Monday, October 22, 2012

Elvis Rain and Literary Fiction

OK, so we are Barking Rain Press and right now we don’t offer any books about dogs, rain or barking! We’ll have to see what the next submission period in January brings: one of the fun things about publishing genre fiction is that we publish the best of whatever we receive in a submission period, whether it’s paranormal YA or mystery, or…?
Elvis Rain, the beagle on our logo, is an imaginary guy, though I occasionally give him a fantasy life as complex as Snoopy's. He hates rain. He refuses to wear a raincoat and his people have to hold an umbrella over him if they expect him to go for a walk when it's wet out. However, they have to open the umbrella away from Elvis because he also hates umbrellas.
Rain was not a problem for Elvis in his previous life as part of the Beagle Brigade in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. He sniffed out contraband, mostly apples and mangoes, though once he found a bag of cow brains in a Samsonite suitcase. He's retired now, living in Portland and thinking about writing about his days in the Brigade. Give him a dog biscuit and he'll talk for hours about the work he did with Wendell (his handler) and Troy -- his brother, who was also in the Brigade. Give him a couple more dog treats (he likes freeze-dried liver the best) and he'll talk about his life before the Beagle Brigade, how he and his brother ended up in a shelter and were rescued by Wendell, who trained them... (more adventrues to follow)
I miss working directly with authors and I miss seeing public reaction to a new book. One of my favorite jobs when I worked with the Als was to accompany authors to book signings; they were usually in small independent bookstores that had enthusiastic and well-spoken patrons. We'd do a reading, books were signed; I would return a couple of weeks later to chat with the store owner and see how the book was moving, we'd discuss books -- all very civilized and I got a real sense of what books were selling in what markets.
But now we're in an online world -- being able to talk face-to-face about Barking Rain at Wordstock was fun.
One person stopped by our booth and asked if we published literary fiction -- we could come up with several examples of literary fiction: “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Catcher in the Rye” -- but had to Google the term for a definition.
Wikipedia said that "To be considered literary, a work usually must be "critically acclaimed" and "serious". In practice, works of literary fiction often are "complex, literate, multilayered novels that wrestle with universal dilemmas." 

By that definition; the author wouldn't be calling they work literary fiction -- it seems a bit presumptuous. But later in the same Wikipedia article, it's suggested that literary fiction is a genre -- "Neal Stephenson has suggested that while any definition will be simplistic there is a general cultural difference between literary and genre fiction, created by who the author is accountable to. Literary novelists are typically supported by patronage via employment at a university or similar institutions, with the continuation of such positions determined not by book sales but by critical acclaim by other established literary authors and critics. Genre fiction writers seek to support themselves by book sales and write to please a mass audience."

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