The official website of Scottish Author David F Porteous
To a writer, an idea is almost worthless. For every story you tell, there are somewhere between ten and a hundred that you’ll never find the time for. You hope that you pick the right ones in which to invest what’s really valuable – your time; but as the story twists and turns in unexpected ways as you write it, you can’t be sure what the seeds you plant will grow into.
A few weeks back I committed to one story over a number of others I’d been considering (which I may still write at some point in the future).
This story is something different. I decided very early in my process that I would write it in such a way that I would never have to use the words “he said” or their equivalent and that the story would be dialogue driven, with as little narrative intervention as was practical. I have no idea how this story will turn out, or how my intentions will survive into the final draft, but I wanted to share what is currently the novel’s opening paragraph.
“This is a picture of him from 1919, just after the war, looking like he slept in that uniform all the way from France. He still had that face, but he wasn’t the same. I know there’s men who came back changed. The Paterson boy up in Brownville: he hung himself that summer. Nobody talked about it much, and I suppose that was for the best. But Jack wasn’t like that. It hadn’t been a terrible thing for him, I don’t think. Or if it had been, then it was one of those terrible things you get through – if you get through it – and it sets you free. In only two years he’d become a man of the world. Though I think I knew before he did; he’d come back from the war, but he couldn’t come back here. Auburn was too small for him and sure enough he left before the winter set in”.
Still looking at titles, probably won’t decide until it’s closer to finished. Does that paragraph make you want to read more?
In other news about forthcoming news, I’ll be doing a blog tour for Singular in the nearish future. These things tend to involve writing about writing, interviews, reviews, giveaways – all that stuff. I’ll keep you advised in the usual ways.
Finally, thanks to Jenny and Mairhi, who were the first to review Singular on Amazon US and UK respectively (they both liked it). If you’ve finished the book, I’d love to hear what you think.
I’m in the process of giving away all my books to charity shops. You’re astonished – I can sense it.
But the technology has finally caught up with my dislike of clutter and that’s all books are. However much I enjoy the words contained in a book, when I’m done with it, the paper thing just becomes inconvenient.
Late last year I made the decision to get rid of books, CDs and DVDs altogether. This has been a slow, painful process. I can’t bring myself to part with The West Wing or the collected works of the Brothers Grimm that I got as a child (that book has my name on it, and the address I lived at three houses ago). But the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike and almost everything else will be sold, given away or thrown out.
With an iPhone, a Kindle and a laptop, I don’t need physical media any more. E-content is cheaper to market, to stock, and to supply – that should mean lower cost to consumers (me) with no reduction in revenue to content creators (also me). So it should be obvious that what I want is the same quality of product, for a lower price, immediately.
I have great hope that one day my children, or my children’s children, will be able to purchase a 1980s movie or TV series from iTunes for less than twice the price of the DVD on Amazon. I have a dream of a world where Steve Jobs isn’t constantly trying to shaft me on margin, just because I like his product design.
So – buy my book on Kindle.
The structure of the print-on-demand publishers I work with is such that in the US you can get a physical copy of my book for $7.95. That’s pretty good, but it means you can only get it from Amazon – it’s too cheap for it to be sold anywhere else. In the UK if you want a paper copy then it’s going to cost you £8.95; which isn’t as good, and I don’t mind saying it, because the price and even the shape of the book are substantially dictated by economies of scale and I believe it’s the best I can do.
By comparison, the Kindle prices for Singular are a bargain. In the US - $2.99. In the UK - £1.90. Those kinds of discounts aren’t a-typical of the market, either. If you’re a voracious reader, a Kindle could pay for itself in a year.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go burn a copy of Being And Nothingness (in which my much younger self made copious, ill-advised margin notes in red pen).
“When there are no more paper books, what will you sign at bookstores?”
Ignoring the strangeness of a reality where there will be bookstores but no books, I respond honestly: “Breasts”.
“That won’t add any value”.
We’ve known each other for five years and though we only meet once every several months, our relationship is as comfortable as looking in a mirror on a good day. She is one of the people I text from the platform when I miss a late train and my coat isn’t warm enough.
A waitress insists on our attention, and will do so several times during the evening until we start to want hers. “Would you like some drinks?”
She has the wine list, does not like white and orders a new world red. She drinks more than I do, can drink more than I can, but neither of us knows much about wine beyond colour and the price we’re prepared to pay.
“Do you want to talk about your book now?”
“That depends; did you like it? Because if you hated it the rest of the evening could be a real downer”.
“I loved it—”
I relax. She brings the book out of her bag. I’m still not used to seeing other people own copies, hold them, flick through the pages; it’s like finding pictures of myself in unexpected places.
“—I was actually annoyed: I didn’t want to like it as much as I did”.
“I thought you’d like that”.
“Where did he find the time?” she asks herself. “I was jealous of how good it was”.
That’s how I would feel, in the private vanity of my dark heart, and knowing this she is able to confide. I consider that it’s only fair. The sparkling solitaire she wears catches my eye only once. She’ll marry in six months, but we won’t talk about the wedding or the ring I haven’t seen before.
She asks insightful, structural questions about writing I wouldn’t have been able to answer a year earlier. And she asks how the book relates to my own, distant encounter with mortality – questions I also wouldn’t have been able to answer a year ago. I still watch myself from outside during these moments, wary of seeming wiser than I am.
As we talk, the book sits on the table between us; ready for the deep and meaningful inscription she has given me a month to prepare. I have taken the month and created nothing. I silently reproach myself for not having tripped over the perfect line, in the sand of a beach the tide has just left. Scavenging is a method not to be recommended; it’s unreliable and it teaches hope.
But dog owners know the joy of things thusly found. They know that when you whistle – to signal time is up – your faithless hound may appear from over a dune, half-carrying, half-dragging something wonderful; as if to tell you that you are a fool: there is no such thing as time: throw this.
“I’ve got something”.
I write. She reads. And she rises from her seat to kiss me on the cheek.
A few weeks ago I was on the 101 Show on TMOA. I used to do a news bit for their break about half way through and I was both happy and eager to go back to talk about Singular - which I left the show to write.
I hope the audioplayer works because I've never used it before - let me know if you have any problems.
Thanks to Ken White at TMOA and to hosts Jason Giacopelli and Jason Leonti for having me and letting me post the interview. I'd also check out the photography websites of both these guys as they're pretty awesome.
Where Am I?
dfpiii.com is the official website of David F Porteous. Use the tabs to learn more about David, his books: Singular and The Death of Jack Nylund, or read his blog.
(<<< The blog is over there).