What you see in the image above is the front cover (well, most likely) of my upcoming novel (novella, but shhhhhhh) Trading Saints for Sinners. The fact that this novel is being published at all is kind of a little miracle. Publishers don’t make as much money with novellas as they do with novels. But that’s where the awesome people of WragsInk are different–they believe in the story and the author. A good story is a good story, and that’s what matters to them. No bulking it up, no making sure a hardback is 17 dollars more than it should be. It’s all about the story.
And if I say so myself, Trading Saints for Sinners is a pretty damn good story. I won’t get into much of it here…because I kind of want you to buy the book, but it does involve prostitutes and devils, so you know it’s going to be good. But the history of this work goes back to when I visited Germany in 2003 and 2004 and witnessed some of the more interesting parts of the city. I had wanted to write about Europe for years, but didn’t know what kind of story I wanted to tell until I was working on my undergrad thesis and wanted to tel the story about a fraudulent journalist.
The thesis had to be at least 50 pages of fiction, and while applying for the Honors program at USF–for which the thesis needed to be completed for–I was wanting to write my own Heart of Darkness (enter: CONRAD). That book hit me hard in the creative crotch. Before that book, I wanted to be Tolkien (hell, I still want to be Tolkien…he’s TOLKIEN!), and was trying to create long epics that spiralled and spiralled (I still want to, but just one). Then I read Conrad’s novel and witnessed a writer doing in 90 pages what Tolkien did in 1000.
Turns out, some of my favorite books were novellas. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep, War of the Worlds, The Great Gatsby, Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphoses, The Death of Ivan Ilych, The Dead, Chronicles of a Death Foretold, Notes from the Underground, The Overcoat, Night, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Things Fall Apart, I am Legend, Utopia, Pedro Paramo, The Thief and the Dog, Farenheit 451, The Screwtape Letters, The Subterraneans, Red Harvest, and probably many more.
The novella is an incredible form. To accomplish the tasks of a full length novel (or novels) in a scattering of pages is like a watching someone complete an Iron Man triathlon in half the time it takes someone to walk a 10K. Or watching a chef prepare an incredibly filling meal and finding out that it only had a third of the calories of a regular meal (calories being pages. Delicious pages!) It’s easy to convey everything you need to convey when there is no limit to the pages you have (Looking your way, George R.R. Martin, you brilliant bastard), but to do so in such a small space shows an incredible amount of skill and mastering over Fiction (one that I so obviously possess).
But now, the term novella isn’t used very often. They’re still around, they just aren’t called novellas any more. And I wonder what happened to them. Why the term “novella” became taboo in the writing community. Is it because the consumer somehow feels cheated out a full novel? Am I robbing a reader of another 100 pages of story? Am I a Swindler (oh, another great novella! The Swindler!). Or am I lazy? I have novels too, just not published yet.
Or maybe it’s something different. Maybe novella is just not manly enough. The term “novel”–now that’s a manly term. Maybe people find novellas effeminate just because of the term. Manly means stronger, right? So what use could a novella possibly have? What is it, trying to be a novel but just can’t?
Or maybe there is another reason altogether. I’m just the writer, not the marketer or publisher. But the funny thing is, we live in a time where the novella should be king. A complete book that has the same depth of one three times longer and you can read it in an afternoon? Isn’t that the perfect scenario for our fast-paced world? Have a thirty minute train ride, why not read a THIRD of a book? Imagine the bragging rights?“Hey man, how was the train ride?” “Not bad. Quiet. Cute girl was across from me. I read most of a book.” “Most of a book?” “Yeah, I’m awesome.”
Want to read a novel a week? That can be a bitch, but a novella a week? You got this, you literary son of a bitch, you!
So, try reading novellas. Try writing them. What’s a good one to start with?
I suggest Trading Saints for Sinners by Roman Colombo, coming December of 2013. Great gift too, so make sure you buy one for you and your family and all of your friends and office workers. You know, so that you can all talk about it later. Bond. Over my book.