Gaynor Madoc Leonard


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A Wailing and a Gnashing of Teeth

user image 2011-10-31
By: Gaynor Madoc Leonard
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The frustrations of producing a novel which one hopes will at least be read, if not on the bestseller charts, are manifold.

There are the physical problems: blurry eyes (from looking at a computer screen for far too long); stiff shoulders and neck (from too much typing); aching legs (from the lack of a proper desk, footrest and typist's chair). There is the anger, rumbling constantly under the surface, from the lack of faith by publishers and literary agents.

In addition, there is the fury one feels with the computer software which fails to appreciate one's bons mots (in fact it's just done it with that very phrase) and offers ridiculous alternatives which make no sense at all.

I've mentioned lack of faith but that could also be interpreted as prejudice. While Scotland and Ireland appear to have any number of authors writing various types of literature about the most obscure parts of those delightful countries, anyone who dares to write about Wales is the subject of near-derision. I'll allow that some serious literary works, especially the poetical, have been found morethan acceptable but anyone, with the notable exception of Malcolm Pryce, who tries to take the reader down the humorous paths beyond Offa's Dyke is clearly not to be taken seriously.

The response I've received from a variety of publishers (mainly Welsh) and literary agents (mainly non-Welsh, simply because there don't seem to be any Welsh ones) is a variation on the theme of "Yes, it's amusing but we can't take a chance on it" with one literary agent (part-Welsh) inviting me to write something non-Welsh which she would be pleased to take a look at. The latter does at least give me some sort of back-handed compliment in implying that she thinks I can write! For such crumbs from the literary power breakfast table I suppose I should be grateful.

I've said before and I'll say it again, if one is famous for one thing (whether it's pulling a ten-ton truck with one's teeth, having multiple breast-enlargements, having an affair with a Member of Parliament/footballer/Z-list celebrity, taking part in Big Brother or just being Tony Blair) then publishers will be beating a path to one's door and offering a book contract with large amounts of folding money changing hands. The fact that one cannot write (in either sense) is neither here nor there; a ghost-writer will be employed and Bob is one's uncle. There'll be queues in High Street bookshops up and down the land. This is merely a fact of life, like death, taxes and dog shit where one least expects it.

There are multi-million-selling authors who would probably even admit themselves that they are not good writers but they can at least tell a story (I'm not testing this hypothesis by naming anyone as I can't afford a lawyer). The one that really gets me riled is the one who sells in millions and has his name above the titles but does not actually write the novels. Actually, I'm just envious of anyone who can get away with a deal like that.

So, as Miss Nobody, I sit at my computer and type my deathless prose in the vague (not vain) hope that there are at least a few people out there who will enjoy what I've written.

Bitter? Moi?

Yes, the software did it again!

Brian Stephen John
11/02/11 09:05:11AM @brian-stephen-john:

A cry from the heart, Gaynor! I suspect that many of us who live and work in Wales, and who write stories set in Wales, have exactly the same experiences. Sceptical and unhelpful publishers and agents, stiff necks, sore eyes etc. Mind you, the physical symptoms go with the territory -- I suspect that even ghost writers suffer from those.....

But I also agree that Scottish and Irish writers work within a much more secure environment -- because there are well-established markets and genres which they can tap into. The English-language market for Welsh fiction is very poorly defined and poorly promoted by Literature Wales, the Welsh Books Council and everybody else. How do we create a better "image" for Welsh fiction? Ah, that's the $64,000 question....