Never play to the gallery

I've written four novels, all of which are experimental, and none of which are remotely alike or fit any easy genre classification.

Every book I write has been, and will be, different. Every time I write, I take a risk: I throw myself in the deep end. I never let myself get comfortable. Because it is only when you are treading water, unable to touch the bottom, that you stand a chance of doing something different, something exciting.

The late, great, David Bowie put it well: never play it safe - and never play to the gallery.

I refuse to play to the gallery - utterly and completely. Every fibre in my being rebels against this pressure. I don't mind if you like 'series' of books or the comfort of formula fiction - each to their own. But when I write, I want to do something different. I want the chance to do something 'original' - if that's at all possible.

In particular I have copped flak for two of my more eclectic pieces - Nights of the Moon and The Shadow of Dusk because they defied convention.

The one and only time I've found my books
on loan at my local library!
Even my biggest-selling novel, The Mirror Image of Sound, caused some people to write to me, complaining about the perspective and tense (first person present).

"Don't you want people to read it?" asked one person.

Another gave me lectures on writing technique, offering dialogue from Attack of the Clones (I know - wtf?) as a point of reference or for comparison.

To add insult to injury, both of the above commentators (neither of whom have any real writing experience or literary qualifications) had read no more than a handful of pages of the novel (off the net or using the sample pages on Amazon). Yet they still offered their unsolicited advice as if they were experts - to someone who studied literature and creative writing at a tertiary level, and who had done a twenty year apprenticeship, writing up to 300,000 words per year (critiqued by professional mentors like the poet and author Andrew Burke) before attempting his first novel.

I know the rules - I break them on purpose. I know the gallery - I don't write to it. I know traditional publishing exists - but I like to create my art my way and at my own impatient pace. It's part of my artistic method.

Despite my lack of concession - my refusal to compromise - people still buy my books every single day. The libraries buy them but they are always out on loan when I visit my local one. I regularly meet strangers from around the world who recognise me and say they have enjoyed my books. Go figure eh?

Never play to the gallery. Be true to yourself as an artist. There can be no compromises. You will never derive self-worth from the valuation of others - only from your honest evaluation of yourself.