Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Back Burner texts, Wishes, and Educational Publishing by Enid Richemont

This is the first cover image of my new little book which forms part of one of the reading schemes from Franklin Watts at Hachette.

The story began life as an idea for a picture book - subtlely  different from these illustrated 'readers' which are also lavishly illustrated (the artist hasn't completed the inside illustrations yet). It's the story of a very anti-social old man who actively tries to exclude people from his life with "KEEP OUT" and "TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED" signs around his garden. He even mistakes his fairy godmother for one of his hated intruders, but when she grants him three wishes (with a sigh because she's stuck with her traditional obligation), he immediately spots a business opportunity, and wishes for more and more wishes, ending up with a hundred, but he has no idea how to use them except for maybe barbed wire, or guard dogs to keep people out, or, of course, money which he likes to count. In reality, what he needs is human warmth and a cuddle, which he finally gets.

In my original picture book version, I took a lot more risks, and the plot was more complicated. The picture book version was called: "A Thousand and One Wishes", like the Arabian "A Thousand and One Nights", so an enormous number of wishes, not just a hundred. And when, with that much energy, the old man's house finally explodes, he's catapulted out into Space, where, in panic, he's forced to grab a flying wish and beg to be sent back to Earth. He's then duly dropped into a tropical sea where there are mermaids, and ends up on an island, being hugged by a large cuddly lady in a grass skirt. I could 'see' the pictures in my head, and I'm sure you can, too - his original towering grey grim house with its black crows etc, the fairy godmother in the guise of an old lady, then the starry sky, the turquoise ocean, the palm trees.

That text never quite made it as a picture book, so eventually it was put on the back burner in the hope that, one day, its moment would come, and indeed, it has - it's always handy to have a Blue Peter moment and pull out 'something I made earlier'. It will be coming out without its original magic and fantasy, because the old man's house has been changed from a Gothic horror into a very depressing but very ordinary terraced house in an urban street. The Space flight, mermaids, tropical seas etc have all been cut - the eventual happy ending occurs during a street party. The original title had to be changed as well - it seems that "One Thousand and One" is beyond the grasp of readers at this stage - much too big.

The 'educational' theory behind this is that, even if magic (reluctantly) is happening, the setting needs to be a familiar one in order for young readers to 'get' it (they seem to be totally oblivious to the existence of a young boy called Harry Potter...) In my original plot, the unused wishes went out to people who really needed them - a cash-poor doctor in a Third World country, a small boy with a very sick mum etc etc. These all had to be turned into things more ordinary and every day - a damaged bicycle etc etc, but hey! the book will be out there in a few months, and working with illustrators is always fun.

Financially, educational texts are not big earners, and agents actively dislike them. Basically, the author receives a one-off payment for the text and no royalties, and they rarely appear in bookshops. However, they do do very well via PLR, and are a wonderful re-cycling outlet for that treasure store of back burner stories.

Finally, I'm currently reading "Alexa's Song", a novel by Rosalie Warren, another member of Authors Electric. I'd meant to reserve it for when I recently had a brief hospital stay, but then got seduced by Margaret Atwood's "The Edible Woman". I can't give this book a proper review as I haven't finished it yet, but so far, I'd strongly recommend it - a story of two very different brothers, and their complex relationship with a female musician.

2 comments:

Dipika Mukherjee said...

Your original book sounds fabulously inventive! All the best with this too and maybe you can work it into a series where the wishes get more and more interesting and the characters come from all over the world....

Enid Richemont said...

Unfortunately,Dipika, once it's in the hands of a publisher, we have no control over what happens next, but it's a great idea.