It’s always a real pleasure to welcome Val Portelli as my guest on Being Anne, new book or not. Her latest, Story of a Country Boy, is now available for kindle and in paperback – a gritty saga that follows the path of a lowly peasant through the sordid side of 1960s London, in his search for the veneration he believes is his due. I sadly couldn’t make room for this one on my reading list, but read and enjoy the short stories she publishes on her excellent blog and via her Facebook page whenever I’m able to visit- you might also remember how much I enjoyed Weird and Peculiar Tales (written with Paula Harmon – review here), or reading her earlier guest post on being a blogging author (you’ll find it here). Let me hand you over to Val – this time talking book genres, research and ramblings…
My books and short stories tend to be of the quirky variety, with often a hint of romance. (Yes, I know, I’m just a big softie at heart.)
My first book was easy to slot into a genre, as was the collection of short stories I wrote with fellow author Paula Harmon. The other two only took a bit of research until they found something suitable, but with hindsight I realise all of my books have a certain element in common. They track the life of a character, or several characters, and the category hasn’t actually been invented yet. They don’t belong in non-fiction, and are neither ‘self-help,’ nor biographies. I suppose literary fiction or women’s fiction is the closest, but what about the poor men who might want to read them? There’s been a boom (particularly appropriate with the buzz words ‘Baby boomers’) in YA (Young Adult), so why isn’t there an OA (Older Adult) or even a MA (mature adult.)?
Even the expression ‘mature adult’ gives the hint of ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’, which isn’t what was intended. Perhaps we should campaign for a ‘Books about ordinary people and what happens in their lives, which might include a touch of romance and how everyday living affects them, but is basically telling a story,’ category, although that might be a bit long-winded. ‘Life stories’ is back to biographies, so perhaps ‘Stories of Life?’ Thinking about it further, perhaps ‘Old friends having a catch-up chat of all that has happened since they last met years ago,’ sounds right, but I don’t think it will catch on.
The introduction of technology, Kindles, apps, Mobi, eBooks, PDFs and audiobooks, has allowed the rapid growth in the development of gremlins. These little green creatures, (I’m not sure why I see them as green, but that’s a topic for another day), breed like rabbits to make things as complicated as possible. Life was so much simpler when Shakespeare put down his quill pen, and went off to the coffee shop to have a chat with his mates about his latest blockbuster.
Another reason it takes an author so long to write a book is the need to check facts. According to common understanding, Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616. The first coffee shop opened in London was in 1652, by the Greek servant of a Turkish trader, so what with it being quite a distance from Stratford to Cornhill, and some thirty-six years too late, you’d better ignore the previous paragraph. See what I mean? Those gremlins have to get in on the act to ruin a good story.
Since I switched from traditional to self-published, it was down to me to nominate where my books belonged. I was amazed to discover that on Amazon alone, there are literally hundreds of categories and sub categories. In my young day, I’m sure it was ‘Fiction’ or ‘Non-Fiction’ and that was it. The library did have a few directional boards, mainly in non-fiction, to distinguish ‘cooking’ from ‘travel,’ but on the whole the fiction section was A-Z by author, or large print. How things have changed.
Where was I? Oh yes, talking about characters. The male in my first book (who incidentally was gawjus) was a figment of my imagination, except several friends who have known me many years, instantly recognised him. The character in my latest book was partly based on a combination of several people, and was a throwback to reflect the archetypes and beliefs of the time and location in which it was set. I was hesitant in publishing in case an individual thought it was their life story, but an elderly Godfather of the era confirmed it was historically accurate. Chatting to real life people about their memories is another procrastinating diversion, but much more interesting than Google.
Story of a Country Boy starts in Malta, a country I’ve loved since my first visit some forty plus years ago, and travels to the West End of London, where I worked for several years. Like most major cities they had their ‘Red Light’ districts and Strada Stretta in Valletta was renowned amongst the sailors on leave, when Malta was a British colony and base for the troops. Some years ago I walked down the street, and was amazed to find it was full of insurance companies and financial businesses, more like Threadneedle street than a den of iniquity.
It was interesting when someone suggested my book might fit into an historical category because of the description of attitudes in the 50s and 60s, and made me feel extremely old. I assumed that genre only covered Kings and Queens, and 1066, which just goes to prove how subjective the interpretation of a genre can be.
Perhaps I should have included some traditional recipes to make it even more confusing, or better still, get on with finishing my next book which incidentally is Murder/Mystery/Thriller/Drama/Horror/Psychological/Historical/Crime with a touch of Romance.
Thank you, Anne, for listening to my ramblings.
Always a pleasure Val – and wishing you every success with Story of a Country Boy…
About the author
The author’s occasional pen name Voinks began many years ago. It started as a joke when a friend bought a holiday home abroad, then gradually spread through the family, so it was an obvious choice when her first book was published.
Despite receiving her first rejection letter aged nine from some lovely people at a well-known Women’s magazine, she continued writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound and going stir crazy.
To save her sanity she completed and had published her first full length novel. This was followed by a second traditionally published book before deciding self-publishing was the way to go. In between writing her longest novel to date at over 100,000 words, she publishes weekly stories for her Facebook author page and web site.
She writes in various genres, although her short stories normally include her trademark twist of ‘Quirky.’ From having too many hours in the day, she is now actively seeking out a planet with forty-eight-hour days, to have time to fit in all the stories waiting to be told.
She is always delighted to receive reviews, as they help pay for food for the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.