Sunday, March 6, 2011

David Pretty, Author

Good day to you, Kind Sirrahs!

Okay, so I've written this book.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Big, fat, hairy deal.  Who hasn't written a book?  I'VE written a book, fer Chrissakes!" 

Yeah, but when I say I wrote a book, I mean I really wrote that sucker.  With a capitol "W", with  "THE END" and everything.

So, what inspired me to start writing this epic project back in the Pleistocene Era (I.E. High School)?  What carried me through to the very end when so many people start to write novels only to give up part way through in frustration?  Pull up a chair and I'll tell ya...

In between all the pulpy disposable stuff that kids in middle school are forced to digest (like Flight into Danger, for example), I clearly remember the impactful short stories of William Sydney Porter, better know as O.Henry.  First off, as a kid I thought it was kinda cool that a famous author had named himself after a chocolate bar (Okay, so I wasn't the brightest bulb in the socket, alright?).  Secondly, Henry's twist endings were often unpredictable, organic and often blindsided the reader as effectively as a pedestrian being smoked in the crosswalk by an RV without brakes.

It's also pretty obvious to me that M.Night Shyamalan must have read his works as a kid too, what with the initialed moniker and penchant for popping up and blurting "WHATTA TWIST!"  Ten points to any reader that recognized that little Robot Chicken shout-out, by the by.
In Grade Seven or Eight we covered Romeo & Juliet, which completely fascinated me.  The wellspring of quotable sayings, the magical language, uncompromisingly tragic resolution and universal commentaries on human nature were all mind-blowing  to me.  It was like nothing I'd encountered before in my life (up to that impossibly short span of time).  The fact that Shakespeare wrote this hundreds of years ago and it was still just as relevant today as was when it was first scribed certainly taught me about the immortality of artists. 

I could never have publicly confessed my love for Shakespeare at the time for fear of being blacklisted.  Er, even more blacklisted I should say.  Some of the knuckle-draggers in the class had taken to calling it Fag-eo and Fag-iet and made it clear that anyone who liked this was clearly a freak.  It's memories like this that make me wish I could go back with just a fragment of the confidence and conviction I posses now.  I'd soon tell these organ donors to shove their small-minded, homophobic opinions right where Paddy stuck the doughball.

Before I go on, I'd just like to make it clear that I have no idea what that last phrase means.  I just remember sometimes as a kid hearing my Mom say "Jesus Christ, I felt like telling that friggin' annoying telemarketer to stick it where Paddy stuck the doughball".  If it's dirty or something, it's not my fault.  I'm just the product of my environment.  Send the angry emails to my mom, she'll tell you what to do with them...

Anyhoo, a year later we covered two ancient Greek tragedies by Sophocles: Antigone and Oedipus Rex.  Both were immaculately plotted, labyrinthine little morality plays that spoke volumes about fate, free will, familial loyalty, civil disobedience, tragic irony, hubris, and the dangers of blind ambition (pun not intended).  I considered these to be mind-blowing works of art and although I think they were given short shift by our teachers (not to mention a small minority of attention deficit disorder morons in our class), it still made a major impact on me.

Around the same time Shakespeare made a re-appearance in the form of MacBeth.  Part of me wishes this had been the first exposure to Shakespeare for my class since it's so gory and violent I still refer to it as McDeath.  Frankly, I maintain that a creative instructor could teach any of these works to kids because, at it's core, these plays are still based upon universal, immutable and relevant observations of human behavior.  Well, of course kids are gonna tune out if you try and force them to read it aloud in class or watch some crusty-looking filmed stage play without any discussion, illustration, context or modern-day parallels.

I maintain that the things that Shakespeare and Sophocles were writing about are certainly just as compelling as the average episode of Gray's Anatomy.  Wow, if anything might cause these great writers to do backflips in their respective graves, that was it...

Around the same time I began to read fantasy novels.  I started at the top with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and promptly graduated to his Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Despite Tolkien's propensity to document the walking tours of his characters in excruciating detail, I still loved the scope of his imagination, his attention to detail and the thematic subtext running just underneath the surface.  I loved how Tolkien was clearly lamenting about how industrialization was eroding his beloved pastoral way of life and how the horrors of global war instantly turned aggressors into something less than human.

As I tackled a few more imaginative works, however, I began to realize that not every fantasy novel was created equal.  In fact, after a while it started to feel like the literary equivalent of the law of diminishing returns.  Each new book seemed like a plate of warmed-up Tolkien leftovers.  

Worse still, I thought many of these works were of the “quick flip and dispose” variety.  Although many writers are gifted in creating worlds of imagination, they often fail to invest in solid stories, compelling characters and thematic relevance.

So I started my book as a response to this deficit.  I made a conscious effort to avoid the trappings of most fantasy fiction, which is the writer’s tendency to wallow in the minutia of their own world to the detriment of all else.  By combining my love of Greek and Shakespearian tragedy, historic detail and mythic archetypes, I tried to craft a novel populated with contemporary characters and driven by a pretty intricate plot.  Although readers can be perfectly content just following the story to it's conclusion, they're also free to prospect for a vein of universal themes that address the human experience.

The story itself centers around two young brothers, Valarius and Tyrian. When their tutor makes the mistake of lecturing about a distant and mysterious land called Heldmark, the two young men experience an awakening that neither of them can account for.  Spurned on by years of rumor, lies and concealment, the brothers venture north on disparate paths to glean the truth about their origins.  Their journey leads them across the realm to where secrets are revealed, loyalties are strained, and their convictions are tested.  Soon the two are forced to decide if their quest for knowledge is worth courting betrayal and death.

The setting for the story is evocative of a fantasy equivalent of our own world.  This was done to keep a sharp focus on the story, the interaction of the characters and also give readers something to relate to on a unconscious level.   

So, basically, I wrote a book that I would want to read myself.

At first, I tried going the traditional publishing route by getting a copy of the Writer's Market and doing some submissions.  I promptly began to run into a classic "chicken and the egg" scenario: you can't get published without an agent and you'd be hard-pressed to get an agent without first being published.
Plus, I'm a sensitive soul and could only cope with two or three rejection letters.  It's hard to believe it now, but J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected about a dozen times before the CEO of a small publishing house in London decided to take a chance on it at the insistence of his eight-year-old daughter.

The wonderful thing about technology today is that creative and talented people don't have to get beaten up and discouraged by traditional routes anymore.  Right now, we live in a day and age where the Arctic Monkeys can get a record deal by giving away their music at concerts and film-makers like Fede Alvarez can parlay his brilliant youTube sensation Panic Attack! into a full-blown career in Hollywood.  

So, today, Sunday the 6'th of March in the year 2011, my first novel became available to the world as an e-book.  Basically, if you've got a a Kindle, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, iPad/iPhone/iTouch or Android, you can read my book! How trippy is that?!

Now, I've done some research, and to attract a traditional publisher I just need to get a mere ten-thousand people to buy it.  And, hey, let's face it, ten-thousand people is just a drop in the bucket when you consider that close to seven billion people share this rock with me as it hurdles through space.  Surely I can get .000001% of the population of the planet interested in what I legitimately believe to be a decent little yarn?         
Live to dream, folks.

PRETTY FRIGGIN' EPIC:  Well, here's a link to my baby...



Here's the brilliant short film from Fede Alvarez that snagged him a six-figure development deal with Sam Raimi's production house... 

FAIL:  For shame, publishers, for shame...

1 comment:

Brodie said...

YAY! Congratulations!