Friday, 28 August 2015

ARCHETYPES, "KACHUNKA!"and ROBOTS by Enid Richemont

I've just been reading Wendy Jones's blog on this site. For a best-seller, and also someone so positive about publicity, I found it disconcerting that she omitted to name herself as the blog's author - I had to scroll through the date column on the right to find it.

Otherwise, I was impressed, but at the same time, somewhat questioning. Does Wendy enjoy other people's publicity? Like most people, I find advertising generally irritating, and for that reason, I've installed an ad blocker on my computer, but... if we don't tell people about our work,  and if it isn't mentioned in the media, how is anyone going to find it? I've recently been singing out about my two picture books which are finally on sale in my local Sainsbury's, albeit in the DVD section and at a ridiculously low price (but hey! I've got my advance and the royalties are trickling in).

Recently I've managed to re-publish as an e-book "KACHUNKA!" - my much-loved junior novel from the Nineties, published by Walker Books. The result isn't perfect, and I clearly have much to learn - I may well un-publish and edit (what a wonderfully flexible system e-publishing is). I naively assumed that Mrs Kachunka would live for ever, and was only informed of her decease when I was going to the Northern Children's Book Festival in Newcastle to publicise my Y/A novel, "FOR MARITSA WITH LOVE", and I wanted to take some "KACHUNKA!" s to sell. It was a shock.

 But working my way through the text again, I was suddenly struck by the presence of recurring archetypes in my writing (any shrinks out there?) notably a down-to-earth, powerful old (or ageless) woman. In "MY MOTHER'S DAUGHTER", she has a form of dementia which makes her commune with angels - explicable because she's a simple, devout Welsh chapel-goer a bit like my mum was. My 'Mrs Kachunka' is a powerful female/cat alien wearing charity-shop clothes, and convincing the most unlikely people that they are 'everything'  ( this book has always appealed to Buddhists, but my contact with Buddhism has been minimal). And the smelly ancient female  'clochard'  on the Paris Metro in MARITSA - she's yet another one. Where do these characters come from? I look back at my own life, and can't really find them. Do you discover disconcerting archetypes in your own writing? Interestingly, in my two unpublished adult novels they're totally absent.

Now to bad, wicked, despicable women. I've been developing one in a junior novel I'm working on. She's a demon, several millenia old and very glam and glitzy - I think, at present, we rather like our villainesses to be sexy, although the stepmother in Sally Gardner's "I, CORIANDER" is far from that - she is simply ugly and evil, and one of the nastiest bad stepmothers I have ever encountered. This book, of which I'd never heard, was described somewhere as a classic of children's literature, so I thought I should read it, and it's well worth it. Sally's an illustrator, too, like Chris Riddell - it must be wonderful to be able to do the two things simultaneously.

Are novels a form of Virtual Reality? Yes, I think they are. Do writers suffer (or not suffer, but enjoy) a mild, but creative, form of Multiple Personality Disorder? Yes, I think we do. We give birth to characters, but then they often take over. I have a very close friend whose daughter suffers from schizophrenia, which, in her case, takes the form of loathesome voices inside her head. She is about to take part in a psychological experiment in which avatars will mimic these voices, and she will respond. The results should be very interesting, and at the very least maybe tell us more about ourselves and what it means to be human. Joan of Arc heard voices, and what she, a peasant girl, did in response has gone down in history.

And still on the subject of the human condition, if you're in Edinburgh right now, do try to make it to "SPILLIKIN" at the Pleasance (www.pipelinetheatrecompany.com). This unique production features a real, working robot, and it's a love story about a guy suffering from a terminal illness who programs a robot to take care of his wife in her old age. It's already attracted five star reviews, and it's both thought-provoking and unmissable. My daughter's company's latest production - go see.







4 comments:

Lydia Bennet said...

Hi, a bit puzzled by your criticism of Wendy Jones' blog and her leaving her name off the top - as you've done exactly the same here! Is this a joke?! I'm glad for you that your books are doing so well anyway. I'd be thrilled to be in Sainsbury's, since I spend most of my money and rather a lot of time in there!

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I think we have all, at one time or another, left our name off the blog title, especially when we're new to the blog. Susan has to throw an occasional wobbly about it, so I doubt very much if Wendy's omission was intentional. The thing about enjoying other people's publicity is, I suppose, that it depends very much on the publicity. I suspect Wendy has hit upon a exactly the right way of going about it - the main point I took from her post is that publicity involves finding ways of interacting with your readers and potential readers, giving as much as getting. Being nice to people. Answering questions that may seem old hat for the writer, but are fresh and new for readers. But above all being prepared to chat about all kinds of tangential and sometimes quite daft things and make them interesting. Which, of course, opens a whole can of worms about what you do when you write for children and young adults. Many of my YA writer friends use Twitter rather than Facebook, because that's where their readers hang out - That, plus good interactive websites for their readers. And lots and lots of schools visits (which is why I don't think I could ever write for this excellent and challenging market - I like kids but don't like schools much!) Good luck with the new projects!

Enid Richemont said...

I have just written an abject apology on Facebook - please look. I was making a mild joke about the lack of a name on a post, and then hey! I do the same thing myself RIGHT HERE - red face and crawling on to my naughty seat right now.

Self-publicity is SUCH a difficult issue. At school, no one likes a show-off. If someone else, like a publisher, does it for us, it feels different, and yes, we're pleased - such a thorny psychological issue. We all (I think) loathe the ads on commercial TV, but what if one of them were about our books? it's a bit of a bare feet on broken glass issue.

Chris Longmuir said...

The problem is that the publishers no longer do it for us. Before a publisher will give a writer a contract nowadays (except for the very biggest names) they will demand you have a public profile and do a lot of self promotion. A writer unwilling to do that, with the aforesaid exceptions, will not be given the contract. So I think we have to get over ourselves and learn to promote, and that is something Wendy is very good at, and it doesn't seem to put her readers off. Possibly it's us writers who have the problem, not the readers.