In my novel Leaving Sadie, which is released next Saturday, February 29, one of the supporting characters is a self-published author. After years of failed submissions, Ezra Cooper — an old man who always dreamed of being a literary heavyweight — decided to put out his book himself; to hell with the traditional route! It’s in a bookstore where our protagonist — aspiring playwright Henry Sears; potential leaver of girlfriend Sadie, relentless doubter of his decisions — discovers the elderly Cooper, who has been surreptitiously stacking copies of his novel there, hoping that random bookworms will pick up his work without coercion, without marketing might.
And to his surprise, they do. So, he regularly returns to the bookstore to keep copies of his book on the shelf.
Do I plan on taking such a stealthy approach when my novel is finally available next week? Well, I’d rather not say . . .
But one thing is certain: It will be nice to say that the novel I began writing back in 2016 will be out there in the real world; available for people to purchase if they’re willing to take a chance on one of the many self-published authors around today.
The best-laid plans . . .
I had originally set my sights on June 2018 for the release of this novel. That, it turns out, was a tad ambitious. From last-minute rewrites, cover alterations and manuscript perfection to getting an ISBN and figuring out where to publish and which sites/bloggers/reviewers to approach, there’s a lot more to self-publishing than I had initially thought.
Then, after having my editor (who’s also a published author) give the manuscript one final edit, I was convinced to return to the plan which preceded my self-publishing goal: landing a literary agent. It was the opinion of my editor — that the book was strong enough to land me representation — which made me think twice about putting the book out myself.
So, I returned to that arguably joyless and certainly arduous world of query letters and submissions. For about a year. All in all, I probably only submitted to about two dozen agents; not that many. One of the responders complimented my sample and the story’s premise, but said they weren’t sure where they could place the novel in today’s market. Place it on the new-releases shelf in bookstores, I was tempted to reply, but my response was polite, as it tends to be (my mother raised me well).
After once again growing tired of the traditional road, I decided to go ahead and self-publish the work. And here we are.
Inspirational aspects . . .
Real life always inspires my work, whether it’s something close to me, or something I observe or read about. To be honest, when I wrote the first lines of Sadie, I was setting out to write a short story inspired by short fiction masters like Raymond Carver and Richard Ford. The former in particular has been a huge influence on me, and is someone whose mastery is often mistakenly labelled with the misnomer “minimalism” — there was nothing minimal about Carver’s work. To paraphrase Richard Ford, “It was what is was. It was exactly as it needed to be. It was enough.”
Eventually, however, my story developed into something longer — something more adventurous than I had initially imagined — and so it became a completely different project that I would work on, on-and-off, for a few years.
Carver’s hero and greatest influence was Anton Chekhov, another writer I’m a big fan of, although rather than embracing the latter’s short fiction, I was first drawn to his major plays which, of course, had a profound impact on Western theatre. Other writers I regularly revisit and whose style I suppose I use as inspiration, for every writer should be attempting to craft their own style (I’m satisfied I’ve achieved that with this novel, after many years of writing badly, then writing not-so-badly), include J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nick Hornby, Hunter S. Thompson, Haruki Murakami, Françoise Sagan, Woody Allen, Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Franzen, Charles Bukowski, and Christopher Isherwood, to name a few. There are many, many more.
What it’s all about . . .
Go out and buy a copy! Okay, I’ve got to do better than that. I suppose the blurb will suffice:
“Henry Sears is a thirtysomething who’s found himself in the midst of a crisis: From his failing ambitions as a playwright to his floundering relationship with girlfriend Sadie Cohen, things aren’t exactly going as planned. When he decides it’s time to address the latter, he’s left both surprised and somewhat shattered.
He seeks refuge in his latest play, and in the company of bookstore-stalker Ezra Cooper and mercurial Oscar-winning actor Miller Moore, the latter who’s set to star in Henry’s play — if he’s sober enough to put a coherent sentence together.
What follows involves relationship flashbacks in the form of movie scenes, a murder plot, paranoia, dramaturgical disaster, and hopes of reconciliation.
The debut novel by screenwriter S.J. Coules (A Day Like Today) Leaving Sadie is a tale of love, family, friendship, and ambition in the 21st century; a fun and funny story that’s comparable to the works High Fidelity, Franny and Zooey, and Hannah and Her Sisters.”
So, that’s about it. Pre-order your Kindle edition now. Or get yourself a paperback edition available on Amazon from February 29.