Friday, November 1, 2013

Chinese Whispers

1st November, 2013

Got word this morning that my novel is on its way to Diana Gabaldon (with the caveat that she is up against a deadline herself and may not get to my book in time for a jacket blurb.) My editor was once assistant editor to Gabaldon's editor, and so the network was set, and here I am down the line reaping the benefit of those tendrils. Some people are very good at the business of networking, and I am about the worst, but at least a lot of this is done in virtual reality these days and not at cocktail parties. My vision of hell is of a never-ending cocktail party, particularly of the British variety, where attendees have not generally been brought up to socialise on this level. How many times have I clung to a tiny sherry glass, trying to swallow the awful finger foods (a pineapple or a piece of sausage or cheddar cheese off the end of a cocktail stick) while I did my best to sink into the floor and go unnoticed? I don't know who invented the food stuff of the cocktail hour, but what are you supposed to do with the cocktail stick once you have removed the offensive piece of food off the end - use it to take a jab at other awkward people trying their own very best to sink into the floor? Americans are better at all this sort of stuff. They have learned the art of setting others at parties at ease. British cocktail do's are nearly all upper class affairs (the British working class feel no compulsion to make conversation under any circumstances, a feature I miss on this side of the Atlantic - there is something enormously comforting about sitting in silence with others.)
So, you're grasping hard the tiny stem of your sherry glass, standing next to some other bundle of nerves, waiting for the moment to inspire a question, which never comes. There is much shifting of feet and noises such as only Rowan Atkinson normally makes in his incarnation as Mr. Bean, until some such phrase as "I'm Giles" or "Interesting party," or "How about a pickled onion on a stick?" drifts up into the air as though no one actually spoke it and it was simply manifest of the general air of forced communion.
Because normal discourse is hard for Brits, forced social situations give birth to abberations like one young man, unknown to me, who once sat next to me at table in college (picture Hogwarts dining hall, because that's what it was - they actually filmed that at my alma mater, Christ Church, Oxford) muttering vile suggestions to me under his breath. Here we were in our academic dress (flowing robes and silly hats) and at first I couldn't believe what I was hearing, but he kept saying these things, and being a well-brought-up Brit myself, I wasn't able to just turn to him and tell him to piss off.
I have been thinking of my alma mater of late because I am asking them to put a paragraph about my upcoming book in their quarterly magazine (amusingly called "Christ Church Matters.") I think Hugh Grant left Christ Church as an undergraduate the year I arrived as a post graduate, so I never saw him (or so I think - maybe he was the character muttering obscentites to me at table that night - given his later forays into the Santa Monica league of prostitution, it seems entirely likely.)
Point is, I am rattling my brain to find anyone or place of note to get the word out about my book. I have so far had two reviews - one that said, "If there is any justice in the world, this will be the next Time Traveller's Wife" - I jest not.  My editor called this "a money quote." The other said that Veil of Time is a fine novel and a saga of the first order.  (Both of these reviewers, however, were well enough acquainted with me to know that I could come after them with my second degree black belt karate skills.) Diana Gabaldon is not of that order, nor is Dan Brown, to whom I have a teentsie connection (well, my brother-in-law taught at Phillips Exeter with his dad!) But my editor says a blurb from him would give the reader the wrong impression about the nature of the book. Ha!   :-)
And yet, and yet. Despite the vastly differing writing styles and the different audience, I still think there is a lot in common between the types of topics Dan Brown grapples with and my own - we both lament the passing of woman-centric religions and both have a lot to say about the role of the church in all of this. But we will leave this matter in the lap of the gods. Nay, we will leave it in the lap of the goddess, a kinder and softer and more inclusive place to be.

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