Thanks for having me on your blog today, Jeff. Great to be back again to talk about my new novel, The Ecology of Lonesomeness.
Now that the book is out, people have been asking what the book is about.
And it’s hard to say.
Here’s the blurb to give you an idea.
Kaleb Schwartz isn’t interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He’d enough cryptobiological speculation about Bigfoot while studying the Pacific Northwest forests. He’s in Scotland’s Great Glen to investigate aquatic food webs and nutrients cycles; if he proves there’s no food for any creature bigger than a pike, then so much the better.
Jessie McPherson has returned to Loch Ness after finishing university in London, hoping to avoid the obsession with its dark waters she had when younger and first discovered lonesomeness. She knows any relationship with a scientist studying the lake is a bad idea, but something about Kaleb makes her throw caution to the depths.
When Kaleb discovers Jessie’s lonesomeness refers not just to the solitude of the loch, he’s faced with an ecological problem of monstrous proportions. Can he find a way to satisfy both the man and the scientist inside himself, and do the right thing?
I’ve been sending requests for reviews this week. One reviewer replied today to say that it wasn’t her normal genre, but the blurb intrigued her and she’d love to read the book.
So that’s good.
Yet, as I advertise the book’s release, I’m unsure how much to reveal about the story in order to hook readers, and how much to conceal to make the read as satisfying as possible, given that one of the main themes is keeping secrets and trusting others with them.
It’s the classic problem of the blurb, the movie trailer, the book recommendation.
We’ve all seen those movie trailers where they tell you too much information. Half way through you wish it would stop, so they’d leave some story to tell in the actual film. If you were at home you’d change the channel. In the cinema you just have to close your eyes and try not to listen. Even then, sometimes my wife will comment, “well, now there’s no need to go see that movie.”
The best advertisement of all is just someone saying to you quite forcefully, “Just go and see/read it. You’ll see what I mean when you do. I can’t say any more without saying too much.”
I love those recommendations. I love reading a book that is a complete unknown, except for the fact that it’s great. I delight in sitting in a movie theatre without any idea what I’m going to see – other than knowing it’s going to be good because it’s come highly recommended by people I trust.
How to get those first people to see the film or read the story, of course, is the part we’re all still fiddling with.
I’d love to reveal more, but that would be short-changing the reader.
One day, perhaps, I will reach a stage where the reader trusts me, knows that when I say I’ve a new book out, that will be enough. They will need not inquire further, but know they’ll be entertained, get their money’s worth.
Until then, I’ll keep playing with the blurb, keep coming up with tag lines and Facebook post lines to get people thinking, wondering what the book could be about, but without telling them directly. Because when there is no mystery in a novel – even if it’s just wondering how the writer has done what we know he or she has to have done, and which others have done but not quite this way; very valid in my opinion (I was going to say in my book, but that might confuse…) – then it’s time to put the book down.
Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the book, when all the secrets are as yet unknown:
Jessie McPherson started the car and drove away from The Shredded Sail, her parents’ pub, which was also a bed and breakfast. She revved the engine and let gravel spit out from under the spinning front wheels. The old Nissan Micra that she’d learned to drive in was still a game old motor. Her mother kept it well serviced—well, basically she made sure Jessie’s father kept it well serviced. Jessie was tempted every day to do a handbrake skid across the gravel car park in front of the house upon her return from work. She used to do that in her school days. She’d grown out of that, though: you never knew where the guests might be parked. She’d nearly slid into a rented Audi the last time she’d pulled a skid.
It seemed time had stood still in the glen since she’d been home for Christmas. Had she really only been back here two weeks? She felt her three years in the chaotic ant’s nest of London had just been a fortnight’s holiday away: a few nights out in the West End, an afternoon drinking cocktails in Covent Garden after window-shopping in Knightsbridge, and mornings strolling through Hyde Park, Camden Market and Notting Hill.
Most of her old friends, her old flames, were still here in the glen. She’d taken to going for a pint in The Bothy with them after work, chatting to the old fogies in The Shredded Sail, and going over the same old conversations. After a week, those conversations were boring once again, but she still stood there at the bar, shaking her head at something her father said, or an acerbic comment from Ahab, the old codger who seemed to be welded to the bar when he wasn’t staring out at the surface of the loch, as if waiting.
It was amazing how quickly you could get back into a rut. This valley, this enormous gouge out of the landscape that almost cut an entire country in half, with its huge, internationally famous loch: what was it really, when you thought about it, other than a great big rut, with a muddy pothole in the middle of it to match?
It had a way of sucking you in, like the mist the loch seemed to suck out of the sky, down upon it, as if it would cloak itself in a white, vaporous shroud to conceal its secrets. The fog made the shimmering surface as unseen as the hidden, darkened, benthic depths so many feet underneath.
It grabbed you to it, hugged you close. The walls were like the arms of a mother who never wanted you to stray, to escape her apron pocket. That was disparaging to her mum, though, with whom she’d been very happy being back with. She spent time with her in the kitchen and helped out with breakfasts, too—even to the point of making her nearly late for work on some mornings.
She’d thought it would be a bit intense, living with her mum again after being at uni, but her mum now treated Jessie as a friend—a friend she’d do anything for, and not as a daughter who needed to do as her mother advised. It was amazing what a few years’ absence could do, how it could change things. Of course, Jessie supposed that during those three years, she herself had done the changing. Her mother had always encouraged her to go away to study—and not to the University of the Highlands and Islands, either.
“Get away from this glen,” she’d said: insisted, almost, “and escape the pull of that loch. It’ll swallow you up if you don’t. You’ll be here when you’re my age, staring out at the water like auld Ahab, there, obsessed.”
Her mother had always been worried that she spent too much time out on the loch. Since she was a young girl, she’d been sneaking off in the trout boat without telling anyone and would be found hours later, sitting in it down along the shore, either getting sunburnt or wet with the rain. The loch held no secrets from Jessie, though. She’d been around it too long, seen it too clearly, too often. She had stared down into those murky waters and seen more than her own reflection.
She’d learned to fly fish, and had taken her share of salmon and trout from the loch. She had also learned to predict the weather well enough to avoid the really bad squalls or at least bring along her wet gear when they threatened.
Her mother had become less worried that something untoward might occur, and increasingly concerned that Jessie was becoming too used to her own company, too solitary, too immersed in the life of the loch, rather than in pursuits that a regular girl of fourteen should have—or would have if they didn’t live on the south shore of Loch Ness.
Since she’d been back, Jessie had been out on the lake just once. She’d wondered if she’d experience the lonesomeness her mum would rather she didn’t, but had only found tranquillity in solitude and caught a few trout that she’d brought home. Her mother had fried them up with butter and lemon. It had been like breaking through a thin skin to the smells and memories of childhood when she’d broken off a piece with her fork and lifted it to her mouth.
You can read another excerpt and find links to the book here:
And read about my other books and writing at these websites:
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/David-J.-OBrien/e/B00M60M6Y0