Friday, June 24, 2011

don't miss the line, folks

Compared to manuscripts and unpublished works of countless other authors out there, Swordbird is, figuratively, living proof that miracles happen. The miracle in this case is not the thirteen-year-old bilingual author, or the fact that the book was actually printed.

It's that Fan achieved this without even a query letter.

Call me whiny, but querying is a predicament that many writers dread, fear and prepare strenuously for. Either Fan didn't read the HarperCollins website when she submitted her draft and just a summary - the draft and just a summary - directly to the CEO via e-mail, or she disregarded it. One way or another, the CEO happened to like it.
Fan is young. She's a young girl who harboured a large dream and she, herself, was very ambitious and perseverant. However, she managed to land a publishing deal without an agent, without the querying process, and without paying any attention whatsoever to any existent submission guidelines and HarperCollins' strict discouragement of unsolicited manuscripts.

The book itself makes me wonder if Fan has ever encountered Redwall. As a kid, I revered Redwall. I read the books religiously, all twenty-something of them. Brian Jacques was probably my favourite author as a child, and then he was pushed aside when Jo Rowling rose to become his equivalent. (Needless to say, others joined the line-up afterward as well, including Cleeves and du Maurier.) Jacques died in February of 2011, just recently, but the final novel was released after his death, on May 3, entitled The Rogue Crew.
Similarly to Tolkien's success, death and living legacy, I highly doubt a series as popular and international as Redwall will fade even with time, just as the entire population of the globe can assess that Harry Potter's fandom will not be going anywhere for a long, long while. Whether or not Redwall is considered to be a comparison-title or market competition for Fan's Swordbird series, they certainly share some similarities which are a little too close to the mark, for me.
Fan mashes up her words - everybird, nobird, anybird, somebird - just like Jacques used to mash up his, only the Redwall creatures, which included almost every United Kingdom breed, used these words in a more general sense - everybeast, nobeast, anybeast, somebeast. There is also the "living legend" in both stories, where heroic spirits of the past motivate, encourage and enable the main character(s) throughout the quest, in one way or another. The sword is also a painstakingly striking feature of both: Martin the Warrior's sword in Jacques', and Swordbird's in Fan's.

Readers are stubborn creatures, or so I've learned. Once we decide on something, it usually takes the author's verification to stray us from that. For example, someone who supported the Harry Potter/Cho Chang romance throughout the third, fourth and fifth books may not easily adapt to the idea of the Harry Potter/Ginny Weasley turn of events, but when Rowling's pen set it in stone, there was nothing they could do. (Except, perhaps, fan-fiction, but there really is no authority in that.)
So necessarily, as a consistent reader of Jacques' works, I find it hard to adapt to Fan's deviation of anthropomorphic animals facing war and hard times in a haven of peace. Others, understandably, may disagree, but like I mentioned in my previous post, there is a line between being inspired by an idea and simply reusing it.

Some of the more headstrong, independent writers turn their backs on this line, refusing to recycle anything, even the faintest of ideas. Some writers blur it, or hover over it. But some writers cross the line entirely.

xx, rooi


Post a Comment