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How to create a novel with International and Universal appeal

April 9, 2012

That is a bit of a tall order for any Australian writer in that we are still relatively isolated from the rest of the world. There is nothing wrong with creating fiction that is Australian based yet an international audience may not come with you forever staying on your home turf both literarily and figuratively speaking. Recently Australian cinema has come up against an old argument that our movies have little international appeal and are too parochial. A full discussion of that wide ranging and controversial issue is outside the scope of this article but suffice to say that a large percentage of our books and films are failing to attract overseas customers for this seeming lack of connection with audiences beyond our shores.

Yes there may well be a bit of cultural cringe in all this. We go to see American movies and read books by English and American authors in a largely mistaken belief that there is always something more interesting or exciting happening outside what sometimes seems to be a rather ordinary Australia.  The funny thing is that many American and British nationals feel the same way about their home countries. Let me explain.  Early in the 20th century a group of American writers that came to be known as the Lost Generation and included Hemingway and Fitzgerald, left the then staid and strait laced US for the more ribald and progressive shores of continental Europe. Something similar happened with the Beat generation a generation later. The Beats preferred Tangiers and Paris to small town America or even New York and famously included Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. The work produced from these groups over time was arguably the best in Modern American literature.

Some Australian authors have done like-wise and I shall discuss their journey in a later post. As for me, in the late 1990’s I went to Tokyo to teach English in a language school. Our classes were in a downtown high rise that afforded a great view of this mega city of over 35 million people. The place was like nothing I had ever seen before and I soon started writing about it. Sometimes after work the others teachers and I would go on pub crawls or more likely stop at my favourite, the Lion’s Head in Meguro. One day there I ran into someone who happened to be the editor of an in-flight magazine for ANA (All Nippon Airways) and I told him about some of my fiction. He asked me to bring some of the mainly sci-fi short stories and I did. He liked one of them enough to publish it in the Christmas edition of the magazine and this story, “Precursors” is available as a free download on my website

Similarly a play I wrote while in Tokyo which was inspired by my experiences was published in Japan and is available as a free down load on the above website.

Early in the New Millennium I worked and lived in London and the home- counties. As a teacher of English and as an inveterate drinker at the local pub I came into contact with many people including one memorable patron who has just been released from Belmarsh prison. Not long into my three year stay in greater London I began researching and writing a novel that became London’s Falling.

Being on the ground so to speak in Europe’s largest city was invaluable experience for writing such a book and I do hope it finds an international audience. I do feel that this crime thriller speaks to the conversations of our times and these talking points  include religious fundamentalism in a modern western society, the corrupt synergy between the media, politicians and the police, and the effects of social decay and crime in urban areas. In a novel it is through characterisation that the underlying thematic material is best given expression. When you believe in a character and care about that character all the rest comes alive. I shall be writing more on this topic in the coming days and weeks. Keep an eye on these blogs!

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