OK, so this is where I don’t have much expertise. I’m planning to publish in a week or so, and have been focused on checking the quality of the manuscript (as well as marking hundreds of exam papers, but that’s a far more boring story) and very little else. I know next to zero about marketing a book. How to present the book when it goes on the digital market? What cover will it have? How will the blurb read? How can I sum up such an enormous story in an image and just a few words? Inevitably, I then started to ponder what I will grandly call my novel’s “themes…”
First and foremost, I think that Worlds Away is a novel that is all about barriers. Wherever you turn, there is some kind of physical barrier, be it a window, a photo frame or light years of space. Now, I need to be a little anally retentive about this: this symbolism did not begin deliberately. Steven King (who, let’s be honest, knows more about anything than we mere sapients) said that our job as writers is not to find themes or ideas, but to “recognise them when they show up.” And, honestly, that is what happened. I started writing a dystopia about social injustice – which is perhaps linked to our current education system – the least said about that the better – and it became a book about barriers.
So, how to market that? An image of a hand on a window, I thought. That crops up a lot in the book. The idea of trying to reach somebody who is so close and yet so far. Trying to attain something that is impossible because of barriers created by others. I should also perhaps mention here that a real inspiration for this novel was the Queen Song “39,” which is essentially about time dilation (whatever any other Queen fans tell you – it is – look it up – Brian May is a Doctor of Astrophysics, for Heaven’s sake). I am determined to avoid spoilers here, but the song is heartbreakingly beautiful. Look it up, please, if you don’t know it. It was my muse. Several lines resonate with me, but these ones the most:
Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away?
Don’t you hear me calling you?
All your letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand
For my life
Perhaps it is important that I was spending our annual Boxing Day party at my parents’ house the night I first heard this song, and it is often a time for nostalgia, clawing back to a time you can never reach again.
How many barriers have I mentioned now?
I heard that song for the first time in Christmas 2015 and started writing the book a fortnight later. As soon as it is published, I plan to contact Brian May, thanking him for being such an inspiration.
Sorry, another digression…
So, the image of a hand on a window, with blackness on the other side. The issue was, this spoke too much of isolation and despair, and I hope that this is also a novel about hope, albeit in a dark world. What I wanted to convey was the idea that life often throws the proverbial at us, but we can always look upwards, outwards, and see hope. There is a lot of false hope in the novel: the red apple that the workers at Dawns’ Laboratories wear; the way Oscar 70 is presented to everyone on Earth; the name “Dawns” itself…But there is also a lot of real hope. Hope that the world will be better one day, and not just because it would make it better for me.
Then I met the amazing photographer, Emma Marshall, and she shot me this:
If you wonder where I am for the next fortnight, I’ll be proof-reading and writing my blurb!
I’ll see you on the other side…