IP eNews 55
the newsletter of IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)
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Sacred Cows and Best Intentions
Some time ago, the Australia Council decided to improve the process by which it provided grants to publishers. The previous system required publishers to nominate a list of up to seven titles, from which the Literature Board would pick titles it wanted to support. The idea was that the Board would assist with production costs of those titles, which was why prose titles were worth more than poetry books. In principal, the process was to focus on the quality of individual titles rather than publishers themselves and then to provide a standard fee for each selected title. The Board also underscored its commitment to assist publishers to enter the digital space, and, always the optimist, I assumed that IP would be supported for the hard yards we've put in developing our digital program – without any support from the Council to date.
The problem was that there were always going to be many more titles worth supporting than the Board had money to award. And it's one thing to change a process; much harder to ensure that all publishers have a fair go at being part of it. The Board still had to find a way to spread its thin resources to cover as many titles as it could in the circumstances. Previously, on two occasions, IP was given a grant that fell far short of the titles the Board said were worthy of support, with the onus placed on us to decide who we would support in the Board's name.
Doubtlessly, IP was not the only publisher dissatisfied with that approach. Last year, the Board adopted new policies that would be more publisher than author focussed. It would award grants now on the basis of programs rather than titles, with the assumption that publishers know better than the Board, which titles are most worthy of Government support. IP expressed support in principal for this change, but we knew that the devil would be in the detail. Would the Board take a more objective approach to evaluating publishers' programs? Would allowances be made for independents like IP with our innovative digital program, which the Board has said is a high priority? Or would the Board take the easy way out by allowing the same old publishers to command most of the available resources, just because they have in the past?
Unfortunately, it was the latter. Faced with a stagnant budget, or even a shrinking one in real terms, the Board once again was faced with the problem of having too many good publishing programs to support, and little will to fund upstarts at the expense of the industry's Sacred Cows. When it comes right down to it, you can rejig your policies, but if you don't have the resources to fund meaningful change, little will be achieved.
This is the second year in a row that IP has not been supported by the Board. It's not a question of quality; I firmly believe that our list is as good as any independent publisher in this country, especially when you consider our openness to new authors and niche titles that are worth publishing but not economic for larger publishers, e.g. poetry. Not to mention our distance from the publishing hubs of Melbourne and Sydney. We have no reason to believe the situation will change any time soon, so we've decided to opt out of the grants game. It's simply not worth the time expended for no return.
From 1 August, IP implemented a new business plan that includes a fee structure for many authors who want to publish with us. We will still subsidise the real costs of publishing titles we believe in, but some of those costs will have to be met by our authors and commercial clients. We'll be trimming our literary list in favour of more trade, academic and business titles, as well as more actively promoting the services we can provide in the digital area. These are not moves that we've made without serious consideration, but one that is necessary if the enterprise is to survive. The Board has made their decision, and we have accepted that we will have to be self-supporting from now on. For years, IP has run on the dedication of its staff who are not paid anything like they deserve. This is no longer sustainable.
It's interesting that even publishers who are in the Sacred Cow Club are still having to rationalise their programs. We know of one regional publisher who has simply closed the door on new submissions to concentrate on their front list and titles already accepted. It's a hard time to be in publishing, even if you are one of The Chosen. Literature Board support doesn't guarantee survival if you operate under the old model.
We ask for your understanding and support in this year of transition to our new model. We hope that next year we'll still be here. If not, it won't be for lack of trying, or a diminished commitment to publishing work of cultural significance and aesthetic appeal. In the meantime, you can show your support for IP and our authors by buying a title or two, and inviting your friends to do so. Call it 'crowd funding' or whatever you like, but if all of our subscribers just bought two titles a year, we wouldn't need a grant from the Literature Board!
It's been all hands on board in the Digital Publishing Centre, with a host of new titles being converted for distribution by our digital partners. More than 20 titles were uploaded this quarter, mostly new ones, but also some backlist titles that have been proving popular for sale in their physical print on demand versions.
