Miles Kington: Memoirs too cheerful? It may be time to kill Aunt Clara

Baffled by blogging? Miffed by misery memoirs? Or is your name just too boring? Here's how to get ahead in the crazy world of modern publishing...
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The Independent Online

Are you writing a book? And having a few problems? If not, you are in the minority, judging from the huge quantity of anguished letters and e-mails I get from frustrated writers. Apologies to those few not writing books, but today I am dealing with some of the more interesting authorial dilemmas.

I have submitted my memoirs to a publisher who likes the style, but says they are far too cheerful and upbeat, as misery memoirs are the fashion. How can I rewrite my life to make it seem dark and horrible without falsifying the record?

Easily. Just fix on some of the nicer characters in your early life and have them killed off very soon, and replaced by much colder and more heartless characters.

But that's not what happened! I can't kill off my dear old Aunt Clara, for instance, who was a fount of wisdom, and rescued me more than once from going down the wrong path! Apart from anything else, she's still alive!

Do you want to publish your memoirs or don't you?

Yes, but...

Then do what your publisher says, and kill, kill, kill. Next!

My name is Joe Smith, and I am writing a novel. I realise that however good it is, people are most unlikely to buy a book by someone called Smith, so what should I call myself?

You are so wrong! There have been many best-sellers called Smith! But they have all had wacky names in front of the Smith. Zadie Smith. Dodie Smith. Stevie Smith. Saumarez Smith. You see?

You mean, keep the Smith and change the "Joe"?

You gottit. Dick King-Smith. Martin Cruz Smith. The list is endless, as we writers say when we can't think of any more examples. Next!

I have recently started work on a historical novel about Henry James...

Stop! Stop there! It has been done! Everyone has been doing it!

No, but hear me out. I have recently started work on a historical novel about Henry James with a science fiction twist, in that Henry James meets David Lodge, who has come back from the future to do research on the period, and James falls in love with him.

Excellent!

They set up house together, only for Colm Toibin to come back from the future to stalk David Lodge.

Hmm. Sounds a bit complicated. What next?

A publisher comes back from the future and says it is all too cheerful and upbeat, and they must make it more miserable.

I like it! Then what?

So Henry James, Colm Toibin and David Lodge gang up against the publisher and contrive to kill him.

Good heavens. What next?

Henry James becomes convinced that the story of all this could be turned into a play, which would finally establish him as a West End success...

Getting a bit unlikely now, I'm afraid. Next, please!

I have decided that most books these days succeed better if their authors turn out to be liars, cheats and murderers.

Right...

So I have persuaded a publisher to turn my blog into book form. This blog is a detailed catalogue of vice, crime and decadence over the last three years.

Right...

However, the deceit lies in the fact that it is not my blog at all, but one which I have stolen from someone else on the internet.

Right...

Thus creating a new crime called blogiarism.

Brilliant! You will go far in publishing!

Do you have a problem with your work in progress? Just get in touch!

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