Tag Archives: small demons

John Updike, author

Exploring the Storyverse

John Updike, authorAs a newly published writer one of the things foremost on my mind is marketing – or how to find the right people to read my books and encourage them to choose mine above than the vast selection available on the virtual and physical shelves. I came across Small Demons a little while ago and was immediately attracted by its zeitgeisty-cool feel and original concept – essentially, in the words of the Huffington Post:

“…an encyclopedia and “Storyverse” that catalogues names, places, songs, products and other categories for thousands of books.”

For example, I can choose a favourite book, like ‘Life of Pi’ and not only does it give me a synopsis and some information about the film adaption, it also tells me what other books it’s mentioned in, along with the pertinent extract, but also the people, places, food and drink and vehicles mentioned within. It’s a little bit Wikipedia as its ultimate aim is for bibliophiles to update and contribute details to grow the Storyverse, but what’s already there is already pretty compelling. For instance, Indhira Ghandi’s mentioned and hovering over her picture I can read the passage where this happens, but clicking on the picture I can then find out what other books she is mentioned in – a total of 85 currently listed.

Picking one, Aravind Adiga’s ‘Last Man in the Tower’ (on my to be read list) I then find out this book mentions Facebook, Honda, The Sunday Times and Coca Cola amongst other things giving me a good sense of what it’s about. I can buy the book from there from various platforms, add it to a storyboard (a literary Pinterest) and share it through social media. I like the concept very much but it’s not as obvious to see how it might help with marketing debut work from an Independent author such as myself since it’s a while until somewhat lesser known works like mine would be featured on here – it doesn’t have the sense of community and interactivity that Goodreads has. Yet.

However, it can help, like Listopia and Listmania do in tracking down books with similarities to mine or ones I like, and from there, perhaps looking on Goodreads or Amazon, I can start tracking down my ‘tribe’ – the people that like the things I do. My first novel, ‘Thirty Seconds Before Midnight’ features a tortoise called Herbert so I searched for “tortoise” – the set of results was small, but did include a novel by Julia Stewart that I love and recently read called ‘The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise’. Perhaps other lovers of this book are part of my tribe? Or me theirs?

‘Thirty Seconds Before Midnight’ is also a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth – and using this search term I turned up Jennifer Egan‘s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ – another great book. Although I think this site needs a lot more content to execute fully on its vision it’s certainly fun to play with and beautiful to look at – something that can’t be said about all of the literary social sites.

And I love this kind of magpie approach to writing – the concept of a book being, yes a story, but also a collection of objects, people, locations, brands – the exploration of common threads and connections and links. Before I published ‘Thirty Seconds Before Midnight’, I, like all good independent authors, hired an editor. And reading through the final version before formatting and committing the work to paper and ether, and having not read it for a good while, I was delighted to discover some of the things I’d put in there, little treasures for the reader to find. It reminded me of a quote from a Paris Review interview with John Updike where he said:

“I think books should have secrets, like people do. I think they should be there as a bonus for the sensitive reader or there as a kind of subliminal quavering. I don’t think that the duty of the twentieth-century fiction writer is to retell old stories only.”

So here are a few treasures from Thirty Seconds Before Midnight:

This is a Bacchantes vase from the legendary French glassware company Lalique. When I was growing up my parents were big into antiques and I saw this occasionally at the many Sunday morning fairs we frequented and this particular Art Deco piece has been an object of long-term lust for me. Perhaps one day. I do wear a Lalique Cabouchon ring every single day – they are much admired, but quite fragile being made of crystal.

I studied English Literature and Language at University, and was surprised to find some of the poetry stayed with me well into the writing of this book. John Milton was one of my ‘specialist subjects’ and this poem – ‘Lycidas’ – has always had some resonance with me. It’s about being young and losing a peer. It’s pastoral like Orpheus and Eurydice and ‘Thirty Seconds Before Midnight’.

Charlotte's web

One of my favourite books as a child for any of you that haven’t read it, you must! No matter what age you are! No matter whether you have children or not! They made it into a film… but we all know what we say about books and films. It’s about a surprising friendship between a girl, a pig and a spider. And it will make you cry.

John Donne Renaissance poet, John Donne – possibly my all time favourite – although snapping at his heels are e.e. cummings and Carol Ann Duffy – it actually took me a while to find this poem after featuring it. It’s pretty rude, like most of his – it’s called The Anagram and it’s about his ugly lover. It has the word “dildo” in it and it stuck in my mind since when I was revising for my finals, my revision partner at the grand old age of twenty-one did not know what a “dildo” was (and me so wise!), yet more than that, I was surprised it had existed so long ago! We invented sex, right?

And so, let’s finish on a song. This is by the wonderful Eva Cassidy and is called Songbird:

‘Thirty Seconds Before Midnight’ is out now.