Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Mike Stocks- Author of 'White Man Falling'

Today's Guest Blogger is Mike Stocks. His novel, 'White Man Falling' was published by Alma Books.

WHY THE WHITE MAN FELL...About ten years ago the Crime Writers' Association ran a competition for aspiring novelists; you had to submit the first 5000 words of a crime novel, and the winner won publication or cash or mentoring or something -- I've forgotten now. That's why the premise of White Man Falling -- what if a white man falls out of the sky into a small South Indian town? -- was conceived as crime fiction rather than as the poignant comedy of Indian small-town life that it developed into. My submission failed to win the competition, and my then agent showed zero interest in the sample of writing I'd produced, so I shelved the idea. But my thoughts often went back to it. A few years later, I was in South India for six months -- my fourth trip there -- living in small undistinguished towns and suburbs, just observing how people went about their lives. I didn't go back to writing White Man Falling while I was in India, but all the life I lived there and observed there was absorbed into my literary bloodstream. A couple of years after that, Alma Books commissioned the novel from me. I found that I still wasn't ready to go; I had to spend several months in the library just reading about India to get myself back into the zone, and I assembled and then rejected two or three detailed plans before the final one passed muster. But once I started writing, the book came -- not quickly, because I'm a slow writer, but without too much protest.

It's not easy to publish successfully a debut novel from an unknown author with a new, small independent publisher and little marketing money; winning the Goss First Novel Award gave us a bit of confidence that we were right to have faith in the book. White Man Falling hasn't made us rich, but it has sold exceptionally well given the starting point of the author and the publishing house, and to remain in the bookshops after three years is an achievement. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book's success has been its recent publication in India -- the Indian rights were bought by HarperCollins India. White Man Falling is quite satirical about India, and there are nuances of Tamil culture and family life that I was bound to get wrong at times, so I was nervous about the reaction; one review was pretty scathing, but a large majority of reviews and blog responses within India have been enthusiastic overall, and that was a relief.

This new input of energy into the book by the Exclusively Independent scheme feels like a natural development for a book that I hope will carry on bubbling away for many years yet.



Mike French said...

Well done for sticking with it Mike - one our reviewers is reading your book at the moment and has feed back that he is enjoying it and is intrigued as to your background - so this answers some of those questions.

Mike Stocks said...

Thanks Mike. Glad to hear your reviewer likes it so far. That's lucky for me. I always suspect that even runaway word-of-mouth bestsellers -- such as Captain Correlli's Mandolin for example, which I think is superb overall -- can only hope to excite about a third of reviewers / readers. Another third might think 'not bad', and the last third will probably think 'awful'!