Please welcome guest author, Clive Fleury to Reads & Reels! Today, he is going to share his thoughts on short stories in general, and more specifically, his latest called Kill Code, a Dystopian Sci-Fi.
The Long And The Short of It
I write short books. There, I’ve said it, but boy was that hard. There seems to be a heck of a lot of prejudice against authors who write short books.
It’s not as if I ever wanted to write a short novel. When I dreamed of writing novels, I always had this image in my head of completing a massive tome of over six hundred pages – something that would truly impress. If you bought it at an airport you could happily sit on the plane and fly to Australia and still have more pages to read by the time you arrived. And the world and I were in step. Just as more and more people seem to be getting fatter and fatter, so novels are published with more and more pages.
There have always been thick books of course, As a kid some books that were revered, that were pronounced as classics, were sometimes very, very long. The Russians seemed particularly good at writing long novels. Anna Karenina is 864 pages and that’s not particularly impressive by Tolstoy’s standards. His book War and Peace is an interminable 1,225 pages. Now grapple with the number of trees cut down to supply the demand for people wanting to read his novels. I’m surprised Russia isn’t completely deforested by now.
But forget the Russians. Forget Tolstoy. Think about the French. Not the baguettes or the Eiffel Tower or their seemingly flung on ‘without a moment’s thought’ fashion look… No I’m talking about Marcel Proust. He was in a class of his own. Let’s start with his name. At first sight what could be simpler. Two words… Marcel and Proust. Except it wasn’t. Back in 1871 his parents, seemingly recognized that their newborn baby wouldn’t be someone content to write two hundred page novels. They may even have given him the idea that ridiculously long was the way to go by calling him Valentin Louis Georges Eugene Marcel Proust. Yep, maybe they started it all. But he ended it by cocking a snook at the Russians and writing In Search of Lost Time which boasts a monumental 4,215 pages. Admittedly it was published in seven parts but it’s still the same book!
Americans, never ones to want to miss out on a trend, really started to join in in the mid sixties. Before then there were long books – for instance Moby Dick runs to 585 page, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, 581 pages. They are not in the Marcel Proust league but still long. However most novels, even the classics, were much shorter. To Kill a Mocking Bird 281 pages, The Great Gatsby 148 pages, or something in my own genre of Science Fiction, Farenheit 451, runs for only 158 pages. Somehow they managed to tell stories that would be read for generations without the need to destroy numerous forests.
For what happened next in America I blame Arthur Hailey, Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann… to name but a few. In the sixties they wrote what became known as ‘airport books’. These were not great literary feats, but books intended for entertainment, and as the name suggests to be perused on planes, on beaches, on holidays. And once they sold well, and they did… in their millions…the publishers had a light bulb moment. They all agreed… the way to sell more books was to make them longer, so long in fact that even the writers got bored and started to forget the characters they were writing about!
Addicted to drugs and gambling, Harold Robbins hated writing, but needed the money he made from it. He would frequently quit a book midway through when he’d written a mere 300 pages, spend the advance, and then be forced to finish it – completing to the requisite 600 plus pages. In the hiatus he often forgot about the characters and the story arc but that didn’t stop him. He went on regardless, which could be problematic. When his agent pointed out that Harold had changed the name of his principal character, and his physical description in one of his books, the author was unrepentant. “Leave it as it is,” he said, “my readers will never notice.” And they didn’t. He didn’t get one complaint! His readers clearly appreciated the novel for its length rather than its content.
Which brings me back to my confession. My book, Kill Code: A Dystopian Science Fiction Novel, is a mere one hundred and fifty or so pages long in paperback. And although my publishers TCK Publishing were fine with its length many wouldn’t have been. They will only take books of over sixty or seventy thousand words. Imagine. Without even reading a word, books like The Great Gatsby would be tossed out by these publishers. Too short they would murmur. This F. Scott Fitzgerald clearly can’t write. Ray Bradbury? Who is this know nothing alleged science fiction writer. Doesn’t he know books should be at least six hundred pages.
Now, I’m not making comparisons with these authors or their talent, but I am saying enough of the ‘it’s too short’ approach. Books are not about sexual prowess. If it takes you six hundred pages to tell your tale good for you. If you can tell a good story in one hundred and fifty pages, that’s good too. The story is the thing! And isn’t it about time publishers realized this too.
Or you can contact me on Twitter , Instagram: @clivefleuryhere
Or through my website: clivefluerywriter.com
Kill Code (Release Date: December 2018)
WHEN THE OCEANS RISE…THE TRUTH DROWNS
It’s the year 2031. Our future. Their present. A world decimated by climate catastrophe, where the sun’s heat is deadly and the ocean rises higher every day. A world ruled by the rich, powerful, and corrupt. A world where a good man can’t survive for long.
Hogan Duran was a good man once. He was a cop, forced to resign in disgrace when he couldn’t save his partner from a bullet. Now Hogan lives on the fraying edges of society, serving cruel masters and scavenging trash dumps just to survive.
But after four years of living in poverty, Hogan finally gets a chance to get back on his feet. He’s invited to join the National Security Council, the powerful paramilitary organization responsible for protecting the rich and powerful from the more unsavory elements of society. All he needs to do is pass their deadly entrance exam, and he’ll be rewarded with wealth and opportunity beyond his wildest dreams.
But this ex-cop’s path to redemption won’t be easy. The NSC are hiding something, and as Hogan descends deeper and deeper into their world, he starts to uncover the terrible truth of how the powerful in this new world maintain their power…and just how far they will go to protect their secrets.
In a world gone wrong, can one man actually make a difference, or will he die trying?
Kill Code is the first novel in an exciting new dystopian science fiction series from the mind of the award-winning author, screenwriter, and director Clive Fleury.
Fans of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, and Divergent by Veronica Roth will be captivated by Kill Code.
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About the Author
Clive Fleury is an award-winning writer of books and screenplays, and a TV and film director and producer. He has worked for major broadcasters and studios on a wide variety of successful projects in the US, UK, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East.
When Clive was young, a man behind a big desk who called himself a ‘Career Specialist’ fell about laughing when Clive told him he wanted to tell stories. The ‘Expert’ had other plans. “You should be an engineer, that’s what you should be,” he said. Clive ignored his advice and embarked upon a very different life.
© Clive Fleury 2019