A while back I blogged about how I noticed one of my ideas on a bookshelf in Waterstones and a little part of me died. Last week I was in Foyles and I noticed another book on a shelf with the title I gave my own novel some years ago: Mere Anarchy, a collection of witty writings by Woody Allen. Needless to say, another little part of me died.
Mere Anarchy is a phrase lifted from Keats’ poem “The Second Coming”, though I doubt that Allen’s use of it is nearly as appropriate or clever as mine was. Because not only did it describe what happened in the novel pretty well (a very laid-back parochial approach to apocalyptic goings-on), but my book actually featured the second coming. Clever, see? In a wanky sort of way.
Although when The Friday Project got their hands on my book, the title was the subject of much debate; they didn’t see quite how clever Mere Anarchy was, they just thought it was a weird title for a comic novel (I guess you have to be Woody Allen to overrule your editor). After much lengthy and anguished discussion, it was ultimately decided that More Tea, Jesus? was more commercial, a title I learned to love in the end. It’s just as well, as somebody’s nicked my old one.
What happened then was that The Friday Project went into liquidation a couple of months before my book was due to hit the shelves and it was unceremoniously returned to the bottom of the long, long ladder that is Getting A Thing Published. My agent tells me that the credit crisis is taking its toll in the world of publishing and nobody is buying anything right now (unless you’re Woody Allen), and amidst the generally enthusiastic responses to my manuscript is the repeated complaint that it may be “a bit too quirky”. Maybe comic novels involving Jesus just don’t have a clear target audience, or maybe the Second Coming just aint commercial (unless you’re Keats). If anybody knows what IS commercial, please do tell, as that’s what I’ve been instructed to write.
In the meantime, More Tea, Jesus? can at least be seen online thanks to HarperCollins’ Authonomy website. This seems to have the slightly unwanted side effect of inviting criticism from people who may not be qualified to give it, and since my book has been rewritten, edited, rewritten some more, re-edited, rewritten and proofread, I’m sure as hell not rewriting it again for anybody except an actual publisher. But if you promise to be nice about it, you can start reading here.