I read recently that one very important way for readers to discover the books they will enjoy actually focuses upon the authors themselves. Readers can better empathize with stories, it’s said, if they feel they can connect with the persons behind them.
It’s not a direction that I particularly relish, because I was brought up in the “True-Brit, Stiff Upper Lip” ethos where self-aggrandizement is anathema. It feels offensive for the invisible author behind the scenery to intrude. The idea of someone who has no public face putting themselves forward has a strong farcical aspect. But this is a silly world, so at risk of appearing ridiculous, I’ll give it a try. If you want to approve this change you can send me a note at email@example.com quoting TWV blog in the subject line.
One aspect that I might find legitimate is to connect aspects of my life and experience that throw a bit of light on the Iskander books I have created. A simple example would be Gisel Matah’s penchant for flouting authority – or at least having a patronizing attitude to it as she sidles around the edge to bypass it. I was raised by my mother within the London side of the family after my father died in WWII. Not quite Cockney, but very much urban underclass with all the ingrained eagerness to see the ‘rulers of the universe’ make fools of themselves – and to help them do it. We see the failures of society from the level of the cogs in the machine, and have very little sympathy for the ‘experts’ who devise the mistakes. So that’s me – very much a contrarian and a connoisseur of expositions of world-view that contradict the sacred cows of orthodox society.
My Uncle Cliff, my mother’s elder brother, was perhaps the model for this ‘keep your head down, but rebel-if-the-opportunity-appears’ stance. He had volunteered for the Royal Navy when he became old enough in WWI, which would have been in 1916 since he was born in 1901. I never knew his war record in any detail, other than that he served on a ship in the Wobbly Eight squadron, of the last pre-Dreadnoughts in service, but my mother always said he came to detest the navy. Anyone who has experienced the British class system will understand. When his younger brother lied about his age to join the navy before the end of the war he was aghast – broken-hearted, my mother called it.
In 1919, during the interminably extended bureaucratic delay in demobilizing the navy, his ship was anchored in the Thames, almost within sight of home, and Cliff was one of many who quietly slipped over the side to swim home. My mother once showed me the place on the Thames footbridge where, as a sixteen-year-old, she used to meet her brother of a night to pass him the parcels of food and clothing he needed while he was on the run. Some years later the government issued a joint pardon for all the young fellows who had arranged their own discharges from His Majesty’s Services.
When I got to know Cliff, in the years immediately after WWII, I remember him as a quiet unassuming man with a soft spoken cynicism for all things official. He had resigned from the greater Kingdom into an individual mission to care for his immediate family. I believe it was a very common social persona during all those years while Britain devolved from significant world power into a rather pompous triviality. Industry decayed, the bosses treated their workers as uncooperative slackers and the workers ensured they didn’t break the mold. “I’m alright Jack” was the unofficial motto of the country – and not just among the working class.
In Gisel Matah, I’ve blended the same individualism with social consciousness born of loyalty to the small group of her fellows in their perilous predicament. This is the kind of loyalty and devotion that can stem only from a feeling of being an equal – in opportunity and in reward. A shared devotion to the Common Good. But within a few years, Official Iskander concentrates on its advantageous relationship with allied nobles, and turns a blind eye to the exploitations that characterize the development of free market capitalism. Iskander has ceased to be in the service of everyone, the egalitarianism that motivated them in the beginning. As her consciousness grows, Gisel guides and underwrites the Worker’s Brotherhood and Kullen’s “Rights of Common Man” movements who will, some time in the future, become the foot soldiers of a democratic movement. Real, fledgling democracies that give meaning to the name – not the Kleptocracies and Oligarchies that preside over the broken shards of ours.
A couple more things about the new direction blogs. They will be interspersed with breaking news about my new Iskander release, The Wildcat’s Burden; and I promise to aim for the human aspects of my experience with less pontificating. (Yes, I know. Bear with me, I’m really trying.).