Saturday, 26 February 2011

Steam Punk and Mutant Zinnias

It’s been a demoralizing couple of months and not just because of appalling weather. Just when I was getting on well with the final spruce up and edit of my second attempt at novel writing, I spotted a question and answer session organised by the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Just the thing, I thought, a chance to hear what an expert panel of editor, agent and published author has to say, maybe even pick up a few hot tips from the real insiders.

A crowded basement room at the New Cavendish Club, a cup of tea, some bikkies and all the expected advice:

A useful reminder about what to put in a submission letter – keep it to the point, and check out the agent actually deals with your genre – complete with cautionary and comi-tragic tales of authors sending off huge packages of historical romance to agents who only deal in cyber punk.

What is required in a synopsis? Apparently these are seldom read, and are asked for only to prove you’ve actually written an ending. When I think of the hours I have spent worrying...

Which leads to why I am feeling particularly disheartened. A brave soul asked what was the coming thing in fiction, a sure fire route to getting published, like what was every publisher gagging for at the moment? What did their mutual crystal balls say would sell in these cash hardened times?

I crossed my fingers, please, please let it be optimistic fiction with a couple of twists, a sad bit, a few laughs and a happy ending. Was it hell – What do readers buy during hard times? Well certainly not cheery novels to see them through until their spirits are uplifted. Okay, it's no surprise ditzy chick-lit is currently way off the mark (do I hear you say ‘at last’ and ‘hooray’?) But apparently what the buying public wants is even darker, dark hard times, with grim escapist drama, and not just suspenseful, woman in jeopardy sort of stuff, but more Victorian Gothic meets Blade Runner on a particularly bad day, with a pinch of Wuthering Heights thrown in. And keep it urban, very urban. I swear I’d never even heard of Steam Punk Romance until that day, and it’s been taking the U.S.A by storm for simply ages and is catching on in a big way here too. Dr Who has a lot to answer for; it would seem his tardis is the perfect piece of steam punk kit.

So it’s time to wipe off my brass goggles and get my bionic parasol all buffed up. If I want to get published it’s into the ditch with my cheery plots about young women working in country gardens and making out in life. I need to get going with end of days, edgy, cyber chick noir and something nasty lurking in the potting shed, mutant zinnias perhaps or cyber chrysanthemums methinks. Then again, maybe not.


  1. Eek I am not one of their market readers then....Lampie I admire that you write books and I do think you must write about what you feel passionate about, there is always room for any number of themes and genre...I bet J K Rowling got told at a similar meeting that children weren't into wizards and imaginary go girl and prove them all wrong. Good luck with the novel and do not lose heart!

  2. Yikes, Lampie - there's still a market over here and in the US for what you're writing. How else to explain the infatuation with all things French, British and Scandinavian and the popularity of women writers. I think that teens and very young adults are buying the bleak stuff, but everyone grows up, and the demographic between 25 and 70 is the real buying public. Go for it!