For the record, I’m still trying to get my novel, “The Obsidian Mirror,” published through conventional channels. Yes, I know all about how respectable self-publishing has become in the digital age. That’s my Plan B. But I would like to get it published conventionally if I can swing it.
So far, no joy. And I have a theory about why this is so. (Other than that my book is no good. I’ve read it and it’s great! No, seriously, it’s a fun, fast read, which is what I usually want from a book myself. And it’s well written, too, she noted modestly.)
So bear with me here for a moment while I tell you a story.
Long, long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and poodles ran wild and free, I wrote a children’s novel called “The Singer and the Song.” It was about a city-dwelling girl who found she could pass from her world to another, magical world. As I recall, there was a talking cat involved. I wrote it for a graduate class in children’s literature in lieu of writing another essay on something like “Christian Influences in C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’” or something else equally boring and trite. My professor loved it and so did my Mom. My mother had always supported my writing and she thought this one had a lot of potential, so she paid for me to take it to the William Morris Agency in New York City. William Morris charged $100 to review and evaluate the manuscript. (Mom and I didn’t know any better.)
I think I kept the letter from the agency, but I am between houses right now, and everything is in storage so I can’t give an exact quote. But the general gist of it was that children today (Remember the dinosaurs? That day.) aren’t interested in magic and talking animals. They want realistic, gritty urban tales that reflect their own lives.
So take that, J.K. Rowling! No one’s interested in your silly little stories about magic and talking animals, okay?
I may have been all of 21 years old, but even then I knew William Morris Agency was full of shit. The marketing fashion of the time happened to be gritty urban tales, but fashion and marketing have never influenced what children like to read about. Which in many, if not most cases, definitely includes magic—with talking animals if possible.
Nonetheless, I was embarking on a more or less adult life by that time, which meant earning a living, and I put my poor novel away. I thought I might read it to my kids some day, but I don’t believe I ever did.
Fast-forward to our dinosaur-free present. “The Obsidian Mirror” features magic and at least one talking animal, who isn’t really an animal, but an avatar of Coyotl, the Trickster of Native American legend. (My personal tastes have changed some, but not that much.) Various American myths, legends and traditions come into it in a manner that I haven’t seen elsewhere—which could be good or bad, depending on your personal viewpoint. Apparently, the editors and agents who have seen the synopsis so far aren’t intrigued.
Now for my theory. I think agents and publishers weren’t intrigued because what I wrote about isn’t currently fashionable in fantasy fiction. I don’t have to tell you what is currently fashionable, but I will anyway: vampires, zombies and werewolves.
I used to like a good vampire story as much as the next person. Bram Stoker: fabulous. Anne Rice: new twist on an old tale (at least at first). But then they came fast and furious: “Buffy,” “Twilight,” the Sookie Stackhouse series, “Dark Vampire Knight” series, “The Vampire Coalition” series, and so on ad nauseum. I thought the genre had burned itself out (or been buried with a stake through its black heart) with the advent of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” but no! Hollywood made a movie out of it.
I suppose I’m not making any friends with this, but c’mon, people. Aren’t you just the teensiest, tiniest bit bored with vampires yet?
But this isn’t sour grapes, honest. I’m just dealing with a marketing trend. All marketing trends die—at least, theoretically they do. Vampire stories, like their deathless subjects, show every sign of living forever, sucking the lifeblood out of other fantasy genres.
I’ll wait a bit longer, then it’s on to Plan B, I guess. Where’s the garlic?