Forty First Wink is about me. Deep down, most works of fiction have something of their author in them, or at least something that drives them. As the old saying goes:
“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Just to clarify, it isn’t literally about me (my mistrust of clowns notwithstanding) but what fires my imagination and makes me who I am. While there is a heavy humour element to the story, I also wanted to imbue it with the nods to the adventure and escapism that first piqued my imagination as a child.
Nostalgia is powerful stuff, and I think it’s safe to say that we would all love to recapture something of what we remember about being a child. Not just the awe and wonder of being immersed in a completely fantastic and other worldly realm, but also the highs and lows that these journeys took us on. No matter how old we get, we still want to ride the rollercoaster.
Sure, there are a lot of edgy, brooding, serious works of fiction out there, and that’s great, sometimes only a gut wrenching plot twist or hard nosed anti hero will do. That’s not to say that these things can’t also crop up in a story that might occasionally break the fourth wall, raise a knowing eyebrow at the reader, and deliver a cheeky little wink (yes, pun intended) though.
For every Stephen King or Clive Barker that knocks on our door at midnight, wearing a scary mask, there’s a Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams that will give us a head start and a rocket powered pogo stick to escape on. Both are equally appealing in their own way, and don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
That’s the challenge when trying to come up with something as original as possible, whilst also juggling several different elements, genres and emotions. No wonder then, that it’s easier said than done to tell someone what your book is about.
For me, reading is a form of escape. What we choose to escape to is a matter of preference, but it’s hard to resist the promise of something that’s just fun, in the purest and most fondly remembered sense of the word. Especially when that fun comes spiked with all manner of crazy unexpected bedlam as well. I suppose what it boils down to is wanting to still be a kid, but realising that you’re not anymore.
In many ways, I am still a kid. Although I am old enough to ride the rollercoaster.