When is a writer not a Writer?

Answer: when they’re not writing!

I’m sad to say that for some time, that’s been me. It’s not writers block – if such a thing exists – just that I had to put my latest novel on hold when other things took over. First, I was so busy self-publishing, and then promoting, my last novel Moojara, that I didn’t have enough time to work on the new one. And then I was moving house. And not just house: I’ve moved all the way from South Wales to Shropshire. I can tell you that moving is definitely as stressful as has been reported. Stressful, and very, very time consuming.

The move is done now though, and despite being surrounded by still-to-be-unpacked cardboard boxes, I think it’s time to re-familiarise myself with the latest WIP (work in progress) and get back to work. And I’ve decided to try something new. While trying to find software for typesetting that doesn’t cost a fortune and require a masters in typesetting to operate, I came across a program call Scrivener. It’s really a writing aid, but I had hoped it might include some typesetting functionality (beyond the limited capabilities of MS Word). Having downloaded it for the trial period, I now know it doesn’t. But it does look as though it might be useful for the writing process.

Writing a book generates a  huge amount of information. Beyond the manuscript (which itself makes for a very large Word document) there’s notes and ideas for the characters and for plot development. You may need a  calendar to keep track of when things happen, to avoid continuity errors. For the locations you may have photographs, maps, train and bus times. I find myself switching from one Word document to another, then to file explorer to look at images, or Excel to check facts. The idea of Scrivener is that everything is kept as a set of documents within the same software, so you don’t have to keep flitting about from one place to another. Sounds good, but will it work? I’ve run through the long tutorial (they say it should take 2 hours, and it did). And now I’ve created a new project for my latest novel, and begun to load in text and reference material.

I’m a little bit lost at the moment, staring at the screen and struggling to remember what I learnt from the tutorial; trying to work out the right way to import text and images, and whether it’s actually possible to call in a spreadsheet. So far, the software is just proving to be a barrier between me and the writing, which is no good; no good at all. But it’s early days. Hopefully I’ll get to grips with the program soon, and  then I can properly assess whether or not it’s going to work for me. I’ll let you know how it goes…



Text © Graham Wright 2020
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Marketing Your Novel

I’ve been through all the stages of publishing my novel, and I’ve done almost everything myself, from editing, to typesetting, to designing a cover. If you haven’t been following, you can read how I did it here: An Idiot’s Guide to Self-Publishing.

Actually, I did get some help with proof-reading and with editing, from friends and family. I called in the professionals for the actual printing of the books, which is the one thing it’s just not practical to do yourself. Up until now I think I’ve coped quite well. But I’ve hit a bit of a block when it comes to marketing.

It began well. I persuaded my two local bookshops, somewhat reluctantly, to take some copies. And their lack of enthusiasm melted away when I managed to get the local paper to run a story about the local author who set up his own publishing company Well, it’s technically true, even if the company so far exists only to sell my own books (that may change one day).  My article, complete with a photo of me printed frighteningly large, made page three (and I didn’t even have to take my top off). I sold a few copies off the back of that article. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept up the momentum. Two bookshops were never going to get me enough sales. So I made Moojara available by mail order, and also set it up as an ebook for sale on Amazon. But availability is not enough; people need to know it’s available, and that requires marketing.

It’s difficult. I’ve got a rough idea of what needs to be done, but it involves an awful lot of work of the kind I’m not really suited to, never having been a ‘people person’. I don’t like to impose on friends, because that’s not what friends are about (although the feedback I’ve had so far would suggest any unhappiness with being press ganged into buying a book would disappear when they started to read it[1.]) Although I don’t actually have many friends. To quote the Mark E. Smith song, I can count them on the fingers of one hand. Even my dog hates me. It’s OK, I’m only joking (I don’t have a dog).

