The book's editor and I are in the process of making the final edits on Daram, the first book in P.J. and my fantasy series, Tales from Taihandria. We elected to go the self-publishing route with our novel after only two rejections from literary agents and one from a publisher (years ago, when publishers still accepted un-agented manuscripts). I suppose most writers would think we were too easily discouraged, and that is partly true. Too often we have read about authors who have received upwards of sixty rejections before finally finding an agent and publisher who had faith in their work. And certainly we know there is a gender bias in the world of publishing, as in the rest of the world, whatever discipline or avenue. But what is more accurate is that we know our book fits a niche market and that most publishers and agents won't bother with a book like ours, no matter how well written. Because we broke quite a few of the 'rules' writing Daram.
First, we made the book too long. No publisher or agent will accept a first book from unknown authors that is over six hundred pages long, even in the fantasy genre. All along our editor warned us this was the case, that Daram at one point was longer than War and Peace, and we had better cease and desist if we had even the faintest hope of finding a publisher. We didn't. Daram is a very big book and it is but the first installment of the Tales from Taihandria adventures, although it is a complete story in itself.
Second, we eschew the sort of deadly violence and graphic sex that seems to drive the industry these days, both on the shelf and in the theatres, and even on the telly at home. The vulgarity of this kind of entertainment depresses us, not to mention grosses us out, so we have tried to make such violence and sex as we have included as tasteful as possible, that is to say, at least not offensive to most people. The kinds of films and books that depict graphic violence or gratuitous sex every other scene or chapter end up making the violence and sex essentially meaningless; that is, it has little lasting effect on both the plot and audience. It exists for its own sake, for - one supposes - mere titillation, and granted, there are readers who do enjoy violence or sex for that reason. But we take those elements of plot a little more seriously, and we try to measure realistically the effects such action would have on our characters and how they would affect our readers.
Third, we enjoy the kind of novel that allows characters to have a rich interior life, that the story doesn't have to be all "show, don't tell." Some people might say our taste is antiquated and Victorian, but we are, quite frankly, tired of the novels that follow this cardinal rule to the point where characters no longer are allowed to think. We have consciously ignored this dictum and our story, we hope, is character driven in the time-honoured sense of the term, which is unusual for fantasy. Of course all fantasy heroines and heroes face moral dilemmas, but even so, their choices are usually not dependent on more than that they are the 'good guys' and so will inevitably make the right choices, and the reader will not witness those interior moral struggles. There are exceptions - J.K. Rowling's characters come to mind - but in Tolkien and to a lesser extent in Lewis moral struggles are non-existent, and the results are a foregone conclusion. We wanted our characters to experience real situations (or as close to real as our fantasy genre allows, without removing the magic elements) and face real moral dilemmas.
Finally, we did not follow convention and wait for our sixtieth or six hundredth rejection from literary agents before choosing self-publishing. This is not because we are over-confident, nor, as might conversely appear, do we lack confidence in our story. Rather it is a question of time. Life is busy and complicated. We took ages to write the story, real life having got in the way so much, that our patience has worn thin. We longed to see the story in real book form, and voila! we are seeing it at last. Not without time and trouble invested in the process, but it has been an education in itself, and great fun. So I hope readers somewhere out there will enjoy the fledgling we are pushing from the nest. We believe it will fly, as it has certainly been in the nest a very long time and by now it must have wings of some sort, strong enough to at least guide it gently to a safe resting place on a shelf or shelves in the wide world.
Hetty November 16, 2015