We continue to fine-tune our workflow to reflect changes in specification from partners such as Apple and to work with updates in software. We recently installed Adobe's Creative Suite 6 on our servers, and with every major update there are good things and not so good things. In this business, you definitely have to be willing to go with the flow and adjust your processes to keep things moving smoothly, or at least with a minimum of bumps along the way!
We took on some new commercial clients and are looking forward to expanding our services in that area, as well as to authors coming to us with published print titles they want to issue in digital formats. We are currently consulting with an established independent publishing house to enable them to expand their digital offerings by doing more work in-house. Contrary to the approach of some consultancies that dazzle their clients with jargon, we believe in empowering people to do as much as possible themselves.
In the restructure currently under way at IP, we've also sought to simplify the process by which people engage us for our services. We still place a high value on ensuring titles are at the highest editorial standards before they go digital, and this positions us apart from so many companies that offer a quick (& nasty) approach to conversion, with little regard to what goes in one end or out the other.
For further information on our digital program, please click through to the DPC.
IP’s prose department has certainly been busy. Currently en route to press for November release are Tasmanian Peter Kay’s magic realism novel, Blood, our first prize winner in Fiction for IP Picks 2012 and Frenchmans Cap: Story of a Mountain by UK-based Australian Simon Kleinig, winner of Creative Non-Fiction.
Award-winning author, Barry Levy, is working with us to finalise the cover art for his third novel with IP, The Terrorist, slated for November release. Talks regarding a 2013 creative non-fiction project with him are underway.
Lois Shepheard’s biographic work Shinichi Suzuki, exploring both the larger-than-life man and his philosophy of teaching music to children, is also set for November launch.
Other releases boast two second edition works by Toowoomba author Judith McNeil: the autobiographical No One’s Child and The Girl with the Cardboard Port.
IP Picks 2012 awarded work Art from Adversity: A Life with Bipolar by Anne Naylor is a rich, creative non-fiction synthesis of memoir and artwork will be released March 2013.
We've just offered a contract to Brisbanite Christian Baines, who is currently working in Toronto, Canada, for his speculative fiction novel The Beast Without, which placed in the Fiction and Best First Book categories of IP Picks two years in a row. Several other authors are working away at revisions as our hopefuls for the new Rolling Picks selections for 2013.
This will be a very active Season for poetry, with several new titles about to go to press. Two new New Zealand titles head the list. Christchurch author Karen Zelas' Night's Glass Table and Wellington-based Sugu Pillay's Flaubert's Drum will be showcased in our New Zealand Tour, which kicks off in Dunedin on 27 August.
Also going to press are Sydneysider Margaret Owen Ruckert's musefood and Adelaide-based Valerie Volk's Even Grimmer Tales: Not for the Faint-hearted. Musefood was the IP Picks Best Poetry Award winner this year, and Valerie's collection is a fractured update on the Grimms brothers' fairy tales – certainly not for the faint-hearted!
We've just offered a contract to another South Australian by the pen name of Murray Alfredson for his intriguing manuscript The Gleaming Clouds, and several other manuscripts are under development.
IP Kidz Update
We’ve now released Mark Carthew and Mike Spoor’s latest title, Witches’ Britches, Itches & Twitches! It’s the last of our children’s books that will be released this year, so we’relooking forward to early 2013 for our next batch of IP Kidz titles.
The editing of Granny Rags, the junior novel that won the Young Adult / Junior Prose category of IP Picks 2012, is wellunderway, and the cover art will soon be started. Our three picture books scheduled for early 2013 release – No Matter Who We’re With, Bringing Down the Wall and The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & other eco-tales – are also progressing well. We’re looking forward to the design stage, when the final illustrations and text will come together!
[The reviews that follow are snippets from the full reviews, which you can find by clicking on the thumbnail for the title.]
Libby Hathorn, Heath McKenzie – I Love You Book
The rustle of the pages. The sound as the book shuts tight. The dreams they conjure, the magical places they take us, the short, hippety-hoppety words and the laughter and the commas, dots and question marks. Libby expresses it all in this book – so perfectly, the reader will nod in appreciation the whole way through.
– Tania McCartney, Kids Book Capers
Tim, your book arrived this morning, and I'm having to FORCE myself to stop reading and get on with the work I need to do. I am especially moved right now by "The Problem of Descendants". It's a magnificent book. – Johanna Knox
A splendid title – comprehensive, reassuring, the book you need to take on a journey of exploration into the jungle – into darkest whatever.
– Mary Cresswell, Takahe
Mark Carthew, Mike Spoor – Witches' Britches, Itches & Twitches
Witches' Britches, Itches & Twitches will take you back to those innocent days when you told joke after joke after joke. Knock Knock jokes, Doctor Doctor jokes, limericks, riddles and remember these...
– Jackie Hosking, Pass It On
Janet Reid – The Ruby Bottle
The two stories merge in a tale of mystery and adventure that subtly explores the theme of friendships and relationships: new and old friends as well as young and old friends.
Readers aged 9 to 12 will be drawn into the intriguing mystery of The Ruby Bottle from the first pages till the final pages.
– Margaret Warner, Buzzwords
Focus 1: Judith L McNeil
[Interviewed by Priscilla Clare, Judith talks about the raw material she drew from her past in creating two of the creative non-fiction titles she's republishing under our Glass House Books imprint.]
PC: In your two autobiographies No One’s Child and The Girl With The Cardboard Port, you share stories of hardship and trauma. For example, in No One’s Child the reader is transported to a time of not so long ago that is quite different from what we know today. The role of women and the hardships they underwent are highlighted. Given the personal nature of these events for you, was it difficult to put all that into words?
JM: No it was not. No One’s Child was deliberately written in narrative and from a child’s point of view. The looking glass of time did not soften the hardships and ordeals–they were unfair and unquestionable. So very much–yet nothing–has changed.
No One’s Child was written with intent to 1) record what used to be, the Gypsies, the Potts irons, the dunnys (toilets) and boilers (clothes boilers) out the back, schools of 20 odd children, of clothes props, of the harshness of country living, and 2) to intimately chronicle the lives of hard working women, the exploitation of children, and the friendships borne out of deprivation.
Society has moved ahead with such an alarming rate we are in danger of losing the memories of what our land was built upon and the sacrifices of those who have walked before us.
PC: Events in The Girl With The Cardboard Port are also a part of the past and may not be as raw as they would for someone experiencing new trauma. Do you see writing as a way of processing trauma and bringing closure?
JM: Trauma is trauma no matter if it’s in the past or present. We learn from each other how to keep moving forward to search for the beacon of light, to fight for justice–so each intimate story of endurance is relevant to all of us.
But is writing a way of bringing closure to trauma? For some people, yes, but for me, no. I opened up my life and took the reader by the hand into my world of terror and chaos to show there is always hope, there is always someone, somewhere with a hand out stretched, but we have to take that hand.
PC: What advice you would give to children growing up within a difficult family situation?
JM: The key to living successfully in whatever situation you’re in is very simple. Education.
[Witches' Britches, Itches & Twitches is the second IP Kidz title from the duo of Mark and Mike. Anna Bartlett interviewed them in turn.]
AB: Witches' Britches, Itches & Twitches! is a rhyme, riddle and joke book with a mix of rhymes, jokes, quirky humour, fun banter and sight gags. Where did the idea first come from, and how long ago was that?
MC: The idea came quite some time ago, as it grew out of the jokes and content I wrote for the prequel Wicked Wizards & Leaping Lizards, in particular the blurb which started off…
AB: It’s an ideal book for those who struggle with reading, as kids will be able to dip inside and find stories and jokes about witches, wizards, frogs, toads, bats and magic spells. What draws you to this sort of format?
MC: It is the sort of book you can pick up and simply read any one page, at any time, and still get a laugh. So the appeal is that you can dip in and out of it. I love Mike’s silly humour; we share the same love of wordplay and image-based fun. The cartoon-like narrative running through the text and the illustrations connect readers to the sub-themes and wacky flavour of the humour.
AB: You’ve written a number of other books that use rhyme or song, including your previous IP Kidz title, Newts, Lutes and Bandicoots. Do you think you’ll keep writing in rhyme forever?
MC: I love all types of word play, and rhyme is certainly a strong element of my work, including my picture books. Rhyme is a strong part of the English language poetic and rhythm, and rhyme is elemental to the musicality of language across cultures. While I’ll always enjoy rhyme, I am also currently working on various manuscripts that have a more prosaic non-rhyming narrative. Watch this space.
AB: What’s your favourite joke or page in Witches?
MC: I seriously can’t choose... I like them all. I do like the doctor surgery double page spread (pp.94-95). My humour can be pretty subtle sometimes... like the doctor’s name, Dr Isen Likenlukanatu ... get it? Sound it out loud.
AB: Mike, the artwork in Witches, Britches, Itches & Twitches! is fun and lively, combining perfectly with Mark’s rhymes and riddles. How do you decide what to include on each page, especially on pages that have very little text?
MS: I particularly enjoy Mark’s writing and his ideas because they aren’t tied to reality – it allows me great freedom to play with thoughts and my imagination can run riot. This makes the main task one of cutting down the choices to just one image that will fit the space around the text on a page. I like to have a mixture of simple pictures (such as a character like a toad or a witch) and some complicated scenes with lots of things going on, to tell a bit more story.
How I get the ideas is a bit of a mystery, but they spring into my thoughts in response to what a word describes or by imagining the scene. It works best when I play with all the possibilities, however nonsensical they may seem.
AB: How long does it take you, on average, to complete the artwork for each page? What’s your usual process?
MS: It’s not that simple calculating the time even for a simple illustration, because I need to read the whole book first (1) so that I get an idea of how the chapters are different from each other. Then I read it all again (2), and then read each page when I sketch rough ideas to start with (3). I’ll then draw the ideas in more detail and this may need some research (looking at pictures of animals etc)(4). After that I plan every page with the words in place and practise where the picture is to go around them (5). I send the roughs to the publisher and Mark (6) to check they are OK then finally draw every page on good paper (7). For this book I scanned the pencil drawings (8) and used Photoshop for the grey wash fill over the figures (9). From the computer I can then send all the images (10) to the designer who will put them into her computer to produce the book ready for printing. Occasionally there are corrections to do when something needs altering, for example, moving a face away from the fold in the middle of the book (11). Phew…
So I can’t be accurate about timing all these processes but I guess it would be more than an hour per page even when it’s just a simple character drawing.
AB: Which page was the most fun to illustrate?
MS: I get most satisfaction (or fun) from inventing a character who seems to have a personality created not by me, but by his or her appearance on the page. The act of drawing creates little accidents of expression and character all by itself and the result is someone who I meet for the first time when I put the pencil down.
There are many such characters in this book but if I have to choose I would say I am fond of the little witch with the baggy britches (p.xii), the frog-like thing with toad slippers (p.57), the toad (p.42), the elf (p.68), and the very odd flying thing (p.84). As an idea I enjoyed the nonsense of the elf boy pumping up a toad on page 59.
AB: Tell us a bit about the way you’ve been promoting The Sky Dreamer recently.
AM:The Sky Dreamer is a gorgeous picture book, lavishly illustrated by Celine Eimann – but because the story deals with the death of a child, it has a limited appeal to a general readership. The book does, however, appeal to a niche market of counsellors, guidance officers, and agencies who provide bereavement counselling for young children and their families.
Because the potential readership for The Sky Dreamer is outside the general distribution network for Australian children’s books, I have been researching potential markets on the internet and subsequently emailing professionals who work in child bereavement counselling. In writing my emails, I have explained how The Sky Dreamer can help them in their professional practice. I have also personalised each email, addressing each recipient by name and profession, so that it does not come across as spam. I have also offered to send a limited number of professionals a complimentary ebook for review.
AB: What made you think of this approach?
AM: I have not studied marketing or had any extensive experience in marketing, so I researched ‘marketing children’s books’ on the internet and read what the experts have to say. Then, in collaboration with David Reiter, I developed my own marketing strategy, which is based on the premises:
AB: Why do you think the book is so well suited to groups like this?
AM: Children respond to profound grief in different ways. Some lock up their grief while others are unable to control an outpouring of emotions. Psychologists and counsellors can share The Sky Dreamer with children as a way of indirectly opening up discussions about grief. They can also discuss the comforting ending of The Sky Dreamer, in which Cassie, the girl who has died, gives her brother a rainbow cloak to brighten his life.
AB: Have you had any encouraging responses?
AM: A number of people I have contacted over the internet have sent me personal emails telling me how much they like The Sky Dreamer.
We're pleased to report that Dr David Reiter had some good news about his own creative work (when does he find the time for it??)
David's short film, Nullarbor Song Cycle, has been shortlisted for the Western Australian Premier's Award for Digital Narrative. One of our favourite clips has him daring the road trains as he sits in the middle of the highway to perform a passage from the work. Winners will be announced in late September.
And if that weren't enough, he's also been awarded a Residency Grant from the Australia Council to take up the offer of a New Media Residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada. He'll be working on the next phase of his My Planets: a fictive memoir project, which is intended to encourage people to sharestories about their separation from their biological families, adoption, search for their biological family, and the redefinition of identity that that can entail.
We know he's fond of the Rocky Mountains and keen on communing with grizzlies and cougars, but we're counting on him coming back in one piece by the end of October!
[Lois's second book with us, a biography of the influential music teacher Shinichi Suzuki is a something of a change of pace from her historical memoir The Rag Boiler's Daughter, but her new book still frames Suzuki with personal recollections of him. David interviewed her for Focus.]
DR: Most of us have heard of The Suzuki Method but may not know much about it. Tell us more.
LS: Dr Suzuki realised that as music is a language, it should be assimilated from infancy, just as a child’s mother tongue is assimilated. Any child capable of speaking his mother tongue can be taught to reproduce the language of music, at least to the level of his verbal communication. Children should therefore listen to recorded music before they start learning to play an instrument. Parents play an important role in the music education process, just as they did as the child learned to speak. A parent attends the lessons, helps the child practise at home and plays the recorded music to the child. Music reading is introduced when the child has a grasp of the fundamentals of instrumental technique – just as literary reading is introduced a few years after a child has begun to speak his mother tongue.
DR: The Man behind the Method had a driving philosophy as well as a technique that he wanted to convey about how music should be taught. To what extent were the philosophy and technique harmonised in the Method?
LS: The Suzuki Method is itself a philosophy. It happens that Suzuki teachers base their teaching on certain music instruction books but the key element of the method is the philosophy that every child can be taught. Dr Suzuki repeated constantly, ‘Every child can be educated.’
The Suzuki teacher understands that the child has heard each piece of music before beginning to play it. It’s then just a case of leading the child through the necessary technical skills. The first sounds on the instrument are simple, just like an English speaking baby learning to say something like ‘Mama’. Then the first pieces of music are very easy – as are a child’s first words. Just as in spoken language, sounds are repeated and practised. The teacher’s task is to guide the child, step by step, through the repertoire.
There is always an ongoing study of tone production and the techniques necessary for its control. One needs the appropriate sound colour to convey the meaning of any piece of music. (In the same way, of course, one doesn’t read a story aloud in a monotonous tone of voice.) The teacher always remembers that every child is capable of learning.
DR: Opinion was and probably still is divided about the effectiveness of the Method. What were/are the key objections, and how did/do you deal with them in your own teaching?
LS: At first, musicians believed that musical talent is inherited. They wanted to continue to believe this. I decided at the outset of my Suzuki teaching in Victoria that all I had to do was to produce fine students; the method would then speak for itself.
Even now, some critics imagine that a Suzuki student isn’t taught to read. This is interesting, given that by now, thousands upon thousands of little Suzuki children have grown into adults who study in conservatoriums, play in symphony orchestras, sing in opera companies, teach music in schools and universities etc.
DR: Your book is very much a personal view of the man behind the myth. What did you find out about Suzuki the man that you didn't expect?
LS: I’m not sure I expected anything. I was just fascinated to find out about his teaching. But I remember that the first thing I noticed about Dr Suzuki was his unworldliness, his complete selflessness and his great desire to deliver his message..
DR: You are an important disciple of the Method. Do you think it is here to stay, or are more traditional methods of teaching string instruments overtaking it now that Suzuki has passed on?
LS: It is here to stay. For a start, the philosophy that every child can be educated will remain popular with parents!
The Suzuki Method is now taught in other Asian countries beside Japan. There are hundreds of thousands of Suzuki students in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australasia and the Pacific countries. Here in Victoria, from 2012, The Faculty of Music at the University of Melbourne offers Suzuki teacher-training as part of a Masters degree. The university is sending the students to Suzuki Music for this particular segment. Tertiary institutions throughout the world are training Suzuki teachers. This has been happening in America for decades. The Americans were well to the forefront; they recognised the value of the Suzuki Method a long time back.
These days, ‘non-Suzuki’ music instruction books, for all instruments, come with CDs. Music set for examination syllabuses do likewise. The music education world has realised the need and the practicality of providing examples for the music student to listen to. As technology changes and improves, so will the quality and range of examples increase. Even now, with the advent of YouTube, teachers parents and students have more model performances to listen to.
Children learning foreign languages in school listen to CDs of the language.
Dr Suzuki was the first to advocate listening to the language of music in order to reproduce it. He was way ahead of his time
[Barry Levy's third novel with IP has been described as a psychological thriller, dealing with the nature of terrorism and how it is contextualised by the different agendas of interest groups in our society. Lauren Daniels gets him to elaborate.]
BL: The central conflict of The Terrorist revolves around the freedoms of Western democracy, the innate influence in this of Jews and Judaism, and the fear that what the world has gained from these mammoth movements in terms of thoughts, ideas and ways of governing, could be lost to an extremist and expansionist Muslim ideology that, in political terms, is more akin to the fascism of nationalist Italy and Nazi Germany.
The problem is that the world that has become radically critical of its own advancement and at the same time almost just as radically compassionate about movements that, although they may have the hallmarks of totalitarianism and oppressiveness, are seen as worthy because they oppose the United States of America led world of Christianity, Judaism and Western democracy. But because of this opposition, however well-intentioned though misinformed, there is a real chance, just as in the days of the West’s appeasement towards Nazi Germany that, given sheer numbers and strength of belief, the West could capitulate or at least partly capitulate to these influences, and this would actually drive backwards the gains of the West’s hard-fought historical past.
This concerns me as a person. As an author I attempt to see it through a prism of objectivity, the colour dark and a sense of humour, looking at all sides and issuing perhaps a warning, but allowing the reader to ‘see’ and ‘decide’ for themselves.
LD: The novel has been described as an intense psychological thriller. The feelings are deep, the consequences are grave, and much of what unfolds is spurred on by a toxic combination of old hatreds and the incendiary nature of the media. Talk to us about your experiences as a journalist and about your impressions of the way the mainstream media behaves and shapes our beliefs.
BL: At the same time as the media is essential to freedom of speech and crucial to questioning the machinations of government, society and its institutions, it has become more and more a tool in focussing our vision so that we see the tunnel rather than the entire landscape around it.
I know from my own experiences as a journalist, there is almost no point in writing an article unless it has a negative bent. That is, the story must show up some flaws in the system or situation to be relevant.
To get one’s message across – that is make it saleable – it is also critical that the focus be on that part of reality that exposes and lights up a particular situation (that is, be sensational enough) rather than put a ‘whole context’ on an issue. So, whatever flares up as most noteworthy or visually impressive is what is focussed on and shown to be reality. Unfortunately, most people rely on this simple view for their news.
To give an example, during the Second Intifada against Israel, journalists well knew that every afternoon, after school, a bunch of kids would gather to throw rocks. Other than that, there was seldom any continuous action. So, every afternoon at the known time of approx. 2pm the media would roll up to the place where the kids would throw their stones at Israeli troops on the other side of the road, and then, mostly, go home to come back the next day.