I’ve given copies of the book to my local libraries (Penarth and Cardiff). I’ve tried independent bookshops further afield, in places like Brecon and Crickhowell, but they didn’t want to know. I haven’t even tried Waterstones, as I’ve read that self-published authors stand no chance with them (although perhaps I’m showing a lack of ambition – nothing ventured, nothing gained). Social media is, apparently, an essential tool for self-promotion, but to say I’m not great at social media would be an understatement. One of the most essential ingredients for social media success is time, and that’s something I don’t have much of.

It hasn’t helped that I’ve been distracted by an impending move from South Wales to the North West. We all know how stressful moving house is. I suppose I’ve sub-consciously made the decision to hold fire with the book promotion: it probably isn’t sensible to do a lot of work to promote my novel here, when I’ll soon be moving away. Perhaps my New Year’s resolution will be to take it up again with vigour once I’m settled in my new home. In the mean time, if anyone can offer some encouragement or advice, I’ll be very grateful. Only remember, this is very much a DIY affair – I don’t want to spend more money than I have done already…


  1. There you go – blowing your own trumpet isn’t so difficult after all – you just need to channel your inner Poirot.


text & image © Graham Wright 2019

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This Poem is Rubbish!

Or at least; it’s called ‘Rubbish’. As you can tell, I’ve been thinking about the environment quite a bit recently (maybe it’s the influence of the inspirational environmental protest group, Extinction Rebellion).

They say the oceans are full of plastic,
But you should see the front gardens where I live
On a windy recycling day;
Scenes of carnage and dismay,
The kind of heart-sinking mess
That’s sure to cause distress;
Make you feel like doing something drastic,
Like devoting your time to collecting it anew,
Something you know you’re not going to do,
Leaving you contaminated by guilt,
Blowing through your mind,
Like plastic bags blowing through the streets.

Where does it all come from?
The rubbish that accumulates in drifts,
Against fences and gates, under hedges,
That wedges in crevices,
Or flies aloft in the breeze,
Catches in trees, or floats in the canal,
Journeys along rivers,
Maybe all the way to the sea,
To wallow like jellyfish,
Be swallowed by many fish,
Seals, dolphins, whales and birds,
The situation is too absurd:
Should never have occurred.
But we human beings are profligate,
With no regard for the environment on which we, too rely.

I blame McDonalds – those golden arches get everywhere.
They don’t seem to care that they’re the cause of so much litter.
See, I reckon they view it as a kind of publicity;
All that discarded packaging is like free advertising,
A subliminal reminder that whenever we’re greedy for a cheap meal,
They’ll always be there with a special ball-burger deal.
But it’s too easy to look for scapegoats,
To blame governments and multi-nationals
For the degradation of the land, the air and the sea.
But while that may be rational,
We too must share the responsibility;
It’s not just the big guys who are tossers.

We need to change the way we live.
No excuse for single use;
Don’t take that plastic bag, for goodness sake,
One day it could spell the demise
Of something that lives in the sea.
Bubble-wrap, shrink-wrap; no way, sorry to be a nag.
They say’s there’s no planet B,
Actually, there is (probably)
But we’ll never see it;
Never bridge the millions of light years.
We’re trapped here, on our own planetary sphere,
Drowning in trash.

Better do what we can; eschew all packaging,
Re-cycle, re-use, don’t fling cigarette ends out of the window,
Dropping litter is a no-no; pick litter instead.
There’s something to be said for getting yourself in rubbish credit.
But when all’s said, it isn’t you and me,
But all the other buggers, who won’t see,
Who can’t be told; who won’t involve themselves
In the battle to save our world from free range plastic.
So where it will end, I’d rather not say,
But sooner or later, human kind will have had its day.

Enjoy your weekend everyone…

Text & NSW poster photo©Graham Wright 2019
Beach photo by Javardh on Unsplash


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Stupid Human Part One – Burning the Amazon

We are the third most intelligent species on the planet [1.] our big brains a miracle of evolution. We’ve developed vaccines to defeat disease, held nature at bay, created incredible machines, landed on the moon, and sent satellites out into space beyond our solar system. But this series of posts, which I’ve entitled ‘Stupid Human’, celebrates human kind’s greatest talent – our infinite capacity for stupidity.

