Strange Ambitions

Ghost Characters

Still Breaking the Rules

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
So far as a master plan for my series of Cornish Detective novels goes, I remain sardonically inclined to think that anything I plan won't turn out how I think.

As Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang thought: 'It is important that man dreams, but it is perhaps equally important that he can laugh at his own dreams.'

Publishing is such a crazy business: writing that's utter drivel becomes best-selling, while well-written stories languish neglected.

Should things go well, it would be gratifying to see my novels sell respectably, before being snapped up by a television company to be adapted into a crime drama series, which will help sales of the books.

That's what I've been working towards over the last four years. Beyond such pie in the sky thinking, I'm aware that there could be fallout consequences, which I've tried to embrace the potential of in these four strange ambitions:

1) My Cornish Detective stories spark off a tourist trail, with readers trying to find the locations crimes happened, where my detective lives, which Indian restaurant he uses, where he had a fight to the death with a kinky art dealer.

After all, this sort of thing happens with successful books. Think of the bookish tourists visiting Sherlock Holmes' 221B Baker Street in London (and in Pennsylvania). J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter tales have become the basis for various tourist trails in London and Edinburgh.


At King's Cross station.

The locations in New Zealand chosen for the film adaptation of Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings continue to boost tourism. Living in Cornwall, I'm well aware of the effect successful books have on increasing visitors to places used by Daphne Du Maurier in her ever-popular novels, and, more recently, the television adaptation of Winston Graham's Poldark series saw the tills ringing. Fans of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse crime novels and television series flock to Oxford where they were set.

2) Have a Wikipedia page, preferably one with a few fibs!

3) Be known as "the writer of", as in "Paul Whybrow, the writer of the Cornish Detective series." Inextricably linked in this way might well become tedious and frustrating, but it's a rarely acknowledged aspect of fame. Just think of successful artists of all types, who are labelled with their most successful work, as if that's all they've ever done.

4) Also, once I'm dead, some crime writer is hired by my publisher to continue my series. Let's hope it's someone good! (But not better than me....) :rolleyes:

What, in your heart of hearts, are your secret ambitions as an author?

*To have your book title on a T-shirt?

*To be besieged by adoring fans at a book signing?

*To overhear two readers talking about your book?

*For 'Author' to be added beneath your name on your gravestone?

A writer I was taught by had a great story. He was once waiting for a flight and saw a fellow passenger sitting opposite him reading one of his books. He asked the reader what they thought of it and they replied: "I absolutley love it, I can't put it down". The reader had no idea who he/she was speaking to the writer never let on.

I think this would be one of my secret ambitions, to hear that kind of praise from a reader without them realising they're talking to the book's author.

This reader could have easily said: "it's not bad/it's OK" but instead chose to say "I can't put it down".

There is something raw and authentic about that.
*To have your book title on a T-shirt?


*To be besieged by adoring fans at a book signing?

Oh. God. No.

*To overhear two readers talking about your book?

Um. No. I don't think so. I can't imagine a scenario where I wouldn't, on some level, find that annoying.

*For 'Author' to be added beneath your name on your gravestone?

I'm not going to have a gravestone but if I did have a gravestone, author would certainly be on it.

It doesn't do you any good to continue believing poorly written books become bestsellers while well written books languish in obscurity. A writer's job is to speak to people. Books which become bestsellers are books which have successfully spoken to people. Sometimes, those bestsellers don't use language very well but they have a good story. Sometimes they catch hold of something in the culture. Sometimes we're entranced by beautiful words. It doesn't matter. If they're bestsellers, they've earned it. They've successfully mastered at least one aspect of the art form we call writing. That aspect might be something as shallow or commercial as stumbling upon an idea whose time has come. But that's still a sort of genius, isn't it? If it's so easy, then go ahead and do it. Exhibit that kind of genius. Make a few bucks. Write your highfalluting stuff in the free time you earn via your zeitgeist genius.

I don't believe books that deserve to be bestsellers are overlooked. I believe, there is some flaw in the writing, the story, the presentation... or any one of the many of the aspects of the art form we call writing. Which means, a place on the bestseller list hasn't been earned.

Bestselling authors have earned their title and how freaking arrogant of any of us to even think about turning our noses up at their success.

