You’ve got to hand it to the budding novelists of this world; it’s a little easier to get published these days with the advent of kindle and eBooks. You just write the book and it put up on Amazon and see if you can sell any outside of your family and friends or even be discovered by a publishing company. There are still those traditionalists though who get out there and write a couple of chapters and then post or email them round the myriad of publishers and literary agents and await the results of the publishing lottery. Which is awash with reams of confidence sapping rejection letters. Others like the first of this month’s two authors, cut their teeth in other media first.
Rosamund Lupton (www.rosamundlupton.com) was a copywriter and book reviewer, before winning the Carlton Televisions New Writers Competition and being accepted on to BBC’s new writer’s course. In 2010 she had her first book Sister published by Piatkus (www.piatkus.net) since then it’s won awards such Best First Novel at the 2011 Strand Magazine Critics Award as well as the Richard and Judy and WH Smith Readers Choice Award. It’s also been translated into thirty languages.
Sister tells the story of Beatrice an English interior designer now living in New York, whose wayward sister Tess goes missing. Bee jumps on the first plane home and sets about trying find out how and why her sister and soul mate just suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth. The more she discovers about her sister’s personal life the more she realises that despite their weekly Trans-Atlantic phone calls, she didn’t really know her sister that well. With the authorities, her family and Tess’s friends having accepted she’s gone for good, Beatrice throws herself headlong into Tess’s life. Almost taking on her Tess’s persona, by portraying her in a reconstruction and living in her flat. All the while the search for answers takes her on a precarious journey.
This was my choice for the June meeting of the book group; I first read it back in 2012 and had held it up my sleeve like a sneaky ace for the past year and a half. From the very first page to the very end, the book lives up to the hype on the covers and. It is excellently written and Lupton’s plotting in masterful. She treats the reader like Beatrice’s shadow and you go on an eerie and compelling journey from the get go right to the very end, when she hits you square in the eyes with totally unforeseen ending.
What I remembered from my first time reading it was that I was commuting daily by train from home to work on a journey of about forty five minutes. Some books made the journey drag, but others like this had me stepping on a DART in south county Dublin and what felt like ten minutes later despairingly closing it and having to wait an agonizingly long time to get back to it in the evening.
The other members of the book group also thought this book was brilliantly written and had them finishing it in double quick time, while one member who couldn’t make it begged us not to post anything about the ending on social media or emails as she was just finishing it while on a trip abroad and didn’t want us to spoil the ending. It got what I would call in the world of book groups, a standing ovation almost and the last time a book of mine got that was three years ago when I presented them with Room by Emma Donoghue. A few found Beatrice slightly irritating, but loved the plotting and story and also a topic of discussion throughout the meeting was the comparison between Sister and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
The genetics storyline isn’t new but it’s well written and shows some great research, but as she admitted herself in an interview in the back of the book, the medical side was easy due to being married to an obstetrician. As for advice from Lupton to other first time authors, “Go for it!! And if you meet rejection just keep on it…” she admits she could have papered a small room with rejection letters before getting her first break in scriptwriting. But that’s something she won’t have to worry about from now on. Since publishing Sister her second novel Afterwards was released in 2011.
The other type of first time authors are the ones that, after the number of rejection letters swamps the whole house, making dinner parties awkward, decide to turn their back on the industry. They go down the self publishing route. My second author this month did a variation on that. He approached Iguana Books, (www.iguanabooks.com) a Canadian publishing company which according to their own website encourages the author to “Pitch In” with covering the cost of getting the book ready for the market, by crowdfunding. This is the act of seeking small contributions from a group of people, usually over the net.
BP Gallucci (www.bpgallucci.com) is a cat lover and Torontonian born and bred, who’s been writing stories since he was in kindergarten; his first book which was published this year is called Lexus Sam.
The book tells the story of an amnesiac, who calls himself Lexus Sam, but is convinced this isn’t his real name. Currently living in a New York apartment he gets the feeling that he might not be a local because of intermittent flash backs of a life on the West Coast. His apartment is rented out to some guy called Adam Williams and the picture on his drivers licence is the same guy he sees in the mirror every morning, but he thinks it’s all a charade. In his flash backs he also sees a girl called Sarah, so to help him discover who he is he employs the services of a shrink who tries to aid his memory through hypnotic regression, But Lexus questions the doctors motives and as the past merges with the present, he must fight to discover the truth about his past and the mysterious Adam Williams.
If you think the summary above sounds like the marriage of four Matt Damon movies, then you’re not far wrong. Sent to me by Gallucci after we hooked up on Twitter, the book its self feels like the reworking of more then just a couple of movies, a whole video store worth to be exact. There is no beginning of sorts you are just thrown into the story and mostly I found myself flailing to find direction.
I’m all for getting the reader into the story but you must allow them to get a feeling of where it might be going.Unless it’s set in a life raft, but even then, you imagine an island, finding a flare gun, even the hint of an engine in the distance. This book just seemed to be occupied by a series of random stereotypical characters and some vague well worn plot. Halfway through, I couldn’t give a damn if he never got his memory back, hey he has an apartment, money to buy pizzas… life’s good.
First time books are rarely instant bestsellers, but it’s like passing your driving test, some do it first time others on their second, third for fourth go . Look at Dan Brown for example it was only after The Da Vinci Code his fourth book was a bestseller that Digital Fortress, Angels & Demons and Deception Point start making money. Even before that he wrote a number of clunky humorous self help books, one under the pseudonym Dannielle Brown and the other under his wife’s name. Also it took John Le Carre three books to find international acclaim with The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
So, I’m not knocking Gallucci’s ability(especially not a bloke with all those “tats”), just the fact that this first attempt at writing a compelling piece of fiction needs a bit of work. Which I’m sure he will do and who knows down the line, he’ll be up there with the best of them.
So if you want a good summer read get up close with Sister and leave the lost boy where you found him.