We need plants. If someone tells you they’re more of a city person, that they really do prefer concrete, steel and glass, that they don’t do all that horrible green stuff; don’t believe them. They may think that’s how they feel, but studies have shown we have a profound psychological relationship with, and need for, plants. Without them we could perhaps get by at a psychological level. But physically – no chance. Those of us who are concerned about the environment, and particularly the effect that human activity/stupidity is having on it, have been bleating on for years about CO2, rising temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans, etc., etc. Could it be we’ve been missing the point; that the real threat is a little more direct, a bit more simple – oxygen?

We breathe oxygen, and expel carbon dioxide. Plants do the opposite. Without us, there’s more than enough CO2 in the atmosphere to keep plants supplied [2.]. The other way around is a very different story. The only reason planet earth has oxygen in it’s atmosphere in significant levels (i.e. sufficient to support large animals like us) is because we were preceded by plants. Before plants evolved, the atmosphere would have been toxic and could not have supported life such as ours.

The Amazon rainforest has been famously referred to as ‘the lungs of the planet (so famously, I don’t know who said it). It’s been estimated that it produces around twenty percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere. [3.] Burn the Amazon and, quite apart from all the other environmental problems it would cause, we will reduce the oxygen producing capacity of the planet by around a fifth. We could blame an individual, but it took the majority of an entire country of humans to elect a mad-eyed fascist as their president.

Here in the UK we throw our arms up in horror (well, some of us do…), but forget that, before us stupid humans arrived, our tiny island was pretty much entirely forested. Now, we’re down to thirteen percent (ten percent in England) [4.] And the plant loss isn’t just historic. Successive governments boast about planting large numbers of trees, but for the truth, look around you. Around the country, front gardens are being levelled for parking, street trees are being chopped down to save on maintenance costs, ever more green land is being lost to development. New roads in particular, and bonkers projects like HS2 (which stands for Holy Shit 2 – as in ‘Holy Shit, I can’t believe a government could be so stupid as to do that’) are resulting in what remains of our precious ancient forests being destroyed. We can’t in any way claim to be part of the solution.

As the quantity of oxygen producing organisms (i.e. plants) continues to diminish (because of us), how long before we begin to see a thinning of the air we breathe? Could it be that our great grand children/grand children/children won’t meet their demise (thanks to preceding generations) at the hands of rising seas and changing climate – they’ll simply suffocate for want of oxygen?

[1.] After dolphins and mice (according to Douglas Adams in his ‘Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy’)

[2.] Actually, thanks to us there is literally more than enough CO2 in the atmosphere!

[3.] Taylor, L. (1996). Saving the Rainforest. Retrieved 08 30, 2019, from The Raintree Group, Inc: http://csc.columbusstate.edu/summers/Outreach/RainSticks/fRainforestFacts.htm

[4.] Forest Research. (2019). Woodland Statistics. Retrieved 08 30, 2019, from Forest Research: https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/statistics/statistics-by-topic/woodland-statistics/

Text © Graham Wright 2019
Image © Igor Lepilin on unsplash

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Moojara in the news – the value of a good press release…

There are many ways to market your novel. Getting its release reported on in newspapers and magazines is a good way to potentially boost sales. But unless you’re an established author (or perhaps even if you are an established author) you need a good press release, with an angle that an editor can use. Mine must have been OK, because it got my story onto page four of my local paper,  the Penarth Times.

It isn’t the national press. To date, I haven’t seen any paparazzi hanging around outside my house. But it’s a start. And the local press are not to be underestimated. The publicity seems to have had some effect, as my local book shop, Griffin Books, have asked for more copies of Moojara to replace those they have sold following the article being published.

