Brazenly, I decided to call my ordinary family’s history A Book of Kells after Ireland’s finest, famous relic of western civilization The Book of Kells. My sister, Tanis, agreed it should be “a story for all people of all time.” Our father (John Kell of a farming family) and mother deserved no less. Like the ninth century monks behind ‘The’ illuminated Gospel vellum, our parents practiced selfless Christian tenets, taking no credit themselves but leaving a record behind for the after life.

  • Brazenly, I thought of my genre as ‘true novel’ which defies the Oxford dictionary’s definition of the novel as being “fictitious prose.” Professor Northop Frye loved to tell his students that the Greek word “myth” simply means “story” and the English word “fictitious” is from the Latin word for “something made”. I wanted to relate as accurately and excitedly as possible what really happened in my parents’ lives so people would enjoy reading about it. That would make the book authentic and launch a voyage of self-discovery and learning as I wrote.
  • Brazenly, I decided all the names of people and places in my book would be real. My parents had been dead for over six years when I started to write it in 1996 but some names linked them to ongoing connections. I disciplined myself to do careful research and record my sources. If it was going to be a classic, it had to be able to stand up to scrutiny. If anyone objected or threatened to sue, my defence would be that I wrote the truth and could substantiate it. 
  • Brazenly, I bet myself I could find a beginning, middle, climax and ending in the appropriate places if I studied my parents’ diaries, letters, etc. thoroughly enough. I would not have to write fantasy, which I can’t. In fact, the bones of a novel were there and so was a theme: selfless love and redemption. I added the subtitle Growing Up in an Ego Void. Making myself my parents’ foil kept up the pace of the post-honeymoon story. Frye taught his students that the Bible (“the grammar of western civilization”) had two types of continuity. One was the chronological continuity of the Hebrew people’s history and the other was a cyclical continuity on the theme of redemption.
  • Brazenly, I took a chance on having BookSurge, a pioneer in the technology of print-on-demand digital publishing, publish my book in 2002. It cost only $299 so I still had $500 burning a hole in my pocket. I took advantage of an offer BookSurge made to hire New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Tanner Marsh, to review my manuscript prior to publication. She wrote a good, honest, favorable review from which I lifted a blurb to print on the back cover above her name and credentials.
  • Brazenly, I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany in 2003 and dropped by the exhibit booths of the Canadian publishers to try to interest them in my book. BookSurge had invited its authors and we accepted because we were already planning a trip to Hungary. The publishers gave me the curt nods and surprised looks a self-publishing interloper on these hallowed premises might have expected. One publisher told me my book “reeked of self-publishing” although he felt BookSurge had done an excellent job. He pointed out that I had used “by” before my name on the cover, had no logo on the spine, did not have a page for chapter titles and did not refer back to my sub-title inside the book. When I came home I fixed these deficiencies. Two publishers called me later in Canada; Saint Paul University seriously considered publishing it but chose a competing book instead. They said mine fell between target audiences; they suggested I look for a publisher on the basis of location.
  • Stubbornly, I have persisted as an independent author, selling everywhere possible, but have now decided to be more selective and financially savvy. Aiming to write a classic is not the same thing as aiming to write a bestseller. At the recent conference of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa I was able to peddle editing services as well as books. I got a booming endorsement from a past president, Glen Wright, who said, “This is a marvellous book. I just read it. I hope you sell all the copies you brought with you.” Other good places for me to sell in are seniors’ residences where nostalgic, romantic, true books like mine are popular. I’m optimistic about returning to Galeries Aylmer’s Foire Artisanale on Nov. 25th along with Santa Claus. I’ll share a table with Stevie Szabad who is launching her book about being an army brat. For the first time I will have a Square register with me so I can accept credit cards. 
  • Brazenly, if someone asks who my role model author and favorite book are I reply, “Anonymous, who wrote The Summoning of Everyman. This morality play is the first play Frye mentions in his course on Modern Drama. It was written in fifteenth century England and is still being performed today. I saw it performed by Ottawa’s Third Wall Theatre in the National Art Gallery outdoor amphitheatre in 2005. It is being performed in the Pershing Square Theatre in New York City this year. 
  • Modestly, I do not plan to leave instructions in my will to have a copy of my book stolen and buried under the sod for two months and twenty nights before it is retrieved and presented to a university to be displayed, similarly to The Book of Kells. I’m very content to keep on trying to share the story and hearing from wonderful readers from all over who comment and say they enjoyed it. Writing a family history is memory’s classic way to create a link to loved ones and times that have passed on to the after life.

http://www.margaretvirany.com  www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany   http://www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com

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