...is that an oxymoron, I wonder?
“Cry God for Harry, St George and England...!” And probably Wales on a good day.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire, forget it. Listen, the Bard of Avon, that towering genius of English literature, is ours. He was born on St George's Day. He died on St George's Day. You can't get more patriotic than that. The planets were in conjunction, the fates conspired and there was a following wind. He took his first and last breath on our soil. He was and is us.
All right, his work is timeless. His laser perception applies to the whole of humanity in multiple contexts. But of one thing, I am convinced: he would never find an agent today because the first question they'd ask about his ink-stained, perspiration-blotched parchment, even before they'd demanded he copy it in copperplate, double spaced, fully edited, with wide left-hand margins, clear indents and no scriptos, is: “Whose work is it like? Name half a dozen authors.” And if he couldn't snap out Dan Brown or Tom Clancy or Terry Pratchett, they'd say, “No deal.” Or more likely: “Sorry, but our fiction lists are currently closed. We wish you success elsewhere. You'll find agents and publishers listed in The Writers' & Artists Year Book. "Thunder and lightning! You're not actually J K Rowling, are you? We're always on the lookout for fresh talent.”
If the hopeful client isn't riding on some author's coat-tails and aspiring to fame by proxy, so to speak, then they don't want to know. Originality? They can't get enough of it. In retrospect.
In Britain, a related problem is that the notion of genre and shades of genre is not fine-tuned. You might think that would help, but it doesn't. One of the things I've noted since enjoying the privilege of being part of RR is that the American market is much more relaxed. If you've done your job well as a storyteller, a publisher will apply his heading afterwards. Here, it's the other way round. This is illustrated by the conversation below with the only agent who ever saw THE WOLF AND THE LAMB. Agents and publishers in the UK are apt not to enthuse too strongly before their clients have raked in a pile - they have well refined the art of bouyant pessimism - so imagine how this agent's wild enthusiasm blew me away. (She would even ring me from time to time for a general chat about the weather and my health at their expense!) “I love this book. I've told everyone here about it. You're the only author who's ever made the eighteenth century and the character of the Prince of Wales come alive for me.” Wait for it... “BUT WHO DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO READ IT?”
Well, for starters, since you ask, just about anyone who's interested in what it means to be English, in genealogy, social, cultural and economic upheaval, slavery, the plight of women, the Empire, the Age of Reason and the birth of the Modern World and how, when combined with beauty, pluck and spirit, it determined the destiny of a country butcher's daughter and changed the course of history.
Oh, I'd forgotten – back to the flag – we're a multicultural society here now and English History is being expunged from the curriculum. Humanities it isn't. Got to be PC and careful not to kindle the flame of dissent. That dragon won't be slain.
Anyway, like the curate's egg, St George's Day will be good in parts with a little scattered celebration of a restrained nature here and there and will be wafting the scent of bluebells towards your shores the long way round.
Cheers! But no thanks to he of the caterpillar brows, Alastair Darling!
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...