Happy publication day!
Today, One Brother Shy is officially published and hits bookstores across the country. Even though it’s only been about 18 months since Poles Apart was released in October 2015, it feels like a much longer stretch.
This is the sixth time I’ve experienced a “publication day” and you might think I’d be getting accustomed to it by now. Hardly. There’s still a tightness in my gut waiting for the critics’ reviews and readers’ reactions. Compounding the anxiety is the knowledge that this novel is a little different from its predecessors. When I first read the flap copy my publisher drafted for this book, it included a line – and still does – that read “a novel unlike any of his others.” While true to a certain extent, I remember thinking it’s not that different from the rest of my novels. But you, dear readers, will be the ultimate judge, I suppose.
The four different narrators in my other five novels bear a striking resemblance in personality not only to one another, but to me as well. That’s my little writerly secret. I tend to write in my own voice. To be clear, I am not those narrators. There’s very little autobiography masquerading as fiction in those first five novels (though there is some, I concede). But their voices match mine quite closely. My narrators are generally good and kind people and at least want to do the right thing. But they are flawed in various ways. They are often hapless, sometimes helpless, occasionally hopeless, yet decent, thoughtful, and human.
The same can be said about Alex MacAskill, the narrator in One Brother Shy. Yet he not only shares similar human frailties with my earlier narrators, he is actually damaged in a way none of my other principal characters have been. You see, Alex MacAskill was rather severely traumatized at the age of 15 by a humiliating bullying incident ten years before the novel opens. And it has knocked him off his path in life. Now 24, he has still not become the person he was on track to be a decade earlier. In short, I’ve written flawed narrators in the past, but I’ve never written a damaged narrator. That was the challenge I set for myself in One Brother Shy. I’m not certain the distinction warrants the line “a novel unlike any of his others,” but I was trying step a little ways off the path I was comfortable treading in my first five novels. Having said that, I hope readers will find enough humour in the story to make it recognizable as one my novels despite this somewhat darker undertone. While I still think of it as a comic novel, it’s also a story of discovery and recovery. But in literature, as in life, a fine line separates humour and pathos.
Anyway, One Brother Shy is out there now. I hope you like it.