There’s a simple question people have started to ask me about my recently published book – what’s it about? Song of the Sea God is available on Amazon here.
I do have a simple answer, what in America is called an elevator pitch. The book is about a man who washes up on an island and tries to convince the local people he is a god.
That’s ok as far as it goes – but it’s an unsatisfactory shorthand for what is a somewhat more complicated situation. What the book is about depends on how you look at it.
I suppose I could say that in a wider sense it’s a book about religion and spirituality – what it is, how it works, what it means to people. But that makes it sound like some sort of philosophical treatise when in fact it’s nothing of the sort – it’s a tall tale, full of jokes and asides, shocks and twists.
You could also see it as the story of the narrator Bes – mute and dwarfish, an outsider in a close-knit community, who suddenly becomes a central point in a great and unexpected drama.
There are also other ways of reading the book, depending on your point of view. If you were religious for example, you might choose to read it as the story of a false prophet. If you were an atheist you might see it as a critique on the nature of religion and the way gods are ‘made’.
So what is Song of the Sea God about? I’d love it if you could read it and let me know!
I paid a visit to Walney Island this week which, in a sense, is where Song of the Sea God is set. The book is available on Amazon here.
I say in a sense because it is set geographically on this small island of the North West coast of England – but in other ways, not at all.
I was being interviewed on the beach on the West coast of Walney by Gareth from the local evening newspaper the North West Evening Mail. As we sat on a bench on an incredibly mild and sunny October Sunday afternoon, looking out over a beautiful seascape, I was at pains to explain that the book is not ‘about’ Walney.
Song of the Sea God is a fairly wild ride – there are laughs to be had sure, but there are also unpleasant people doing unpleasant things. I grew up on Walney and I would not like my old friends to think I had modelled these unpleasant people on them.
In fact what happened is that I had a story to tell – and needed somewhere to put it. The geography of Walney was there in my head – learned from childhood. It became a canvas for my story. But there was more to it than that – my story required a certain sort of place to work, it needed to be a place where the characters could have grown to become who they are in the book – people who fall easily under the sway of a charismatic figure who implies he can give them a better life.
So there was no point me sticking them in some demi-paradise or other Eden. It was no use me doing a tourist guidebook for the place – I had to make it seem a bit of a dump. So I did. I certainly didn’t call it Walney in the book of course – it isn’t – it is the island in my book and part of the world of the book which is different from the real world.
This distinction is important not just to me but to the people who live on Walney and are very proud of the place and the community. It demonstrates the basic gap between reality and fiction. As a writer of either you have responsibilities I think – and my responsibilities as a writer of fiction included making it very clear to the newspaper reporter interviewing me that in the book, I was making things up.
It worked out ok with the newspaper article as you can see from the pic. I was very happy with it – you can read the article in the paper online here.
Not a very long post this one – more in the nature of an announcement really. I just wanted to say that my novel Song of the Sea God is now officially available for those who might wish to buy it.
It’s on sale through Amazon here.
Through Waterstones online here.
And lots of other places online – also, of course, you can order it from any bookshop, though they won’t necessarily have it in stock they will be able to get hold of it easily.
It goes without saying how chuffed I am to have the book on sale. It takes a long time to write a book – well it does for me anyway – a good couple of years, roughly one for a first draft then a second for rewriting it into something I am happy with. It’s also a long process searching for a publisher to work with, and one which is not for the faint hearted. I consider myself very fortunate to have found Skylight Press who are a joy to work with and clearly care very much about the books they produce. You can buy Song of the Sea God directly from their website too by the way.
A big moment for me will be holding a copy of the book in my hands – my copies haven’t arrived yet. I guess that’s a thrill for any author, it certainly will be for me.
A quick description of the plot of Song of the Sea God, what Americans call an elevator pitch, is that it’s a book about a stranger who comes to a small island off the north of England and tries to convince the local people he’s a god. In a wider sense it’s a story about faith, about religion and what it means to us. Oh, and there are jokes too.
Thanks in advance to those who do take a punt and buy a copy – I hope you will find it worth your while, thought-provoking, challenging even. I hope there are things in there that you want to discuss – and that you come here to do it!
So, things are moving quite quickly now towards the publication of my novel Song of the Sea God which you can pre-order on Amazon here. I had the proofs of my book through from the publisher Skylight Press – it looks great and I spent a long evening reading through it one last time plus correcting issues picked up by the proof-reading the publisher had done.
Had you asked me before they read it what they would find I’d have said I’d read it and rewritten it that many times it would be fairly clean. And so it was – but there were a couple of howlers in there – and they duly found them!
One was that a character changed his name for an entirely new one about half way through. And the other was that at one point in the book a pair of characters had a discussion about something which had not yet happened – and didn’t happen for another 30 pages.
How did mistakes like that get in there you might ask? Well the simple answer is rewrites. I will actually have written those errors into the text fairly late in the day – while changing and, for the most part, improving sections of text. Luckily, they can just as easily be rewritten again! You can be assured that when the book appears the characters will keep the same names throughout.
Another development is that, on Friday October 5, I read from Song of the Sea God at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. I was delighted to do it – even though it turned out to be a bit of a weird setting. My reading took place in one of the festival book tents, basically a big book shop, at a time when there weren’t that many people around. There were people coming in and out, browsing the shelves, and me sat in the middle on a stage, with no microphone, reading from my book. I felt a bit like I did in my late teens when I used to busk with my guitar in the streets of northern cities. Luckily at that time I learned how to keep on keeping on, even if the interest in what I was doing was fairly muted.
My lit fest gig was an experience to say the least – and I’m glad I did it. It was the first chance I had to read from Sea God to the public, and at a prestigious event – even though my little corner of it was far from prestigious. It was nice of the organisers to find room among all their big stars for an unknown first time author like me.