I’m quite a private person, so to open the local newspaper and see a photo of myself was quite disconcerting. I hadn’t imagined they would print the photo quite so big! For me, it’s about the book, but for the paper, I guess, it’s all about people, so the author is the focus. I’ll have to get used to that (if I’m lucky!) When you write a book you create something in your own mind which morphs into something slightly different in the minds of the readers. The author creates the book, but is also (particularly in the case of an author who self-publishes) the vehicle that delivers the book out into the world. So this might not be the last time I see my ugly mug staring back at me from a newspaper, magazine, or website.

The thing is, I think, not to stand still. I need to build on the momentum. This year local. Next year national. And maybe the year after that, global. I need to keep looking for new opportunities to publicise my novel. So if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

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Moojara – Book Launch

At last – here it is! It seems like a long time ago that I finished writing this book. The process of getting it into print has been almost as time consuming as writing it, and rather more stressful. I’ve edited, re-edited, and then edited again.  I learnt rudimentary typesetting and researched the publishing process till I was blue in the face. I designed a cover, set myself up as a publisher, bought a batch of ISBN numbers, and found a printer. And at last, I’m there!

What’s it about?

In the ‘blurb’, I say that ‘More than anything else, Moojara is an exploration of whether it’s possible to swap the life you have for the life you want.‘ It follows two characters who meet on the other side of the world (to the UK!) Two, incongruous individuals who are in Perth, Western Australia, for different reasons, living different lives, having had very different journeys. Or so it appears. But both are working towards a new life. Maya is in Perth by choice, focussed on what she wants; determined to get it. Alex, on the other hand, set out on an adventure without particularly knowing what he wanted to achieve, other than having an adventure. He had more of an adventure than he’d bargained for, or would have wanted – events have landed him in Perth, washed ashore by the currents, so to speak. But will either of these strategies lead to happiness? And what kind of relationship can be formed between two people who appear to have so little in common, and such contrasting personalities?

The book is first and foremost about people; their lives and aspirations, and the interaction between characters. But it also has a strong storyline, with drama, intrigue and suspense – there are a few surprises along the way.

If you’d like a copy, Moojara can be ordered direct from Strelitzia Publishing (£8.99 + £3.20 P&P), or from any bookshop. It’s also available as an ebook (£1.99)

If you’re in the area, Moojara is stocked by the following local bookshops:

Griffin Books, Windsor Rd, Penarth
Octavo’s Bookshop & Cafe, West Bute St, Cardiff Bay

Next: The joys of marketing…


Text & images ©Graham Wright 2019

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Novel number 2 at last, and how not to Design a Cover

Self-publishing a novel is a complex, time consuming and potentially expensive process. Paying for a designer to create a book cover for you is one expense you can avoid; if you have some basic design skills, and the confidence to do the job yourself.

You’ll need some design software. I used Adobe Elements, a cut-down version of Photoshop, with most of the functionality, but at a fraction of the price (I had this software already, so it cost me nothing). There’s probably some free software out there that would do the job. Or you could download a free trial version, but you’ll need to be quick, as you only get 7 days free with Photoshop, or 15 free with Corel Draw. If you’re not familiar with the software there’s a lot to learn in a short time.

There are really only two approaches. The easy way is to find a photograph you like, and which evokes the spirit and subject matter of your book. There are a huge range of professional photos available on the wibbly-wobbly-web. Sources such as Unsplash allow you to use images from their archive for free, for both non-commercial and  commercial purposes.  Having downloaded a photo, you can copy it into your cover file. You can just have it on the front cover, leaving the back cover and spine a solid colour. Or you can have it wrap around the spine and onto the back cover (but make sure it isn’t too dark/light so that the small text won’t show up). Then you just need to position and format the text (Title, author name, blurb, price and ISBN) and leave a space for the barcode. It’s an easy way to get a serviceable, professional looking cover.

And then there’s the hard way. Instead of using a stock photograph (which won’t be unique to you by the way, so it could potentially turn up elsewhere; maybe even on the cover of another book) you could use one of your own photographs. You could then start adding other effects, such as an opaque panel overlay. The author name could straddle this panel, with the first name above it, in the same colour (and opaque) and the surname cut out of the panel, in negative. You could draw the outline of a figure, shade it and blur it, to create a shadowy profile. And then, while you’re at it, why not teach yourself Aboriginal-style dot painting, so you can create some interesting dot-painted shapes to swirl around the figure, then wind their way round and across the back cover. I’m rarely one to take the easy option.

