Then there was the time Donald Trump cost me a book deal.

The feedback from one of the major publishers came in via my agent. The editor praised the high quality of the prose, the East Asian noir setting, and compared my work favourably to Philip K Dick. So far, so pretty fucking good.

But the problem was, you see, the recent election of Donald Trump. It ‘may be short sighted of me’ said the editor, but, what with the recent US election, he felt, ‘this is the time for heroes’, and not the bleaker tale I was shopping. So apologies. All the best for the future. And so forth.

Now, of course, this may not be the whole story. It might not even be half. Maybe if the novel was better, he would have picked it up regardless. I reckon it’s pretty bloody good, but here’s the thing: there’s a shitload of pretty bloody good novels doing the rounds these days. Thousands, no doubt, week in week out.

So pretty good ain’t good enough, for starters.

Maybe there were a range of other problems with it, but he didn’t feel the need to give my agent the full accounting. Maybe.

Maybe a lot of things, but here’s the killer: maybe I really did lose a book deal because of Donald Trump.

If the submission were two months earlier, pre-election, perhaps it would have been acquired. Perhaps if it came the same editor’s way six months later, he’d be sick of all the rainbows-and-lollipops novels he’d been buying and instead went for a gritty cyberpunk on the mean streets of Macau.

The problem here isn’t some bloke who’s a cross between Pennywise the Clown and an Orangutan. No. Not quite. The problem here is luck is part of the business. The right novel, across the right desk, on the right day.

I’ll write a better novel, I think. No choice, if I’m going to stick around in this game. Working on the edits of a full draft right now, as it happens. More grit, more mean streets, this time Hanoi. It’ll be publishable, I’m sure.

But maybe it’ll hit the right desk on the wrong day. The day after Cheetos Jesus wins a second term, and American eyes are looking inwards, inwards, at the self-inflicted ruptures of a once great republic. Or maybe the editor just bought a novel set in Vietnam. Or maybe he was having a bad day and my agent misspelled his name, and he though fuck it: delete.

I’ve got my apocalypse bag packed with food and medicine, ready to sling into the back of the car. Got a mate with a property out of town, far enough so a ravening crowd, on foot, wouldn’t make it in a couple of days. So I’m sorted if the Donald and little Kim start thermonuclear war.

But there’s not a damn thing I can do about my book hitting the right desk on the wrong goddamn day.


Categories: Fiction

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