Thursday, February 08, 2007

Nationality

Today the words have not flowed so easily despite the Viking. Currently he's sitting in Madde's kitchen and I'm waiting for the words to start zinging.

In the meantime I have been working over August Rock in my head. In the critique there was the comment that because Judith was American and the story was set in Cornwall I was affecting the commercial aspect of the manuscript. Could I make Judith a Brit? This would make the story more appealing to the British market. Well, I suppose I could but the much of the story's wit and joy comes from the play of the yank against the local population in the nicest of ways. It would become a totally different story and not one that I would necessarily want. The question I have is......Does a foreign protagonist put you off a book? Are you less likely to read a book with an American one or an English one or a French one? I know that being part of a multi-cultural family I happily read from both sides of the pond but I may have to pushed to read about say a Chinese protagonist and this stems from my ignorance of the cultural references. Any thoughts?

Well back to the Viking in the kitchen and hopefully reaching 1000 words today.

p.s. I'm really having fun writing this at the moment :-)

12 comments:

Jane Henry said...

Liz, I'm puzzled by that reaction. As you're American (you are aren't you?) presumably you can get your heroine's voice better then if you tried to make her a Brit. I don't really see why her being a Yank should make a difference. And it hasn't done Richard Curtis any harm to have an American heroine pitted against a British hero has it????

I wouldn't be put off at all by a character from a different culture. In fact I think it would be a brilliant way of understanding that culture. I have just read Meera Syal's brilliant Anita and Me and it has given me a huge insight into what it must have been like for Asian kids of my generation growing up here and trying to fit in. I have several Asian friends and I would never have known that part of their experience without reading the book.

I loved Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children for its fascinating insights into India, ditto The Bone People by Keri Hulme for its take on being part Maori - both writers have a lovely rhythmic way of writing that comes from the rhythm of their own languages and takes ours somewhere extra special.

So no. Another culture wouldn't put me off in the slightest. Go for it girl.

The Viking sounds intriguing too.

Weird the way characters suddenly appear in your head isn't it? I have a character called Livvy who just jumped in a few weeks ago. She's not even in my current book, but she's in the next one. She's very bossy. Very bad tempered. Very loud. And oh - she's also dead...

love Janex

liz fenwick said...

She's dead? A ghost? I have that in August Rock too.......it's also taboo.

Thanks for your comments. Its very helpful but as you pointed out the other day films get away with more than we can in books....food for thought away.

The Viking is quite fun I must say. madde will have a run for money with him I think!

Jessica Raymond said...

I wouldn't mind what nationality the protagonist(s) is (are), as long as I found reading about them an enjoyable experience :)

And a quick question for you... The word "Cornish" may be featuring in the title of the May duet release Nell and I have coming up. Do you think most Americans would know that this meant "in Cornwall"? I know you would, but we're trying to decide whether it would mystify people or give them an indication of the setting! Thanks :)

Jess x

C.S. Harris said...

This is a problem my writing group has tackled in the past. One of us is of Korean descent and writes about Japan circa 1700. She has had many people tell her they are not interested in reading about a different culture. However, Americans and Brits are very close, and since your Yank is in Britain I wouldn't think it would be an issue. Except, for course, for an anti-American bias, but I don't know how strong that is there these days.

liz fenwick said...

Hi Jess. I've been thinking about this all day. I think it could cause some confusion but since Harry Potter had Cornish pixies maybe people would know......I don't think it would help sales there as say it would here basically. Hope that helps.

liz fenwick said...

C.S., I don't think the there is too much anti American feeling at the moment...at least not in London which is swamped with them :) I have to say I was puzzled that this feature could make the story less saleable.....I await to hear potential agents take on it....

B.E. Sanderson said...

I don't think having an American character in a British book would make a difference to me. Any more than having a British character in a book set here. Actually, now that I think about it, any nationality wouldn't matter much. The world has gotten so much smaller since I was a kid. Thank the internet and jets and multi-national corporations who transfer people wherever they're needed. =oD

liz fenwick said...

Thanks b.e. I don't think i could change the premise of the story...and its helpful to know that it wouldn't affect readers decisions....

Jessica Raymond said...

Thanks for your help, Liz! I think we'll leave "Cornish" out of the title :)

Jess x

Kate.Kingsley said...

Hi Liz,

A foreign protagonist wouldn't put me off in the slightest, as long as they rang "true" ~ i think where we are from forms a strong aspect of our identity, and the juxtaposition of cultural expectations slightly at odds seems like a great theme for a book.

Personally reading about people from different backgrounds (real or fictional) fascinates me, as I see it as a window into a world slightly (or very) different from the one I was born into.

Julie Cohen said...

I would never be bothered by an American heroine in a British-published book, but when I was trying to sell Spirit Willing, Flesh Weak, that was a slight issue. (The heroine is American, it's in the first person, and it takes place in England.) In the end, though, it turned out to be one of the things the editor who bought it liked.

It seems to me that you should use your individual standpoint and voice, and nationality is part of that.

liz fenwick said...

Kate and Julie,

Thanks for the input. I know now I couldn't possibly change Judith so she stays American......Julie, am currently in Dubai and have brought Spirit Willing Flesh Weak as my poolside read.....now I just need to stop shopping and lie by the pool!