Sunday, September 16, 2012

Escaping My Ex-Publisher: What I Got Back

In 2007, my first published novel, RABID, was published by Kunati, Inc., a small traditional publishing company. I was thrilled because they had 50,000 submissions for their first round and chose 8 books for their first crop.

Yeah, 8 books out of 50,000 submissions. That’s some serious “gate-keeping,” huh?

I had been writing RABID for three years at that point. I had graduated with my PhD in molecular virology, done a postdoc in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, and had a baby. My brain was scorched. I threw all my emotional baggage in that book.

Despite that, it turned out well, I thought and I still think.

It also turned out to be almost 200,000 words.

My publisher wanted me to cut it down to below 140,000, which I did. I think it came in at 139,996, which is below 140,000 words, and that’s the important point.

My publisher also edited the periods out of my name, kind of like e.e. cummings but with punctuation rather than capitalization, so I became TK Kenyon instead of T.K. Kenyon. I had been T.K. since sixth grade, when there were three “Terri’s” (of various spellings) in my class, so two of us got to choose new names. I chose “T.K.” When I sign my name, I use T.K., and yes, I tap out two periods in there. It’s funny that some people think it’s an affectation, since my publisher did it and I really didn’t have a say in it.

That’s common with publishers: they do stuff and authors don’t have any say in it. The periods in my name, 60,000 words of my first novel, etc.

I had to cut a lot of stuff out of RABID, including stuff that was important but was not the very most important. For example, there was a lot about the community, including some instances of ... hive mind, perhaps we should call it, that happened when several of the characters were together.

This was the po-mo structure of the novel: each scene was written from one of the viewpoint characters (Conroy, Leila, Bev, or Dante,) and had to include one of the other four characters, except that each character got one soliloquy when they were alone and at an important turning point in their lives. Bev’s soliloquy is the very first scene. Leila’s is the last scene. Conroy’s and Dante’s occur at important points in the book.

When all four characters were together, or at least three of them, the community’s hive mind become active. The viewpoint become omniscient and can duck into various minor characters’ heads. I wanted to speak about the gestalt that happens when people gather.

Anyway, that strategy was a casualty of the Great Revision. I went back and restored a lot of that in this version of the novel.

In addition to some additions for clarity and some emotional beats that were recovered, the new version of RABID is about 155,000 words.

Yeah, it’s pretty long, but it has a lot to say.

It’s not a book that everyone will like, which is why I posted this “quiz” a while ago to point you toward whether you should bother giving it a look. I just reread it five times in a row, which is a lot to read any one book. There are some parts in there that I am really proud of. There are some scenes that I’m surprised that I survived writing.

If you read it, I hope you like it. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Are You Cool Enough to Read RABID?

Here’s a QUIZ:

(1) How many graduate degrees do you hold? (Master’s or better to open.)
                (a) 2 or more.
                (b) 1
                (c) 0, but I have a professional degree (MD, JD, MBA, etc.)
                (d) 0, but I have a bachelor’s.
                (e) Other.

(2) Are you otherwise intellectually accomplished?
                (a) Heck, yeah. Extreme audodidact. I even know what “autodidact” means. I usually read around or more than a book per week.
                (b) I read everything. Around 40 books per year across a lot of categories and non-fiction.
                (c) I read deeply in 1 or 2 categories or genres, at least 1 book a month.
                (d) I read what’s on the NYT or other bestseller lists but not more than 10 books per year.
                (e) I don’t read that much.

(3)          Have you voluntarily read or seen something by the following authors? (Choose uppermost letter.)
                (a) Don DeLillo, Kip Thorne, Michael Frayn, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Elaine Pagels, Vladimir Nabokov.
                (b) Chuck Palahniuk, Connie Willis, Nancy Kress, Abraham Verghese, William Gibson, Thornton Wilder, Carl Sagan, John Le Carre, Brian Greene, Michio Kaku.
                (c) J.K. Rowling, Neil Peart, Ray Bradbury, Phillippa Gregory, E.L. Doctorow, Harlan Ellison, Jeff Lindsey, Daniel Silva, Bharati Mukherjee, Graham Greene.
                (d) Orson Scott Card, J.G. Ballard, Arthur Miller, Stephen King, Nora Roberts or J.D. Robb, Mitch Albom, Richard Castle, Kingsley Amis, Lee Child.
                (e) None of the above.

(4) My religion:
                (a) Atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, or UU.
                (b) I don’t like churches because I know too much about them.
                (c) Catholic.
                (d) Other than Christian religion.
                (e) Conservative Christian, believer in angels or signs, or very spiritual or psychic.

(5) In my free time, I most like to:
                (a) discover new music that makes me think, experience other kinds of art, explore other lifestyles.
                (b) travel, watch the Science, History, or H2 channels, go to live concerts, live performances, lots of different kinds of movies, or dancing.
                (c) decorate my house, collect stamps or coins, watch the Food or HGTV Networks, listen to the same music that everyone else was listening to in high school.
                (d) play a sport, watch QVC, watch only rom-com or action movies, watch only reality TV shows, bass fish.
                (e) watch a lot of sports on TV, Bible study, go to strip clubs, drink or toke myself unconscious.

Here’s the grading scale:

- If you have at least 3 answers that are (a) or (b), you might like RABID.  

- If you have 3 or more (e) answers, you definitely won’t like it.
- The (c) and (d) answers were just other stuff that doesn’t correlate one way or the other.

I’m not trying to scare anybody away or be a snot. I didn’t write this to be elitist. (I don’t have to try. It comes naturally.)

More importantly, I have talked with quite a few readers who liked RABID and a few who hated it. I appreciate them all taking their time to read it. The people who “got” RABID and liked it generally are quite intellectually accomplished. They have impressive CVs. They read widely, and they read the hard stuff.

It’s not surprising that people who like RABID tend to read a lot of the same authors that I do.

The people who hated it don’t like their beliefs challenged or they don’t like to think too much.

I don’t want people to read my book and hate it or even to slog through it. So don’t read RABID if you’re not going to like it.

The world is full of books that are right for you. Not only are there more and more books being published now, but they’re more and more available than ever, and classics and backlist and out of print books are now easily available. Our reading choices have expanded at least 1000-fold in the last decade. That’s marvelous! That’s incredible! Go read something you’ll love!

You should read books that speak to you, that resonate with you.

Don’t read books that fit you badly. It’s like wearing too-small underwear or eating food that you don’t like, even if it is supposed to be good for you.

The novel that I’m writing right now, Selling Handcuffs, will be more accessible. It will still challenge you, but it is meant for a wider audience. If you won’t like RABID, I hope that you’ll wait for Selling Handcuffs and try that one. It will probably be out before Christmas.

By the way, those authors on #3? I am not “lumping myself in” with any of those incredible authors, but they’re my major influences. I’m also not denigrating the other authors in answers (c) and (d). I just looked at my bookshelves and randomly assigned names to these answers. I like all of them very well, too.

Thanks for reading,
TK Kenyon