Creating the cover for my latest novel took me a long time, but I am pleased with the result. I think it looks professional, but distinctive. It looks as if it’s been individuality designed, as if some thought’s gone into it (which it has), which I hope will make it stand out, in a good way, from the generic, photo-based covers that are more usual for a self-published book. I’m hoping, in fact, that it doesn’t look like a self-published book. But you can be the judge of that. Next time…



Text and images ©Graham Wright 2019

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You may have noticed I’ve been a bit quiet recently. It’s because I’ve had my head in a book – my book. I’ve been typesetting.
When I decided to self-publish my latest novel, I knew there would be some work involved. I hadn’t realised just how much. The research is on-going. Researching all the things that need to be done, and how to do them, including:

  • find an appropriate printer (or third-party provider),
  • get an ISBN (in fact you need more than one),
  • design a cover,
  • write a short, snappy description for the back cover. This is known as a ‘blurb’  (silly name!)
  • furnish your cover with all of the relevant info (including your blurb, your publishing name, your ISBN & barcode),
  • prepare your manuscript for printing…

That’s where the typesetting comes in. How difficult can it be? Well, there’s more to it than you might think, and some aspects are more obvious than others.

Chapter Headings
Of course you need to ensure your chapter headings are all the same style and font size. You need to make sure each chapter ends with a page break, so that the next chapter starts on a new page.

Paragraph indents
The first line of each paragraph has to be indented, and by the same amount (around 0.5cm will match most novels), except for the first paragraph of each chapter, and the first paragraph immediately after a time break (which needs a blank line after it).

You don’t need to justify yourself, but you probably do need to justify your text (if you don’t want your pages to look too different to other novels). The justification option in MS Word (and, most probably, all other word processing applications) spreads lines out tight to the left and right margins. That tends to mess up the spacings between words. And that’s where your troubles really begin…

Having justified the text, the words will get stretched apart. The last word in each line is pushed tight up to the right margin. That means the space that was between that word and the margin before justification has to be ‘lost’ elsewhere within the line. Depending on the number of words and characters in a particular line, this can be a lot of extra space to fit in. Some lines can look as though they contain double, or even triple spaces between words.What can you do about this? Theoretically, you should consider kerning (that’s ‘kerning’, not ‘gurning’ – though it’s enough to make you pull a face). Kerning is to do with character spacing. Word has a kerning option, but though the text shifts a bit when you switch it on, the change is slight, and I can’t particularly see that it’s any better. So what can you do? I’ll come back to that later.

Widows & Orphans
This is where the last line of a paragraph ends up isolated at the top of the next page, or where the first line of a paragraph is on its own at the end of the previous page. The good news is that Word has an option for automatic widows and orphans control. The bad news is you can’t use it! Why? Because of…

Have a flick through any of your novels and you’ll see that the last lines of facing pages are always adjacent (except at the end of a chapter of course). I guess there’s no reason why you absolutely have to follow this convention (it’s your book, after all) but if you don’t, it will be one more thing that doesn’t look quite right, and it might just be enough to put off independent bookshops from stocking your book. MS Word fixes widows and orphans by moving them onto the next or previous page, with the rest of the paragraph. Which completely messes up the blocking!

So how do you fix:

  • kerning,
  • widows and orphans, and,
  • blocking?

In MS Word, at least, the only way I can see to do it is by manually editing the text. I’m not exactly happy about this, partly because of the time involved, but also because I want to word my sentences to convey meaning, not so that they look good on the page.

There’s more. ‘Stacking’ is where the same word happens to appear in the same position in two or more adjacent lines. Where the same is true for dashes, the effect is known as ‘ladders’.

There are, apparently, software programs that are good for typesetting (Word isn’t one of them) but they tend to be both expensive and difficult to learn. That, I suppose, is evidence of why typesetting is a career of its own.

