The SoA's quarterly journal
'The whole point of a novel is that it is an island, entire of itself. The reader opens the covers each time and rediscovers that same timeless present, and a publisher – or an author – disrupts that perfection at their peril.'
James McConnachie, Editor
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From the Editor
The great literary event was undoubtedly the publication of the draft novel that became To Kill a Mockingbird. Among the many reasons for TKAM’s success was the way it evoked the quintessential small-town Southern childhood, complete with heroic father. The novel is perfumed with Alabama mimosa, Double Mint gum, lilac talc, the ‘warm bittersweet smell of clean Negro’, as Harper Lee wrote, and collective nostalgia.
Among the many reasons for Go Set a Watchman’s relative failure, consequently, was the way it seemed to many readers to travesty their memories of the original classic. The racial pressures that rumbled over Maycomb County like an approaching Southern thunderstorm burst right over the later (or rather earlier) novel. Scout’s childhood was over. Jem was dead. Atticus was ‘revealed’ to be, really, a racist.
Moving quickly past the obvious objection – that Atticus is not a real person, meaning that he is not ‘really’ anything – the other feet-of-clay revelation was that Harper Lee was not a maverick genius who had somehow distilled her novel from the American unconscious. She was a real, working writer who hit the sweet spot in no small part due to the creativity and diligence of her editor, Tay Hohoff.
Real, working writers are perhaps less surprised by these supposed revelations. We know how flawed early versions of books can be. Few of us would want our own drafts to see the sunlight. (Though the prospect of a million sales in a week might just tip the balance.) We also understand that books are constructions. The whole point of a novel is that it is an island, entire of itself. The reader opens the covers each time and rediscovers that same timeless present, and a publisher – or an author – disrupts that perfection at their peril. A true sequel casts new light on its predecessor. A parallel version casts mud and confusion. Looking backwards can be dangerous, or at least disappointing.
This Autumn issue considers the realities for working writers, with regard to the past, present and, particularly, the future. Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis identifies major, long-term trends in the book market. Nicola Solomon, the SoA’s Chief Executive, argues for the fair contracts that should underpin a sustainable future for the whole business of writing and publishing. Jake Wallis Simons considers the future of BBC drama – and how writers will fit into it. Joanne Harris defends the readers of the future against the pernicious effects of marketing children’s books according to gender.
We also have a special section on ‘writers at work’. Tobias Jones, the writer and woodland community leader, finds the value in getting your hands dirty. Derek Wilson and Simon Whaley discover new markets and opportunities for writers – in local festivals and Universities of the Third Age. Tax specialist Barry Kernon offers expert advice on completing that very last stage in the whole business of writing: the tax return. And we have two ‘letters from Ireland’ that address the working realities in that country, for writers and publishers.
This is also the issue in which Terence Blacker offers his valediction. His Endpaper is an example of the blackest Blackery. That voice – ironic, wry, blending savagery with sensitivity and truth with cynicism – has been the pedal note underlying this journal for 21 years. He has appeared in every issue (bar one) since the Spring issue of 1994. As a feat of creativity, and loyalty, this is remarkable, and his bass will be missed in the chorus that follows – the idea, as Terence explains in his article, is to open up that space in The Author to a range of writers’ voices. ‘Another task awaits,’ he concludes. ‘Look forwards, not back.’
Trends in the book market Douglas McCabe
Let books be books Joanne Harris
CREATOR: what writers expect Nicola Solomon
The comic in writing Richard Smyth
Writers at work
Writing and manual labour Tobias Jones
In pursuit of the grey pound Derek Wilson
Keeping it local Simon Whaley
Writers, submit John Saul
Letter from an Irish writer Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin
Letter from an Irish publisher Michael O'Brien
Out and About: the anatomy of CSI Michael Heath
Grub Street Andrew Taylor
To the Editor
The SoA's literary prize winners
Endpaper Terence Blacker
About The Author
The Author is an invaluable source of information, news and opinion for Members and Associates as well as for publishers, literary agents and other professionals working in the book industry. It has a circulation of approximately 9,200. Members and Associates receive The Author free of charge.
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