Sunday, 31 July 2011

GUEST AUTHOR - Xavier Leret

Today's guest is Xavier Leret who is of Hispanic, Cuban, French and also, apparently, Jewish and Arabic stock, although looks-wise he has inherited everything from his mother’s Irish/North-of-England roots. His family on his father’s side were all taken out on the first day of the Spanish Civil War and shot. His grandfather survived the firing squad three times, only to die of a smoking related illness in 1977. After fleeing a monastery, his father (pursued by the Vatican) landed on the protestant shores of England, where he met Xavier's mother. Before each of them gave it a second thought they got married, and it was not long after that Xavier Leret was born.


Here he talks about his first e-book HEAVEN SENT and finding a publisher...


I was half way through sending my novel, Heaven Sent, to agents and publishers. Some copies made it into envelopes and one or two got as far as the post office. But I stopped. It was just after Christmas and I thought, what am I doing? Why not join the self pub band wagon. There is no better time than now. Why wait for somebody in an office to reject me when I could join kindle interactive show, get instant comments from normal people and begin the process of building an audience for my work. It seemed simple. Everyday the news was full of writers striking it big and revolutionising the publishing world in the process. What better time than hit that literary treadmill? And anyway, I'm broke. I don't have time for the publishing machine to pick me up and lift me up the hill. I need bucks, and lots of them right now! So before the rejection letters started to arrive I set about copy editing the book.

This final editing process took a lot longer than I thought it would. I thought I had edited tons when I was writing the piece. I might write 1200 words a day but there were a few times when I would cut 20, 000 words without blinking – ok, it would take me days to build up the courage to cut like that – it was a bit like pulling a scab. I must have cut at 120,000 words to produce Heaven Sent. Narrative threads thrown on the pyre, multiple point of views – so much. Then, when I sat down to copy edit I would discover little mistakes here and there – actually some of them were huge – once a paragraph just cut off (never cut whilst drinking wine). Daizee's dialect was all over the place too. Tidying her up took weeks because Bristolian is like another language and the more I began to play with it the more I shaped her character and her use of vocal poetry. Carlo also took a lot of time. There were moments where I had rushed over psychological motivations. He goes on quite a journey and to make it work each moment needs to be given its time. It was imperative to make his internal logic work, as he is the character that the reader is inside, it is his feelings and observations that provoke empathy and emotional contact. These are the elements that I think are so important in a novel. As a reader I want to feel. I want to be touched by the work. I want to examine the world and have the world presented in such away that I am forced to question what I see. Of course I also want to be entertained, books films and TV are essentially forms of entertainment. You don't want to set out and bore people with long rants, you need to entertain them into listening to what you have to say. Novels are powerful because, unlike the other art forms where you watch and observe action, as a writer you are mainlining the story and the experiences of your characters into the readers mind – that makes it extraordinary.

My days became extremely long as I was writing during the day and designing a book cover at night, and also trying to figure out how to sell the thing once it was out. I had absolutely no idea about what to do. I had not heard of blog tours, had no idea about bookblogs.Ning or Kindleboards. I wrote a press release, sent it out to bloggers, joined networks.

I didn't really have a launch day, the book sort of came out at the same time that I was sending it to bloggers. I had the road running blind, my eyes were shut in the hope that it would all come good. To my great relief the reviews I got back were amazing, the sort you wish for as a writer.

For the first couple of months my sales were diabolical. There was hardly any movement. I panicked dropped the price – which I really do believe de-values the work. It makes no sense to me that a novel that takes such work to create can go for 99cents. It also means unless you are one of those lucky few, you make no money. Anyway in July I saw a change - not a ridiculous change of fortune but enough to give me hope - I'm not under any illusions. I don't write about warlocks, chicks with guns, vampires hitting on virgins, brawn with banter - none of that genre material that seems to shift units by the bucket load. No my material is dark literary fiction - it's a hard sell, so a sudden increase in sales was a real boost to my plummeting self esteem. And then the strangest thing happened. I got an email from a publisher. I had forgotten I had written to them. They had read the full manuscript and had some crit if I was interested. Of course I was! And boy, did they crit it! To the extent that if I was to work with them they would want to see some serious changes.

I was torn. To go down the trad publishing route meant pulling my novel and ditching the hours of work that I had spent marketing, and to make matters worse I also received another blinder of a review. Ultimately it boiled down to whether I agreed with what the crit said. And to be honest - yes, I did. Its not about being offered loads of cash to make changes because that really is not on the cards. There is no money. Dedalus is small press that focuses on producing literary fiction. I am still broke and can't see any money mountain on the horizon. What it means is that I will be working with an editor who will ask the questions that push my work to another level. Having worked with editors on other projects I know that this process is important, it can transform the literary potential of my work and ultimately make me a better novelist. That for me, is what it's all about. Sometimes I do wish I wasn't so idealistic. It would make life a little easier.

Thank you, Xavier! Many congratulations on the publishing deal. Sometimes it does seem like a long and winding road, with many holes and traps and wrong turns and dead ends along the way, but the good books will find readers in the end - as you have proved with "Heaven Sent"!

Xavier's website is http://www.xavierleret.com/
"Heaven Sent" is currently unavailable while it is being republished. Meanwhile, you can read a free extract HERE

3 comments:

dirtywhitecandy said...

Congratulations, Xavier - Dedalus is a terrific and long-established imprint. And in fact it was started by an author who had problems finding the market for his book. Very well done, and best of luck.

Susan Price said...

Congratulations! I downloaded a sample of 'Heaven Scent' before it was 'unpublished' and was so impressed by the verve of the writing and the insight into the boy's character that I bought the book.
A good editor can be a huge help; but be sure you agree with all the changes they suggest. Work with them, but don't be overawed.

Xavier Leret said...

Many thanks. I am quite enjoying the process and find that I am re-invigorated with the story again. I am re-discovering a character and finding a new way of writing her.