Going through the manuscript page by page, adjusting and editing the text to fix all of those quirks, takes almost as long as writing the book in the first place. And the changes are dependant on the page size and margins being fixed – change them, and you have to start again. So I only hope I’ve got them right! The good news is that typesetting isn’t so critical for a novel as it would be for a non-fiction book with illustrations, or an art book.

The other good news is that I’ve finished typesetting my novel! It’s done, but it was emotional. In future, I will definitely pay to have my novels professionally typeset. But only if I’m earning a lot more than I do now!

So now I’ve turned my attention back to the cover design. Finalising the design is dependant on the number of pages (which allows the spine width to be calculated) which I didn’t know until the typesetting was done. I’m almost there; the cover design is almost finished. I just need to buy the ISBNs (the price of which I notice increased well above the rate of inflation this year). I’ve got a reasonable quote from a printer (and seen examples of their work). All I need to do is save my two files (cover design and book manuscript) as pdf files, and send them off. I have to admit to being a bit nervous now – do I really want to go through with it?

Watch out for my next post, in which I’ll show you my cover, and explain how I designed it.

Oh, by the way; I can’t now look at any kind of text – books, magazines, blogs, websites, or TV and film credits – without paying attention to the way it’s been typeset. So; there’s another albatross round my neck for the foreseeable future…


Text ©Graham Wright 2019

Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

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Queen’s speech an insult to most Britains

It seems a strange choice for the queen to use the few minutes she gets to speak to ‘her people’ each year to promote a minority religion. I wonder what the people thought today, when they tuned in to hear what their head of state wanted to say to them? Did Muslims wonder why she should choose to talk to them about a minor prophet? Were Jews insulted to have her tell them that a charlatan preacher is actually a god? Did Hindus wonder why they bothered, when she chose to promote a religion that contradicts their own? And were atheists annoyed to have wasted their time listening to a nonagenarian monarch blathering on about her imaginary friend?

Xmas may be a Christian festival, but only nominally so – for most people in the UK, the holiday period is, as it has always been, all about socialising. Just as it was in the time before it was hijacked by Christians – Saturnalia in the roman era, or winter solstice, going back into pre-history.  In Britain, for the first time in history, those with no religion outnumber the religious. And even among the religious, Christianity is in decline.

The head of state should represent the state – that means everyone, not just the few. So when she chooses to preach to us, the people; to make the clumsy assumption that we all believe in her religion (when in fact most of us see it as a fiction), shows not only how out of touch she is with the general population, but also how much contempt she holds for us. Ditto the establishment generally. We have a parliament that in its religious makeup is unrepresentative of the people, and which consistently forces its religious sensibilities on an unwilling public (for instance, by handing over the education of our children to the churches).

Britain today is a divided nation. It would have been a good idea for the queen to have found a way to begin the process of bringing us together again. Instead, we got the usual party political broadcast on behalf of the C of E establishment.


Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

text © Graham Wright

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Book Review

With so many books being published, it’s no surprise that publishers are always on the lookout  for something new – something that will make a book stand out. It’s true now, and it will have been true in 2007, when Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was first released.

Paul Torday’s debut novel has not one but two characteristics that differentiate it from most other novels. The first is the bizarre subject matter (salmon fishing in the Yemen?!) The second is that there’s no conventional narrative – the story is told through letters, emails, interviews and excerpts from Hansard. Two USPs in one novel can’t be bad. Although, at first glance, neither of these conceits sound particularly exciting. For me, one of them was more successful than the other.
The story is based around a Yemeni sheik who loves salmon fishing, and enlists the (initially rather unwilling) help of a British fisheries expert to bring salmon to a river in the Yemen.  A river that is dry for much of the year, in a desert climate. It could have been a very short story, but in fact it made for a rather engaging novel. I had empathy with the main character, even if he is a bit dense at times. I followed the story as it progressed, and I wanted to know how it would end. The story is slightly ridiculous at times, but that’s because the book is a comedy, and the story is played for comedy value (I’ll come back to that later). I’m quite sure that if Paul Torday had wanted, he could have written it as a fully credible serious piece.
What didn’t work so well for me was the conceit of telling the story from the perspective of the main characters through their letters and emails, through their responses to questions while being interviewed, and in the case of the protagonist, through his diary entries. Had this been followed faithfully it could have either made for an impossibly dry, tedious novel, or would have required a considerably higher and more sustained level of comedy than the book actually has (did I say I’ll come back to that later?)

