I have been sitting on some pretty big news for the last few months, and I’m only just now at liberty to talk about it. It seems that my alter ego, Kimberley Freeman, has attracted some serious attention internationally. Wildflower Hill, my twenty-first novel, has done some very big things. Back in May, I was offered a very very VERY significant deal by a German publisher. There was bidding, offers, counter-offers. It felt as though I was living somebody else’s life for a little while. When the final offer came in via email I just sat there looking at it, speechless, for a full twenty minutes. Then I went out and bought a new car.
I thought that might be it for me, all the staggering news my modest career could support. But then I had word that Wildflower Hill had been selected in the United States as the Target Book Club Pick, and in Canada for the Walmart Book Club. The number of books ordered to meet the projected demand probably amounts to more than I’ve ever sold of all my books in all territories combined (and did I mention there’d been 20 of the mofos?).
But this post isn’t just a shameless brag (thought it is, absolutely, a brag). These wonderful successes have really got me thinking about the wheel of fortune. Not the game show (which, I might add, I was very very good at), but the tarot card that symbolises a radical shift in fortune. You’ll see from the picture that when somebody’s at the top, somebody else is at the bottom. The message is that those positions aren’t firm, can shift any time, in your favour, or against you. I have had times when I’ve felt as though the bottom is the only aspect of the wheel I’ll see. I tend to keep my career disappointments to myself–after all, I am published and established so mustn’t complain–but I assure you there have been many. The wonderful thing is that now, while I’m sitting smugly at the top, I am very much aware that it can’t last, not forever. I’ll enjoy the view while I’m up here, for sure. But my real successes are measurable in the relationships I have built, the love that I have given and received, the good will that I have enjoyed in every facet of my life. And, as the song goes, they can’t take that away from me.
I’ve been asked by the editors of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing to contribute a chapter about creative writing in the genres. This is a very great honour, of course, but also a real pleasure for me to note that genre fiction is at last being recognised as worthy of academic consideration (and Cambridge University Press is obviously a very big deal in terms of shaping opinion in the academy). Do academics really have issues with genre fiction? Well, yes and no. Some genres fare better than others (crime is usually well regarded) but it is still seen as some kind of poor cousin to literary fiction (and when somebody can define that term for me adequately, give me a yell). For example, in a 2003 paper Judy Wilson wrote that genre fiction is “production line work” and “words poured into a mold” and says it has no place in a university creative writing course (this article has rather a tortured metaphor about weeds and how, even if they’re pretty, they need to be pulled out lest they ruin the more esteemed plants they surround). And in 2002, philosopher Nancy J. Holland created this list of adjectives to describe genre fiction: “low-brow”, “transparent”, “not artful”, “flat, without depth”, “the exact same thing.” Apparently, too, its* “cardinal rule” is a happy ending. Hey, Nancy! Go read a couple of my books. You might get a nasty shock.
So, the tide is slowly turning, thanks to the very clever editors of this new collection. Will keep you posted on developments, but I can’t see it being published before end of 2010.
*the easy way to remember which form of “its” to use is this: use its (no apostrophe) where you’d use his (which you’d never apostrophise)
In other news…
My story “The Forest”, which was published in Dreaming Again last year, has been selected for Tor Books’ Year’s Best Fantasy collection in the US. This is beautiful surprise: essentially, the short stories that go in YBF are the ones that the editor has selected as the best from all around the world in the calendar year. So it’s a big international honour.
On top of that, I am delighted to tell you that the American Library Association has named The Veil of Gold (as it’s known in the States) as best fantasy novel on its 2009 reading list! I’m particularly pleased about this one, as I bled into that book. Bleeding into a book should always bring rewards (as long as it’s your own; not just some random one you pick up at a store).
Colour me smug!