My Books



“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Back on the Apology Train

How times flies. This month marks five years since the release of the paperback version of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead. That half-decade certainly went by quickly.

The paperback’s appearance followed by nearly three months the book’s debut in Kindle format. As with my latest book, The Curse of Septimus Bridge, I initially published the electronic version of Max & Carly exclusively for the Kindle. That exclusivity period ended three months later with the appearance of other digital versions in other online stores.

The paperback version of Max & Carly was actually something of an afterthought. I had bought into the idea that paper books were on the way out and the future was digital and so had not bothered with a physical edition. Enough people, however, kept asking for a paperback that I finally gave in—and happily so in the end. Still, Kindle sales of my books have always outpaced paperback sales—at least so far. I have to say that at this point the paper edition of Septimus is performing with surprising strength vis-à-vis the digital version.

This month also marks four years since the beginning of my first book apology tour. Partly tongue-in-cheek, partly sincere, the tour was my attempt to make amends to anyone who might have found offense in the narrative—notably bad language and extensive incidences of somewhat toxic adolescent masculinity.

Happily, there is not nearly as much toxic masculinity in The Curse of Septimus Bridge, but inevitably, there are things that could rub some people the wrong way. Allow me now to enumerate them and preemptively excuse myself.

Gender Appropriation: Unlike my first three novels, the main character—and several others—are female. This made writing the book a satisfying experience for me because it was a welcome change of pace writing-wise and an invigorating challenge for my creative abilities. At the same time, I am aware that there are people out there who feel strongly that characters of certain nationalities, ethnicities, and yes, genders should not be appropriated by others. If that is how you feel, I am sorry. For the record, I myself personally prefer to read female characters written by females, but on the other hand, I am also a believer that there should be no limits on artistic creativity. All people should be able to write about or play on the stage or in film any character. In my next book, though, I will be back to my mostly masculine-centric ways.

Nationality Appropriation: While I am at it, then, I suppose I better apologize once again for attempting to portray Irish characters. The fact that I have lived in Ireland for 17 years and am married to an Irish woman does not give me any right to put words (awkwardly and inauthentically) in the mouths of fictional Irish people. It gets worse. In this particular book I also appropriate some of the most painful episodes in Irish history for the entertainment of my readers. And it gets worse still. I also owe apologies to the English, Canadians, and Russians and, while I’m at it, Anabaptists, Puritans, and demons from hell (who may actually be more sensitive than one might assume).

Possible Transgender Insensitivity: There are no transgender characters in the book (that we know of anyway), but there is one sort-of reference in the very first chapter in which the main character, Lola Blumquist, expresses a dislike for the Kinks’ song with which she shares a name. “Well, I mean, it’s not really fair,” she says to Maria Murphy as they discuss eponymous record tracks. “You get a song that goes on and on about how totally cool Maria is, and I get the song about a transvestite.” Responds Maria insightfully, “Transvestites can be cool.” You can reasonably argue that modern young women like Lola and Maria would be more likely to refer to the song’s Lola as transgender, whereas transvestite would have been a more common description when the song was first released in 1970. Of course, transgender and transvestite are not the same thing. My Lola seems to assume that the Kinks’ Lola was a cis-gender man who happened to like dressing in women’s clothing rather than a woman who happened to be born in a man’s body. Is she correct? Only Ray Davies knows for sure, and even by his account he had done a fair amount of drinking when he came up with the lyrics. (A man after my own heart.) There is more dicey stuff about gender as the story proceeds, but that would involve spoilers. In any event and in all sincerity, no offense was intended.

Insensitivity to the locals: I do not imagine that residents of the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle will have taken offense to how it was portrayed in the book. The residents of Riesgado Island, on the other hand, will probably be far less forgiving. Even less clear, though, is how people along the Galway-Mayo border are taking it. My wife, who never reads my books until a proof copy of the paperback arrives by post, was aghast to find a few local place names littered about the text. “The neighbours won’t like it if you draw Satanists on them,” she warned. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping they will keep things in perspective. In the history of film and literature, I think other foreign writers have done much worse to the Irish. I do not think I quite tipped over into Darby O’Gill territory. Probably the biggest chance I took was having the title character be a fawning admirer of Oliver Cromwell.

There are probably other things I should apologize for, but that will suffice for now. If you have not read The Curse of Septimus Bridge, please do so now and let me know which part in particular offended you.