My aim with Quarton: the Bridge was to write something that I would
a) enjoy and read myself and
b) see whether I could write something good enough that other people would read and enjoy too.
I can’t deny that I hoped, and still hope, that it becomes a successful book and sells well. I would like to make a career out of being an author, mainly so that I can carry on doing what love to do which is to write books.
I have self-published this book rather than go through a publishing house. I have to admit that I found writing it was the easier part. Promoting and selling it is hard, mainly because I have little idea of what I am doing! I am lucky enough to have people around to guide me in the right direction but being an ‘Indie’ author is still more difficult than I ever imagined it to be. Writing is one job: marketing is another. Even if I have written something good enough to be a best-seller, I may never find out because I may not get the other side of it right.
A friend said to me when we were discussing this problem, ‘Write something really contentious so that it gets banned. Then it will sell well.’ There are precedents for this, whether intentional or not, both inside the book world and outside. Think: ‘The Satanic Verses’ by Salman Rushdie, Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’ and the song ‘Peaches’ by the Stranglers. Their notoriety as being controversial helped them to sell well. My intention when writing the book was not to write something controversial; I had an idea and went with it. But there are a couple of themes in there which I was wary of and could be deemed by some, as being, if not controversial, then sensitive, at least. One of them is around how much violence is acceptable in a book written for the Young Adult market which is the subject of the next blog. The other one – reincarnation – I would like to explore in this one.
If you have read the book, you might remember that there is a section in there where one of the main characters, Marston, interrogates his computer for a definition of reincarnation. His computer tells him that it is a concept around physical rebirth for which there is no scientific evidence but which is a belief held by some people and religions. Knowing that he has been reincarnated many times, he basically scoffs at the ‘ignorance’ of humans that it is not more widely known about. By my writing that short section, I wanted to put in a small acknowledgement that, of course, some people believe it happens, others don’t. But is there a danger that my version of reincarnation in this book might offend people who do believe in it? Similarly, could people who categorically do not believe in it take offence because they have very firm alternative views about what does happen to you after you die?
I will set out my own personal thoughts about reincarnation but not before I give you what I hope is the ‘get out’ clause: Quarton is a work of fiction, something born out of my imagination. It’s made-up basically, to entertain. I did very little research into reincarnation but just used the broad idea of being reborn into another life to tell a story. My lawyers address is...
So why choose reincarnation as a theme? Firstly, I have always been interested by the idea that when you die, you could come back as another person in another life. Secondly, I couldn’t recall any sci-fi stories which used it, not in the way that I wanted to. I saw the potential for intrigue and conflict in it, particularly if you had the same protagonists connected in some way and constantly meeting up. This idea enabled me to write stories within stories about those previous lives. I liked the thought of jumping in and out of the main story, throwing implicit (and occasional explicit) links to who was who. I wanted the reader to try to work what was going on, to get them thinking and guessing. A side-benefit of that was that I ended up using different styles of writing. In the dominant sections of the book, I was trying to write with pace and plenty of action to tell the main story in the ‘now’. In the other sections, I could go where and when I liked, slow the pace down a little if I wanted to and really explore what it might be like for the characters if and when they find out they are reincarnated. In other words, it gave me scope for a lot of fun.
When I finished and started to think about the blurb, I hunted around for possible quotes about reincarnation. I found this one by Goethe that I put on the back cover: ‘I am certain I have been here, as I am now, a thousand times and I hope to return a thousand times.’ And in the inside by Voltaire: ‘It is not more surprising to be born twice than once.’ That last one really struck me: what an incredible thing it is to be born in the first place! Perhaps that is the thing we should be really amazed about. With that in mind, is there anything to stop it happening again? Yes, plenty! - many would argue from a religious point of view. There are the others who say it’s physically impossible from a scientific point of view (see Marston’s computer’s response in the first paragraph). No doubt atheists and agnostics would have something to say about it.
So, what do I personally believe? Well, I’m intrigued by reincarnation and it makes (hopefully) a good story. But is that enough? Should I be more controversial and come out on one side or the other? Perhaps that way, my book might get banned. Or maybe by writing about it, I’ve already done enough to ruin – or enhance – my chances of becoming a best-selling author? You will never know - not in this life anyway.