If the game is follow the leader, I know who I’d rather be
I was in a bookshop a few years ago.
Ok, I have been into a bookshop a few times since then, but not that often. Partly, it’s because, as has been well documented by many others, these days bookshops seem to be the least likely place to go to when you’re looking for a book. And this particular incident kind of highlighted why.
There was a reason I was in a bookshop that particular day. I had received a voucher from work and was determined to spend it on a book (what else?). But, as soon as I went into that shop, I knew I was going to struggle to find something.
There was one thing that hit me smack bang in the face as soon as I entered. Vampires. Everywhere. On every shelf I looked, and on the posters that festooned the walls as well, all I could see were vampires.
Now vampires are not something I particularly appreciate. To say that I’m a little bit squeamish is like saying that Death Valley is a little bit warm, or the ocean is a little bit wet. To be honest, I am absolutely terrified of the sight of blood. I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me just to type out the word. Twilight, True Blood, all of that stuff I’ve done my very best to steer well clear of. Definitely not my thing.
But it did get me thinking. Back then, I still had some ambitions about being picked up by a real live publisher. But what chance did I have? It seemed that the only kind of books being published were about vampires, and as I’ve already made clear, there was no way known I was going to be writing one of them.
The more I thought about it though, the more I realised it wasn’t so much about the vampires themselves. It was more about a total lack of creativity and imagination within the traditional publishing world. So a couple of stories about vampires had sold well. Obviously everyone loves stories about vampires so we need to be putting more and more out. It was clearly an environment averse to trying anything new and taking any risks. In short, the publishing industry was playing ‘Follow the Leader’.
I made a firm decision that day. I wasn’t going to play, at least not in the way the publishing industry expected. Even though it was several years before the so-called Indie Publishing Boom, I was determined to do my own thing. I was going to write the stories I wanted to write.
In a strange kind of way, it made sense. If I couldn’t find a story I wanted to read in a bookshop, the best thing to do seemed to be to write that story myself. And if I liked it: ? I’m really not that strange. The sort of things I like are possibly a bit left-of-centre but still highly popular, eg. Monty Python, Lewis Carroll, Douglas Adams. We’re not talking about anything out on the fringes here. I figured that if I could write something I liked, there’s a pretty good chance plenty of other people would like it too.
And so it was that several years ago, I decided that if the game the publishing industry wanted to play was ‘Follow the Leader’, then I was definitely going to be a leader, not a follower. I wasn’t going to follow the beat of someone else’s drum. I wasn’t going to slavishly follow the trends and try to imitate what was currently popular. I was going to set my own trend. Only problem was, back then I had no idea how. It took a few years to discover that.
Now, things are different. Now the technology and the opportunities are there. We’re no longer reliant on the games the publishing industry wants us to play. Thanks to ebooks and self-publishing, we can do it our way. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’ve got three books out now. Books I’m extremely proud of. They’re the stories I wanted to write because I wanted to read them. And my hunch turned out to be correct, because I’m now discovering other people who also want to read them. It’s only a little crew at the moment, but that’s still something. I feel like I’ve gotten to where I wanted to get to. I’m now the leader.
So where shall I lead my crew next? At this stage, I’m not sure. But I know that wherever it is, it will be somewhere fun and interesting and totally unexpected. Because when you’re the leader, your next destination is always up to you.
Jonathan Gould has lived in Melbourne, Australia all his life, except when he hasn’t. He has written comedy sketches for both the theatre and radio, as well as several published children’s books for the educational market.
He likes to refer to his stories as dag-lit because they don’t easily fit into recognisable genres (dag is Australian slang for a person who is unfashionable and doesn’t follow the crowd – but in an amusing and fun way). You might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.
Over the years, his writing has been compared to Douglas Adams, Monty Python, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, the Goons, Dr Seuss and even Enid Blyton (in a good way).
If you’d like to get a taste of Jonathan’s writing, his new title Magnus Opum will be available to download for free from Amazon on 3rd and 4th May.
Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.
Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver’s Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters and experiencing some most unexpected adventures.
Excerpt from Doodling
Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.
Actually, he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.
It hadn’t always been that way. There had been a time when keeping up was not a problem; a time when the world was moving at a nice, leisurely speed and, a gentle walk had been sufficient. But then the world began to get faster. Suddenly, Neville found himself jogging, and then running. His cheeks became flushed and his lungs panted and puffed as they struggled to get the air he needed to maintain his pace.
Still faster and faster the world went. Neville’s life was like a never-ending hundred metre sprint. There was no way he could keep this going. As his legs turned to jelly and collapsed under him, Neville grasped in desperation for something to hold on to. A tree, a stick, a small crack in the footpath. He dug his fingernails in and gripped tightly as the world dragged him along, his hair flying wildly behind him and his legs kicking loosely at the air. His whole body strained and tears began to well in his eyes as the wind rushed against his face.
Slowly, surely, he could feel his grip loosening, could sense the strength departing from his fingers. He couldn’t hold on much longer. Any second now and the strain would be too much. His arms would break. His fingers would be ripped off. His whole body would snap into two. The pain was unbearable. Something had to give.
Neville let go.
For a couple of seconds, he lay, breathing slowly, while the strength flowed back into his body and the feeling returned to his arms. Then he looked up and saw the world spinning away into the darkness of space. Neville was seized with panic. He leapt up and began chasing after the world, trying to catch up with it again so he could get back on board. But he was too slow. Soon the world was nothing but a tiny dot, no bigger than a golf ball.
Neville stopped and watched as the world diminished into a pinhole of blue and then vanished. He was alone. All around him was nothingness. Neville shivered. He wasn’t used to such quiet. It felt strange and slightly unnerving. What could it mean? How should he feel? What was he to do?
High above, the lights of the stars twinkled. To his left, a comet flashed past. To his right, a distant supernova flared in a sudden blaze of brightness. It was a beautiful sight; an everlasting silent night.
Neville was overcome by a feeling of peace. No more desperately rushing to keep up. No more frantically clinging on for dear life. Neville didn’t need the world anymore. He was free.
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