Sunday, 3 June 2012
Of Oranges: Clockwork and Prize
I'm delighted to say that one of the novels I spoke about in my last blog – The Song of Achilles – has won the Orange Prize for Fiction, one of the most respected literary awards in the world. Madeline Miller spent an astonishing ten years writing Achilles, all the time dealing with her uncertainty and guilt that she was writing an adaptation of Homer: something she'd sworn never to do. For more on her story, and how she never meant to write it, you can take a look at her article in the Telegraph.
Sadly, 2012 is the final year of Orange's association with the Prize for Fiction. I do hope they find another sponsor soon; it's such a wonderful boost to talented writers like Ms Miller.
I have my first 'exam' coming up soon. It's a coursework paper on the English language, the only language-based paper we do at Oxford. The university will release the question on Wednesday, whereupon I'll have two weeks to write an essay and a detailed linguistic commentary. I feel like I've been at uni forever – most people will be leaving the week after next, but I won't be out until 22 June.
I've been to London twice on book-related business this week. On Wednesday I had lunch in Soho with Alexa. It was still gorgeous weather. I also met Cristina Gilbert from Bloomsbury USA, which was lovely. I'm very excited to work with Bloomsbury's office in New York. I'm afraid I can't yet say what I did on Thursday, as there are lots of things to be sorted first, none of which will be done during the Diamond Jubilee weekend.
Speaking of the Diamond Jubilee, I have a fond memory of inadvertently high-fiving the Queen at her Golden Jubilee. I was only a kid at the time and pushed about six other children out of the way to touch her hand. Looking back, I have no idea why I did it. I'm not sure I'd even registered who she was.
I'm going to copy some of your questions into this entry, as I'd like to expand a little on some of them and I think they were really interesting:
You say that A Clockwork Orange encouraged you to play around with language. Does your novel go quite over that same cliff of speculative slang?
It definitely encouraged me to play around with language. Prior to reading A Clockwork Orange, all of my characters spoke fairly standard English, with the sort of slang we speak today. A group of them now use a slang that I primarily based on slang from a particular period of history, mixed with a few quirks of my own. I certainly wouldn't draw a comparison between my novel's slang and that of A Clockwork Orange. It's nowhere near the level of detail that Burgess achieves, and most of it is taken from history. I'm not a linguist and I don't pretend to be.
I am in awe of Nadsat for its sheer readability, and I never looked at literature the same way after I finished it. I was inspired to develop some kind of street slang for my clairvoyant characters, but it's more individual words and phrases than a whole complex register.
Would publishers still publish a novel if the writer is skint with hardly any money to put into the process?
Absolutely! I certainly couldn't have paid for publication on a student income. The publishing house will pay you what's called a royalty advance; you start earning royalties (a certain percent of earnings) on book sales once the advance is paid off. Self-publishing is where it gets expensive: you have to give money towards the book, do your own publicity and so on. You'd also need to pay a designer if you wanted the book to have a good cover.
If you have any more questions about publishing or the book, please do ask. For a few more sneaky tidbits about the plot of The Bone Season, check out my recent interview with the Oxford Times.
Hope everyone is well, and thank you very much for all your recommendations for dystopian literature last week: I'm working my way through them! Keep 'em coming.