Recently, the PR person from Medallion Media (the independent press that I’ve signed a contract for my first novel with) sent me along a sheet that was intended to help the design and marketing team better understand my book from my perspective. Some of the questions got me thinking really hard about Devils. For example, they wanted to know, why was I passionate about writing this book?
The short answer that I was inspired by another piece of art (Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man), and I wanted to challenge myself to write in a genre that I had never thought much about before taking the book on. But there’s more to it than that.
The genre “acid western” has traditionally been an outsider’s genre. My partner is forever telling me not to describe my book as “anti” things, to describe it in the positive, but the fact is that acid westerns are anti-capitalist, anti-expansionist, anti-racist—in short, all the things that makes a traditional western a western are flipped on their heads.
And there’s a few reasons why that appealed to me. For one, I am a social justice activist, and I’m anti- all those things. Reading over histories of the Gold Rush, and the period of westward expansion in general, I found myself infuriated by the genocide of the Native American people, the treatment of women, of the disabled, the othering off all people not white, male, straight, and able-bodied. All while the dominant narrative of westward expansion is that of triumph, or right and goodness overcoming the wild and savage. And I wanted, in my small way, and the best way I know how, to set the record straight. And, as comes later on in the book, at the climax of the battle scenes that run through the novel, to provide an alternate slice of history in which the “outsiders” become the ones in charge.
This was my main reasoning. My other reasoning, as I stated before, was sheerly artistic. I like nothing more in my writing than a really good challenge. In the past this has taken the form of experimenting with language, breaking down traditional elements of stories like plot and character and tone and making something counter-traditional out of them. And I still do love to do that. But lately, my experimentation also takes the form of challenging myself with the genres. Each genre has its own rules and tropes, and working within those (or bending them, as in the case of the acid western) can be an extremely interesting pursuit. Though there are more than ample examples of great genre fiction out there, probably the best example of genre fiction as artistic endeavor (IMHO) is David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, which strolls through genre after genre, creating a brilliant narrative that weaves time and place into one great narrative. It was certainly one of my greatest inspirations, and really underlined the thought that genre fiction can be literary fiction at the same time.
Anyway, that’s just a little bit about why I wrote my book, as inspired by my thoughts with this pre-publication work for my publisher. I’m so super-excited to be moving into the phase of work that deals with things like this, thinking about things like marketing and PR, and really riding the first-time-author ride! More on those things to come in the future.