Our first fiction releases arrived at the end of last year in the form of two novellas – The Hole in the Wall by Clare Fisher and The Darkened Corner by Tom Hamilton.
I’m tempted to think novellas are the ideal form for an easily-distracted online audience, but perhaps that’s a cynical view. War and Peace is available online, and no doubt Tolstoy has gained plenty of new followers as a result.
Some novellas are extended short stories, while others are short novels. The Darkened Corner and The Hole in The Wall both fall into the latter category. The Darkened Corner covers twenty years in the life of the central character, while The Hole in the Wall tells not one but several stories at once.
Novellas have been virtually banished from mainstream publishing altogether. You’ll be very unlikely to see a novella by an unknown author being taken on by a large publisher. Novellas, like short story collections, are perceived as being difficult to sell. The great thing about being non-profit is that we don’t need to worry about whether the books will make any money or not. All we’re concerned about is quality.
As Tom Hamilton revealed to me when I interviewed him on the Philistine Press blog, he experienced what is surely every writer’s worst nightmare while writing The Darkened Corner.
He says, “I usually write out the first draft longhand in a college ruled notebook. Not really taking the time to think about errors or sentence structure or anything which will slow down the flow. Like Hemingway said: “The only stipulation for the first draft is that you get it all down.” Then I wait a few weeks to divorce myself emotionally from the text. After that I’ll hunt through several notebooks and read excerpts of mostly terrible ideas until I find a draft which I think is interesting enough to transfer onto the computer screen.
I painstakingly copied out the first draft of the The Darkened Corner since this is the period in the process where I slow it down and try to work on things like pace and time line. I think of myself as a sculptor, knocking off the rough edges of the story with a chisel. Once I have the whole second draft inside the computer, I will endlessly comb over it to try and eliminate errors and to give the flow of the prose a more poetic tone. Describing this process does not mean that I feel I’ve succeeded in any way. Only the reader, and not the person who would like to call themselves an artist, can attest to the quality of the manuscript.
Anyway once I’d completed the second draft (which could really be dozens of drafts), disaster struck. I opened the file one day to find nothing but an endless blizzard where my novella had been. I don’t know much about computers. I don’t know if I erased it myself somehow or if some weird glitch just sucked into cyberspace forever. In any event it was gone. I was so pissed off at this point that I just decided to consult the notebook draft, which by now looked like something a second grader had scribbled out, and start again. I do believe that in some ways the novella was better off for it, since I thought of some things which I probably never would have just combing through the lost draft. However I would love to take just one look at the lost draft, since I know there is something in there that the story could have used.”
Clare Fisher’s The Hole in the Wall is a tale of suburban disharmony told from the point of view of four different narrators. One thing that particularly impressed me about this book was Clare’s ability to convincingly adopt a range of different voices. Clare says, “Voice is one of the aspects of writing I have always found most interesting, both in my own work and in others’. I am also an extremely nosy person, and spend too much time wondering what’s going on in other peoples’ heads… I have always been fascinated by the way people furnish their worlds using language that is particular to them; that is something I was hoping to explore in this piece … I do what I can to become my characters whilst I’m writing. When things are going really well, their thoughts and feelings come without me having to do anything; when I find myself thinking, that’s my thought not theirs, I know I’m stuck.”
Read these two novellas online or download them here: