The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Phineas on Deck

I just received the proofs of my novel, Phineas at Bay. The cover page is represented above.

It's an extraordinary feeling; I remember when I received the proof of my first book, back in 2000, the feeling that this was going to be a real thing in the world. Under my name. For literally anyone to read and judge.

How exciting!

Phineas at Bay, though, is on a whole different order of things. It's a work of fiction, a novel--the very thing I wanted most to do in all the world when I was a young man--yes, be a lawyer, but this, this too--write fiction.

When I tried, in college in law school, I wrote one short story that was good (I still believe), one that was interesting but flawed, and a third light comic turn. And then I dried up. I had nothing to say, yet.

Here's a secret: Every time I sit down to write an article, I wonder: is this the time when the gift leaves me? When I can no longer come up with a fresh, new perspective, and am reduced to rehashing my old pieces? That's why I haven't written anything at length on free speech since 2007--I've covered everything I have to say in the field. (I may have one left in me, more of a memoir about an unusual case, but, seriously--the doctrine has been, except in campaign finance, relatively steady since the second edition of First Amendment, First Principles. I haven't anything jurisprudentially significant to add, for now.)

So, when I decided to have a go at a novel, I did it with no purpose but to write a story for my wife. No pressure, no expectations. I planned to self-publish, and keep the experience fun for me. And then the book wrote. It was exhilarating to do it, and addictive.

It wrote, though, as a third piece in the diptych created by Trollope regarding Phineas Finn (thanks to Nicholas Birns for that metaphor--and for a great blurb on the book.) And to do a Trollope-style novel commits you to a certain scope, one which requires completely blowing by the word count thresholds most literary agents set, let alone the publishers to whom they would pitch it. And, although a dear friend pointed me in the direction of some first rate agents--well, the book is written to an audience that wants a chronicle of some scope. The hard core of the audience--the Anthony Trollope reader, especially, but also the modern analogue--fans of Hillary Mantel, or A.S. Byatt--would feel cheated with a book lacking the capaciousness of the original. I couldn't meet the word count thresholds without cheating the very people who would be most enthusiastic about the work. (In fact, Phineas at Bay is significantly shorter-- 100,000 words shorter--than either of the two original novels, and clocks in at over 170,000 words).

So, a long novel--with a cliffhanger at the end of "Volume I" that I rather fancy, and some good comedy along the way. I was blessed to have a first rate editor, Judith Cummins to design the cover, and the design and marketing team from CreateSpace, who are patient, kind, but best of all, enthusiastic about their work.

We're not quite there yet, but pretty soon, there's going to be an e-book and a hard copy book available for purchase, and I hope a lot of you will visit the author site and store, and shell out for this thing, in one format or the other. Because I hope--no, I think--you might like it.

I hope to have, as Simon Raven memorably put it, arranged words in a pleasing pattern for your enjoyment.

But that will, quite soon now, be for you to decide.

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