Wednesday, 10 July 2013

NEW REVIEW AND 'QUIET' BOOKS


North Carolina based Irish writer Rich Rennicks has just reviewed my novel YOU, which came out three years ago (I can hardly believe it's been three years). Rich reviews it on his blog A Trip to Ireland. I love this about the internet - there is no two-week window for your book to get noticed; there is endless time and scope and space.

A small quote from the review: 'YOU is a quiet, surprising novel, that captures a young girl’s growing perception of the world quite beautifully.' Cheers, Rich, much appreciated :)

As an aside, 'quiet' is a word I often hear about my work. It gets me a bit knicker-knotted because I don't quite get what it means, except I feel I am being told that it is not altogether a good thing to be 'quiet'. The feeling I get is that publishers/reviewers/agents really want fiction a bit more shouty than mine and that's what will make a book a big hit, as opposed to the minor hits that I've had. Anyway, I think, as an introvert, quiet is where I'm at and will continue to be at for a long time to come. For what it's worth, Mr Rennicks didn't seem to think 'quiet' was a negative but others have (agents/publishers who have rejected my work in the past). Anyway, with a publisher I like for my last two books and my next (New Island) and a new agent on the foreshore also, this 'quiet' irritation may belong to the past.

11 comments:

RichR said...

I think quiet is a synonym for subtle, and that's why we get the caveat "writers' writer" added to reviews sometimes, as if only writer's are sensitive enough to catch what this writer is saying. When I use the word quiet, I mean as opposed to being loud in the sense of being melodramatic or outwardly demanding attention. (Not that that is necessarily bad -- I'd call City of Bohane a loud novel, but it's still an interesting and serious work.) Subtle would have been a better word...

I think publishers fear if a work is too subtle/quiet/crafty (in the sense of being well-written, rather than sly) there's less commercial potential for it than for a book that trumpets its own audaciousness somehow. I think they're wrong (I see booksellers championing quiet/subtle/beautifully written books every day) but publishers do have their own commercial pressures, and not all publishers are able to market all types of books equally well (though they'd never admit that!). Having recently worked for a publisher (often of quiet, understated books) I have a fresh appreciation of the pressures they are under and how they go into each book with different expectation for success, but if one part of the season underperforms, the margins are so slim that everything suffers.

But then I'm a fan of Peter Handke, who is certainly often "too quiet" in the sense that nothing much happens to some of his protagonists. That's certainly not a problem with "You," as there's a lot of hardship thrown at poor Miss Prim. Maybe thoughtful would have been better...

Ah language... we strive for meaning, yet everything hinges on the reader's interpretation.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Rich, firstly thanks for the review. V much appreciated.

Secondly, it wasn't you I was getting it - it' s just I have heard 'quiet' so much that it must be true (and it makes me want to scream). I have also heard 'writer's writer' which is another kind of kiss-of-death. I think it means 'will not be a commercial success'.

Yes, Kevin Barry's work springs to mind as someone who is definitely NOT quiet.

There is some horrible phrase publishers use, not 'hook' or 'USP' but something icky which I can't quite remember today. I call it Tiger-On-A-Raft Syndrome. Your book is not interesting unless it has some wow factor about it (or unless you have that).

Quiet novels about ordianry places (though they may be packed with tragedy and good writing) generally are not perceived as having this WOW.

RichR said...

Oh, you're right. WOW is an over-rated and elusive factor. Sadly, most publisher marketing copy is written as if the book in question is the first book to ever capture X-emotion or reveal Y-nugget of information. I think it makes serious readers tune them out after a while.

I appreciate you were considering the broader implications of the word, rather than my use of it. Your comment makes me question why I chose that word, and that's not a bad thing for me to think about, since I am trying to be a bit more serious about reviewing these days.

Glad to hear there's a new novel on the way.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Yes, I often tune out hyped books until the furore dies down because I cannot bear over-hype.
However, I recently read 2 hyped-up books and was like 'WHAT??!! These books are mediocre. Are they all MAD?'
Thanks for your thoughts/insights - you have great clarity. I have none today. It is 30C in Galway - my head is melted.

Tania Hershman said...

A new review, how lovely! It is a great thing about our Internet age that reviews can keep coming, years later. Three years? No way, I can't believe it's been that long.

I am really interested in this "quiet" discussion, I think you've hit something, N, with the link between "loud" and "wow", maybe it's the equivalent of an action film versus an arthouse flick, I wonder if it's to do with how much work it is perceived the reader/viewer might have to do to fill in the gaps. If a book is not blaring, there is more room for the reader in there but perhaps many publishers think many readers only want to be drowned out. Hmm. I love quiet books, ones that quietly devastate me, just like those quiet quiet films. Keep writing them, and fingers crossed with the new agent! xx

Alan McMonagle said...

The quiet mind is richer than a crown...

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Thank you, Alan. Lovely and profound.

Rachel Fenton said...

"Your book is not interesting unless it has some wow factor about it (or unless you have that)" - I think the latter part of your observation is, sadly, all too true and more important to many agents/publishers than the book you've written.

I don't think quiet's bad. For me, at least, it means the work's not over-explained, obvious or over-written.

"I think Nuala Ní Chonchúir is an amazing writer" - me too, Rich! Great review.

I'm so glad you've got an agent in the pipeline, Nuala, and I'm looking forward to your new book.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Cheers Rachel and Tania.

I think 'quiet' is to do with character and plot. If you are not writing about Mongolian dwarves or some such, you are 'quiet'.

Thanks for dropping by and for good wishes,

N x

Claire Hennessy said...

So many of the very best books out there are 'quiet' ones. I do despair a bit of how often I see the term used, for both published and unpublished works, because... well, reading is quiet and reflective and engrossing and not everything needs to be the equivalent of a summer blockbuster with explosions every five minutes in order to be a marvellous read.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Absolutely, Claire. Some of us don't like explosions - shock, horror! N x