But the day’s news was shot and told through the prism of that daily event, giving the feeling of a hectic minute-by-minute hatred and attack on Israel, and fuelling the image of Israeli troops attacking and firing on children. Of course, a journalist who reported the true nature of this, even the boringness of the Intifada, would not last long in his or her job – as a journalist has to know how to make ‘the news’ news. That is, saleable.
Another example, pertinent to The Terrorist: During the Second Lebanon War, reports constantly spoke of attacks on Lebanon and Beirut, whereas the attacks were really on southern Lebanon and parts of the outlying suburbs of southern Beirut. But, as a result, most people thought of Beirut as under siege. On the other hand, for the real news watcher, the odd honest image showed people in the centre of Beirut enjoying their normal coffees, work and other activities. It was a war between Israel and Hezbollah, but because of the media view the world saw it as much more than that.
LD: The Terrorist delves into suspicions about ‘the other’ or ‘the outsider’, a literary exploration which is as old as the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. Without giving anything away, how does your protagonist, Ben Fine, wrestle with his demons... or angels, depending on one’s perspective? What’s at stake for him and how does this relate to readers?
BL: In a world fuelled by media and a protest movement fuelled by popular compassionate causes, there is also in this a growing component of those who are determined to be more critical and deeper in their research and therefore more individualistic in the conclusions they come to. Occasionally, among all the populism, we even see journalists in this throng who are prepared to have their heads ‘lopped off’ by old leftwing colleagues in order to state their findings and their own cautions (eg., Christopher Hitchens).
I believe this is where the reader of The Terrorist really comes in. Seeing someone – such as the lead character, Ben Fine – prepared to think outside the popular circle and show it up for what it is.
Unfortunately, as we see through Ben Fine, and in fact through many ‘rational’ thinkers as well as governments, driving against a lobby which refuses to see the whole picture but believes unquestioningly in its own overwhelming compassion and humanity, can develop into an overreaction.
And this is where the danger lies. It is the essential question for those who want to be individuals and take a stand on their opinions: Are you willing – lucid, truthful and well researched as your opinions may be – to be driven against a wall by disparagers who can make you look reactionary, uncool and even put your sanity at risk? Or is it easier to just stick with the peer group and their immediately heart-warming responses?
LD: Regardless of a person’s background, there are themes in your novel that will touch everyone. The title and the content might remind some readers of the V for Vendetta film and graphic novel, where the label of ‘terrorist’ depends on one’s perspective. Which messages of The Terrorist do you believe will resonate most clearly with global audiences?
BL: Naturally, this question is difficult to answer. In the end, I hope it is the kind of novel that is ambiguous and complex enough for people to form their own conclusions. Being a novel that swings between the two sides and keeps the question of The Terrorist open, it is also I think a novel that undercuts itself so that all sides really have to question themselves.
I think in many ways the sense of populism versus the ‘logical and realistic’ outsider versus the ideological believer and ‘insider’ gives sufficient breadth for readers, universally, to take something from all sides - and see, in the end, the necessity for cautions – rather than rolling blindly forwards.
In the early days of digital publishing, publishers invested heaps in developing digital rights management (DRM) systems to protect their content against 'sharing', which some regard to be piracy. But what exactly is piracy, and how common is it in the book industry?
It's difficult to say. Compared to the music and movie industries, where the major players have invested millions to encrypt their titles, publishers have mostly out-sourced DRM to their distributors simply because effective DRM is technically difficult to achieve. This means they have little or no access to statistics on how DRM works – or doesn't – when it is applied differently by different distributors. Logically, we would expect more problems with best seller titles that have achieved a buzz in the social networks, etc.
Aside from the occasional social sharing that's been culturally acceptable since libraries were invented – can you image libraries warning an eight-year-old against sharing a picture book with his brother or a friend – most people can't be bothered with sharing books they've paid for with people who haven't. Once a book becomes popular, there's more of a temptation to spread it on the digital breeze. It's human nature to validate feelings – positive or negative – by asking someone else to read the title. Few people worry about the loss of revenue to the publisher or author. It seems to be OK to share something that was originally paid for, if only once.
Pirates have been around longer than libraries, and we're not about to extinguish them any time soon. Some pirate for profit, others just for the joy of proving they can crack any protection a work might have. In a way, applying DRM to a song, a movie or a book is like waving a red flag in front of a bull: it's got to be worth the charge for the bull to expend the energy.
Some distributors prefer that no encryption is applied to their merchandise for technical reasons. Some reading devices have problems loading and playing encrypted material. Life would be easier if all reading devices were made equal, and all DRM software worked the same way, but that won't be happening any time soon.
Perhaps publishers and authors should adopt a more pragmatic attitude such as that of the pharmaceutical industry who exploit their licenses on drugs to the hilt for a prescribed period before the Home Brand companies are allowed to produce their generic clones. And some authors are less concerned with being pirated than not being read. Having your book doing the rounds on the share sites may be a good way of promoting your reputation as a writer, increasing the likelihood that people who didn't know you before they read you for free might actually buy your next book.
David will soon hit the road for our third New Zealand tour, showcasing the work of award winning poets Karen Zelas and Sugu Pillay.
Here's the schedule with confirmed dates (all events are free):
Monday, 27 Sept: Dunedin, Circadian Rhythm Café, 72 St Andrews Street, from 8pm. Open mike.
Tuesday, 28 Sept: Timaru District Library, 56 Sophia Street, Timaru, 12:30pm.
Thursday, 30 Sept: In association with the Christchurch Writers Festival, The Little Dome, Hagley Park, 4:30pm
Sunday, 2 Sept: Poetry & Music at the Metropolitan Café. 7 Lydney Place, Porirua, 4pm.
Monday, 3 Sept: Wellington Central Library, 6pm.
Tuesday, 4 Sept: Poetry Live at Thirsty Dog, 469 Karangahape Road, Auckland, 7:30pm.
Wednesday, 5 Sept: Tauranga Campus, Tauranga, 6pm.
STOP PRESS: As a special bonus, we'll have a launch of Kathy Sutcliffe's Write My Face at Rotorua Library, 1127 Haupapa Street, from 12:30pm on Thursday, 6 September – also a free event.
Planning is also underway for a tour of Tasmania to feature the prose winners of IP Picks 2012. Already confirmed is an event at The Lark Distillery, with Peter Kay and his novel Blood taking central stage. Thanks to our friends at the Tasmanian Writers Centre for inviting us!
We'll also be touring with Simon Kleinig, whose creative non-fiction title, Frenchmans Cap: The Story of a Mountain, took out Best Creative Non-fiction. We'll be organising events up north as well as in Hobart.
In the two months between these tours, David will be taking up a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada to create an interactive version of My Planets: a fictive memoir.
The residency is being supported by a residency grant from the Australia Council, which David was, of course, delighted to receive.
Less than 48 hours after he returns to Australia, he'll have an hour's session at the Gold Coast Writers Festival to talk about the Project and what he's achieved – in spite of jetlag!
Libby Hathorn will be a featured guest at this year's Ubud Writers Festival, where her I Love you Book will be featured.
Janet Reid (The Ruby Bottle) had an excellent turn-out at Michelton Library here in Brisbane for an event featuring hand-made leather diaries for the kids to draw on to depict their impressions of her fictional characters.
And Heather Taylor Johnson had a mini-reading tour in Melbourne recently for her poetry book Letters to My Lover from a Small Mountain Town, including events at Federation Square and Readings, Carlton.
Deal 1: "Like" our Digital Publishing Centre page on Facebook before 1 September for a FREE IP eBook of your choice! That's right, simply go to our Facebook page, check out all the digital news, "like" what you see and then email us your choice of eBook title, letting us know if you prefer a pdf or ePub version (the latter will work on most tablets).
Deal 2: Vote for a Win at the WA Premier's! Order in Nullarbor Song Cycle for a mere $15, plus FREE shipping anywhere in Australia and see if the judges got it right!
Deal 3: IP Anniversary Special. Order ANY IP title for a 15% discount, plus FREE shipping.
Order by 1 September 2012 from firstname.lastname@example.org with Deal 1, Deal 2 or Deal 3 as your Subject. Include your postal address and whether you want to pay (for Deals 2 or 3) by EFT or PayPal.