Of course, I also know that bestseller lists are not exactly what they appear to be. They often do not reflect the true nature of the author's sales. But that's another post.

And ... I still hate Fifty Shades. I've reserved a special place in book hell for Fifty Shades.
And ... I still hate Fifty Shades. I've reserved a special place in book hell for Fifty Shades.
@Amber, this will keep me laughing for some time :D I'll help you ensure it gets there swiftly.

My secret ambitions as an author? I'd like to be published of course; I'd like my kids to see my book(s) sitting on bookshop shelves like *Real Books*, knowing that anything is possible, and working damn hard into the wee hours and being excited by what you are doing reaps great rewards.

But most of all, I dream of lots and lots of uninterrupted time to write and create in a dedicated space that no-one else comes near... where my journals don't feature little drawings of kittens under pertinent notes and diagrams or illegible love notes from a 4-year-old, and I can be as untidy as I like and have several projects on the go at once... I'm a simple soul :)
My dream would be to write a book (or several books) that is/are popular and liked by readers. To turn my pen name into household name would be fabulous. And the money wouldn't hurt either.
However I would not want my true identity as the author to be publicly known. I don't crave fame, the sense of achievement would be enough for me. I like my privacy too much.
And so because of that I probably won't get far as these days. I believe, publishers prefer the author to be clearly identifiable; jacket photos, book signings, interviews, news and magazine articles, etc.
I would love for the kids who are fans of my MG fantasy series to get involved by suggesting plotlines/characters/events for future installments and to give them credits for doing so in the novels...which would encourage young readers AND potential writers to get involved in the wonderful world of books and do my bit for literacy.

When I did some workshops in schools, they were SO enthusiastic and brimming over with ideas, it added to the whole author experience for me and made me think more about how a loosely collaborative approach with the readers could enrich the process (as well as being a helpful word-of-mouth and marketing tool).

That's an ambition of mine. To team up with my readers :)
What, in your heart of hearts, are your secret ambitions as an author?

*To have your book title on a T-shirt?
It's been done already. LOL!

*To be besieged by adoring fans at a book signing?
That's kinda been done, too, though it wasn't exactly besieged. ;)

*To overhear two readers talking about your book?
Yep. Been there, at a book signing. It's unnerving, but at least they liked the book they were talking about. :)

*For 'Author' to be added beneath your name on your gravestone?

But seriously... in my heart of hearts, I'd like to make enough money from my writing to live on. Wouldn't we all? ;)
To sell millions of books without ever having to attend or pay any attention to a single publicity event. Effectively to be hidden from view and retain complete obscurity whilst reaping massive financial rewards. The definition of the reclusive author.

Fortune over fame to the nth degree.
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My ambition as an author?

To sell books, of course.

To write more. To grow as an author. To feel the muse; that addictive moment when everything flows; when you're so engrossed in creativity, you’re no longer aware of the real world around you.

But above all: my ambition is for my work to touch the readers in some way.

Here's to hoping I will find at least one person out there who loses themselves in the pages the way I did when I wrote them.
To have your book title on a T-shirt?
I can honesty say this isn't something that's ever occurred to me - do such things happen? I suppose they must. I need to get out more... I'm thiking about it and feel absolutely nothing. It's not a suggestion that's on my 'must have' ambition list.

To be besieged by adoring fans at a book signing?
No, no, no, no! I can think of few things that would be worse.

To overhear two readers talking about your book?
I've written a couple of travel guides and this has happened to me. Nothing horrid was said so... An odd feeling, but not unbearable. I suspect being talked about on social media would be much more uncomfortable.

*For 'Author' to be added beneath your name on your gravestone?
I don't really imagine having a gravestone, so I'm really not interested either way. I'll be dead, so what does it matter?

But I must get off to the vet and get my dog's ear sorted out. Have a lovely day all.
I have to admit, T-shirts, fans etc aren't really what appeals to me. Money would be nice, and a space to write (@Amber - you're absolutely right, a space with no kiddie crap lying around would be a dream!)

But my most ardent ambition, and this is something I've held deep in my heart for a number of years now, is to be on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Then, and only then, would I know I've 'made it' as a writer . . .
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Ghost Characters

Still Breaking the Rules