The X-Factor Curse and Crybaby Cole

I talk to my editor John Hudspith, about X-Factor Fiction, Halloween, Hugging Dermot O’ Leary and Saving the World! 

tumblr_inline_nfnlsvul2t1rqjcsmJohn: It’s that time of year again, when writers send an avalanche to the ebook shelves hoping for a festive bestseller; when big-boobed slebs offer up their latest ghost-written shenanigans; when agents and publishers hire staff to handle the increased numbers of rejection notes. Had any good rejections lately? Jan: Rejection is a tough lesson. I grew up with plenty of it. (I’m talking creatively; as in, go away and do this again it’s not good enough). At primary school I was told it’s vital to experience rejection in order to improve. Character-building, even. John: did you sob, like an X-Factor reject? Jan: I don’t remember sobbing or clinging on to Dermot when my first manuscript thudded back through the letterbox for the umpteenth time; it had morphed into a hefty wedge of dog-eared paper with mostly derogatory scribble in the margins by then –  but I guess if Leery had been available, I might have been tempted into a bit of clinging. John: Is that because you fancy him? Did you know he’s only 3 foot in his underpants? tumblr_inline_nfnnwgqu1s1rqjcsmJan: He is quite short, isn’t he? That’s suits the midget that is me; I’d still look up to him. I’d have fallen into his arms but only because he’s cuddly, not because I thought my life was over. John: Was it that bad? Jan: ‘This work has promise but it is overwritten and the scene where the shop blows up is ridiculous.’ It was, actually. Those times draw a fair comparison with past X-Factor winners who’ve taken the prize initially but then sunk without trace. And yet, those who’ve come in third or second have scooped the best prize of all: by going away to think, then coming back with quality material. In my case, I went away for several years and did it again, and again and again. In fact, I kept on re-writing until I was sick to death of it. John: And then they snapped you up? Jan: No chance, I really could have wept: ‘Congratulations on producing a novel that is fully engaging, the narrative is sharp and the dialogue excellent. However, we cannot see where we would place this book in terms of marketing.’ 

tumblr_inline_nfnm6z4apy1rqjcsmJohnAh, yes, the worried publisher… talent doesn’t matter, simplicity does. Jan: Right. I learnt that I wasn’t actually sick to death of it, more puzzled by these powerful gatekeepers, the agents and publishers who could make or break your day – your life! But this was traditional publishing BK. (Before Kindle, and before X-Factor)  John: I do like X-Factor, and it’s a good comparison; the machinations of voracity versus real quality – the psychology of it all.  Jan: We need the same show format for fiction, imagine the panel! Simon would be thrillers and crime with a strong leaning towards mafia bosses with lapdogs. And Louis Walsh – ‘I t’ink you should give her a chance, Simon. I t’ink it’s got something’ – he always ends up with the groups and oddballs, so, anthologies and something daft? John: Yep, the requisite annoyance. Remember Jedward? Maybe Louis could have sex with dinosaurs. The books, I mean. Big sellers, apparently. ‘I love, love, love, your book “T-rex on Top”… it looks good, it’s freaky, it’s got everything, it’s what this show’s all about!’ Jan: You know, I was amazed those dino-sex books actually exist. Who the hell reads dino porn? John: Louis Walsh, probably. What about Cheryl? I do like Cheryl, she’s a canny Geordie like me. Jan: Crybaby Cole? – ‘A was blown away by ye’ – sob – ‘but a have to turn ye doon cos o’ the typos, like’ – romance and true-life stories. article-1224081-070440cc000005dc-919_468x454John: She’s not Cole anymore though, is she? Some weird-sounding long name. When Dermot announces it, he sounds like he’s casting a spell, ‘Cheryl Fazhawazzfini’ or something like that. Jan: She should have gone back to Tweedy for her stage name, shouldn’t she? Simon and the panel get a far bigger intro than any of the wannabe artists. The judges – or let’s say, the book bloggers and reviewers and the big promotional sites – are set to become more important than the author, much like disc-jockeys did in the seventies. They just played the records but their endorsement and their inane chatter made them into far bigger celebrities than the actual artists. John: DJs from the seventies have a creepy image these days, though. Creepier than clowns, even. Jan: True story. Let’s not go there. John: So, for the initial auditions, they have to read a blurb? Then, at boot camp they’d get to read one page, then whine `There’s better to come` when they’re told the narrative voice is out of tune, repetitive and boring. Oh, and at the `take a seat` stage, they’d read a longer, random section and provide evidence of social marketing skills before submitting the entire book to get to judges’ houses.  

tumblr_inline_nfnnkitaoj1rqjcsmJan: Where Simon isn’t happy with the lineup… Simon: ‘Hold on, you’ve all picked books that are well-written, we need a couple of dumbed down ones to get the bookworms annoyed, so they’ll hit the phones and vote. Remember guys, it’s a pound per phone call, so I’m going to swap The Extraordinary Life of a Turtle for She likes it with Next Door’s Dog by Crystal Balls. Louis: No one wants to read badly-written erotica, Simon! Simon: Fifty Shades of Grey would disagree with you. Louis, you’re out of touch. Louis: *blinks, grins, does the orangutan clapJohn: Yeah, Simon likes his quota of weirdoes. Jan: Talking of weird, what about Sinitta? Where would she fit in? John: She’d appear at Simon’s house wearing three strategically placed bookmarks. Then she’d judge the books by their covers. Jan: And people do, don’t they? Although, as in the real show, they’d be looking for raw talent they could manipulate… I mean mould. So maybe all the books in X-Factor Fiction should start with brown paper covers. On the live shows the backstory footage would include the authors getting professionally designed covers. John: But some would want to use their own ideas… Simon: ‘What – the bloody hell – is that?’ (looking at an image of yet another bare torso). Louis: ‘It’s all the rage, Simon.’ Cheryl: ‘Divint worry, pet. Simon’s just jealous.’ Mel B: ‘Phwoaaaaaaar, let me hug that boowk.’

tumblr_inline_nfnmg2gfph1rqjcsmJan: Okay, here’s goes, it’s Halloween and we have to read a chilling paragraph to the panel. ‘He carried her to his bed. Clothing was removed, some of it snatched and torn in the process as if their connection had disturbed something feral. A hundred different thoughts, a hundred different reasons not to sleep with a man she’d only just met, a hundred different voices shouting in her head and yet, she slid beneath him, her underwear in disarray. They both seemed in perfect tune, one moment caught in the delicious intensity of anticipation, and then suddenly laughing at the craziness of it, laughing at the red freckles sprayed across his hands and face. He kissed every inch of her face, she kissed every inch of his face… Maybe it was then when she knew; that moment when she tasted that unmistakable metallic tang.’ APPLAUSE…

Louis: ‘You looked amazing, you sounded amazing, it was amazing.’ Simon: You need a new script, Louis.’ John: Wise words from Simon. So many books, so many writers, but not enough depth, originality or imagination. Jan: Stop being grumpy. Readers will always determine what writers write, right? John: Very true. Teaching the next generation how to read is a must, not only for the future of decent storytelling, but, you know, that old save the world from humanity thing. Jan: Yes, there’s a long way to go with that. John: And it starts with the written word. Jan: Once upon a time… 

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