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Frequently asked questions about the Novel BAGLADY

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What is Baglady about?

The novel ‘BAGLADY,’ trains a dark comedic spyglass on what I perceive to be THE archetypal feminine fear. Ashley Grimes is everywoman – my mother, my sister, my daughter, my neighbour, myself. She is my alter ego, the projection and embodiment of a primal fear: INSECURITY. As with most fears, the best way to confront them is to laugh them down.

The novel is a dark-humoured romp from the ’Sixties to the Millennium, tracing the hilarious and somber fortunes of Ashley Grimes, a heroine of our times. The events of ‘Baglady’ are sometimes grim, although they are conveyed with a light touch.

An excerpt from the Baglady manuscript was short-listed for the Eastside Stories Competition, sponsored by News International, London, UK, in 1998. This was encouragement and inspiration enough for me to go ahead and publish the book myself.

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How did that book go from manuscript to self-published book?

It began with my personal journals, going back as far as the 1980s when I was living in Pointe St. Charles (where some parts of the novel ‘Baglady’ are set). Ever on the verge of gentrification with its brick and stone-fronted row houses, this neighbourhood reminded me of the East End of London where I was born (Bow bells, Whitechapel, London Hospital-Elephant man lore and Jack-the-Ripper territory). Although, in some respects, it may have seemed isolating—shades of a remote urban moonscape—for me it was a familiar and comfortable isolation.

Speaking of which, in my view, too much is made of the 'isolation' of the writer at his craft. When I’m writing, the ‘real world' falls away. I feel no sense of isolation whatsoever. I would go even further by saying that for me the opposite is true: I bury myself in my writing in order to escape the sense of isolation I sometimes feel when I'm disconnected from it.

Going back to ‘the Pointe,’ I recall trudging miles and miles around those virtually empty streets and parks during the ’eighties and early ’nineties. I met a number of brilliant people living there – some impoverished – Irish families that had lived there for generations, artists, inventors, ex-corporate executives, drug addicts, homeless seniors, neighbourhood church activists, students of Oriental medicine, all of them having their own original views of the world. Recollections of my life there in those years definitely inform and colour the narrative of the novel ‘Baglady.’ Today, after almost a decade living in Europe, I remember that time with bemused fondness.

From the early beginnings of ‘Baglady’ to the printed illustrated book, there were many skills to be mastered along the way. I had the opportunity to learn the rudiments in the United Kingdom.

I founded Prince Chameleon Press in 1993. At the same time, I joined organisations such as the Small Press Group of Britain, and became an active member, co-organising the (SPG) Small Press Book Fair in 1994 at the Royal Horticultural Halls in West London. Back home in Canada, years later, I made quantum leaps in improving my technical design expertise at the Rosemount Technology Centre in Montreal.

I went on to join the ‘Association of English Language Publishers of Quebec’ http://www.aelaq.org. This is one of the best organisations I have ever been part of, on either side of the Atlantic. Although I didn’t realise it at the start, the actual design, pre-press and printing process of a commercial book along with the necessary bureaucracy is, in fact, the ‘easy’ part. Getting it into the world and in the hands of one’s readers is an industry in itself. Quite the other side of the coin.


What about the marketing of a book? What are some of the difficulties?

Wearing my publishers’ hat, I have to confront the conundrum and stark realities of sales, promotion, marketing and distribution. All publishers, the big ones too, dedicate a huge effort to the establishment of this complex machine. It is the lifeblood of the trade and cannot be shunned or ignored. However, it remains ‘challenging’ for a self-publisher’s products to be accepted for sale by the book ‘chains’; it requires patience and persistence. Another downside is that of potential book ‘returns.’ This can be crippling for publishers, especially since they are required to pay for the shipping of both deliveries and returns. The current print-on-demand option (POD) may offer some solutions. For me, it’s a question of exploring various approaches, experimenting, networking, joining the appropriate associations, going to trade shows, setting up web sites and cross-linking with others, hosting public launches, talks, readings and events, approaching independent bookstores, working steadily to build credibility, a reputation, a ‘profile and presence’ in this fascinating and seductive world of publishing.


How and when did you start writing?

My grandmother was a compulsive journal keeper without, I think, ever wishing to become a published writer. Her personal journals, inscribed in the gothic-style German script, were a treasure to inherit. Journal writing became contagious, a family trait. I’ve found that journals are a marvellous medium for capturing the casual as well as the momentous episodes of life. They are archival repositories of our feelings, ideas, joys, ordeals, triumphs and failures over a lifetime. The novel ‘Baglady’ was born out of those journals. Looking back, I know I could never have recollected that wealth of detail scribbled into notebooks during private moments from day to day.

At the moment, I have more manuscripts ready to publish than I can comfortably manage to produce at one time. Patience is a virtue, and it's true to say that although this has become a lifetime's endeavour, I can't imagine a better way of spending my life.