To avoid the book being either dull, or a prolonged stand-up routine, the author had a cunning plan. He cheated. Diary entries, correspondence and answers to interview questions are all just thinly disguised narrative. Amusing, engaging, interesting narrative, but narrative all the same. I don’t know, maybe I’m too uptight, but if an author tells me they’re giving me a piece of business correspondence, I kind of expect it to read like a piece of business correspondence. If it launches into an explanation of how the writer’s marriage is going wrong, complete with real-time dialogue exchanges, then I can’t help noticing that’s just not how business correspondence works.

Likewise with interview responses. I’ve seen extracts from the kind of interviews that are portrayed in the book. I’ve seen high-profile characters being grilled by commons select committees. They often have something to hide. They’re generally guarded, cautious, nervous, indignant, untrusting. I’ve never seen them chatty. I’ve never seen them go off on a ‘by-the-way’ tangent, relate a conversation (with complete word-for-word dialogue), give away personal secrets of the people they’re being asked about, tell a story they don’t absolutely have to tell, with all the descriptive ephemera of a novel. All of this did what for me is a cardinal sin for a writer of fiction – it disturbed my willingness to suspend my disbelief.
I managed to put my difficulty with the format to the back of my mind, and I did enjoy the book, although there were a few times when it became  bit tedious (such as the extracts from the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary’s unpublished memoirs). The reading group notes emphasise the contrast portrayed in the story between the secular west, and the faith-based societies of the middle east. They ask; ‘Which world comes out with most credit, do you think?’ There is a growing strand of mysticism as the book progresses, but though the conflict between different outlooks and lifestyles is addressed, it isn’t pushed too hard – the author leaves the reader to think about it themselves.

Coming back (eventually) to the comedy value; I would say the book is rather more mildly amusing than full-on comedy. But then, I’ve read so-called ‘comedy novels’ in the past without realising what I was reading was intended to be comedy until I’d almost finished. I don’t know if that’s because my sense of comedy is lacking, or a damning indictment of the quality of comedy in so-called comedy novels. A lot of them do seem to read like the screenplay of a very weak sit-com. In my defence, I have read some genuinely funny novels (I would recommend anything by Douglas Adams or Ben Elton). Perhaps my taste in comedy is somewhat unusual.
Anyway, back to SFINTY. For me, the vehicle of the story (letters, emails, interviews, etc) doesn’t really work.  More and more I see authors shackling themselves (or are they having it forced upon them by publishers?) by attempting to write within some narrow, quirky gimmick. Like telling their story through one day – the same day – of every year in the lives of their characters (that one didn’t work for me either). I can’t see what the problem is with telling a story straight, without gimmicks. And I wonder whether authors (and readers) aren’t having this foisted upon them by publishers’ misguided craving for anything different, however ridiculous it might be.

That said, I did enjoy SFINTY, even if the author did cheat with the format. And I have to admit that wrapping up the story with a summary of the conclusions of a House of Commons Foreign Affairs select committee is rather cool. So if you haven’t already read it, I would recommend the book.

Final Note: The book is published by Phoenix, who are (and I quote) ‘An Hachette Livre UK Company’ The fact that a publisher thinks it’s correct to put ‘an’ before a word beginning with ‘H’ tells you everything there is to know about what’s wrong with the publishing industry today!

Text and photos © Graham Wright 2018

Copyright for the cover of ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’, in the absence of a credit within the book, presumably belongs to the publisher.

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