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Monday, September 7, 2015

Sam Penant Reveal!

Get over to Amazon UK to get this! 
There's a book you haven't heard of unless you follow me very closely or you live in the UK and have discovered it, by some miracle, on your own. 

The book is Hero 41: Eye of the Gargoyle by Sam Penant. 
I discovered this book from connections that will be apparent later, but I heartily enjoyed it. It follows the character of Dax Daley. Here's the blurb from the back of the book:
Dax Daley is on his way to prison. But it turns out prison is actually a school - for superheroes! 40 superheroes, to be exact. But Dax - Number 41 - does not belong. He can't turn himself invisible. Or see in the dark. Or read minds. And he definitely will not fight the strange things looming around the corners of Scragmoor Prime. Because Dax Daley doesn't have any superpowers...yet!

Now, that sounds interesting, doesn't it? It really is. Between the dark setting and the reluctant, aloof, character of Dax, this book set off my reluctant reader alert in my librarian brain. Not only would reluctant readers enjoy this, but that elusive set of readers known as middle-grade boys. Of course, I don't fall into either category but I really enjoyed the book as well. And that's not just because I know something you don't. 

Do you remember when The Cuckoo's Calling came out? Written by Robert Galbraith? As I recall, the book was supposed to be secretly written by J.K. Rowling. Well, not much of a secret as that was outed on the jacket flap. But once the world got out, ol' Robert Galbraith's debut novel went straight to the top. Was it by merit? Was it merely by name recognition? I'll never know. (I'll never read it either.) But what a reveal that was! Robert Galbraith IS J.K. Rowling! Well, I'm here to announce another epic reveal. Would you like to know the secret? Here it is...

Sam Penant IS Michael Lawrence! 

Are you shocked? Are you amazed? Well, you should be. Michael is absolutely one of my all time favorite authors ever. Strike that, he is, in fact, my favorite author of all time. And now it's my great pleasure to welcome back Michael Lawrence to answer a few questions about the choice to publish Hero 41 as Sam Penant. 

The Restless Writer (RW): It's time for the big reveal. Sam Penant, author of the two Hero 41 books, is a pseudonym for none other than Michael Lawrence! Why did you decide to start a new series under a new name?

Michael Lawrence (ML): Between 1999 and 2012 I published a series of books about a boy called Jiggy McCue that was quite successful in Britain, Australia and one or two other places. Readers would write to tell me that they had read all my books, but they were only aware of the sixteen Jiggy books, and it became a bit of a pain to be identified with them alone when I’d written others that I felt (silly me) should have achieved more recognition. I wrote the two Hero 41 books under the name Sam Penant for two reasons: 1, to distance myself from the Jiggy series; 2, to see if they would be noticed in the marketplace without my name attached.

The answer to the second of these is that they haven’t been.

This is the fate of most books by unknown authors: relegation to the ‘also-ran’ enclosure. Time and again imaginative, original, well-written books escape attention, and their authors do not achieve the financial (or critical) rewards they deserve. The luck of the draw? Sometimes. Maybe. More often it’s down to publishers’ lack of vision, their unwillingness to risk a little money, and lackadaisical marketing departments. I could rail against such flaws and attitudes at length, but it wouldn’t improve things one bit. What I will say is that it’s looking very likely that these two pseudonymous books – my 43rd and 44th – will be the last that I publish for children. This isn’t because I’ve run out of ideas. I have as many stand-alone ideas and series concepts in reserve as I’ve ever had. Let’s just say that other forces (very negative forces) have come into play in today’s increasingly pedestrian and derivative children’s publishing enclosure.

RW: What have you learned from the process of writing and publishing Hero 41?
ML: Not to rely on or trust or give house room to marketing departments. I attended an editorial and marketing meeting in London before publication of the first of the Hero 41 books. All sorts of assurances and promises were made about the promotion of the books. If they have been promoted in any way I have yet to see the evidence. The sighting of just one of the two titles in a bookshop would be a start, but no such sighting has been made, by me or anyone I know.

RW: Are there any plans to continue the series? 
ML: Ha-ha. I can find other ways of wasting my time than writing books that no one will ever hear about, much less buy.

RW: What, if anything, are you currently writing?
ML: Although I might continue to write in one form or another, it’s looking doubtful that I’ll be publishing anything else. I recently finished two adult novels that I’d been working on in the background for some years while writing children’s books to commission. I’m very pleased with both of these, but no agent that I’ve approached in the US or UK has expressed the slightest interest in handling either of them – and very few publishers will even glance at a book unless it comes through an agent. This (the publishers’ attitude) is such a misguided one. Of course, it saves them the very wearisome effort of having to sift through the legendarily teetering slush pile, but to rely on people who call themselves agents to act as their gatekeepers is staggeringly unimaginative and lazy; agents whose taste for the most part is no better or more enlightened than that of any other reader, though they might be a lot more cynical and dismissive than most.

RW: It continues to be an odd time in publishing. Some self-published authors are finding incredible success while traditionally published authors are less than impressed with their results. But the opposite holds true too. What are you thoughts about publishing, in general, in this day and age?
ML: A great many good books are still being published in the traditional manner, though there’s a perception that the way for the new writer to get ahead now is to publish his or her work in ebook format. It’s true that some people have made money that way – and secured substantial offers from traditional publishers as a result – but the very great majority make nothing, or virtually nothing. I myself have made a number of books available as ebooks on Amazon in the past four years and on average I get 15 to 20 sales a month (mostly in the US), which makes the enterprise hardly worth bothering with. If some of you reading this achieve greater sales with your ebooks, I wish you’d tell me your secret.

(I'd like to know that secret too!)

Thank you very much, Michael, for allowing me to pick your brain again. Hope Hero 41 will start getting the attention it deserves, as well as the other books you've been working on and can't find homes for. 

You might as well get the 2nd book too. 
There's a second book to accompany Hero 41, so you can check that out too! Honestly, I hope you will look out for the Hero 41 books. They, as well as anything else written by Michael Lawrence, are very well done with very unique and interesting characters. Especially if you're looking for a middle grade boy, Hero 41 are great books, but so are the Jiggy McCue books. They've been around for a little while, but they're just as relevant now as ever and they definitely hit the nail on the head of young people who are straddling the line of goofy childishness and sassy teenager. 

Time to make them go viral, people! Are you with me?