It's the would-be author's nightmare. You walk into a bookshop and make for the new release's section. There's a new book, interesting title, glossy cover. You pick it up and read the back cover blurb - and your skin crawls.
Someone has written your book.
Oh yes, it might be different in many ways, but the essence of the story, the feel of the characters and the setting is nearly identical to the one you've spent years slaving away at. There goes any faint hope you ever had of getting the damn thing published.
Thankfully, to date, this nightmare hasn't come true for me - though on a few occasions it's been close. Each time I saw a book with a title and cover evocative of my own, but when I read the blurb I saw (to my great relief) that it was nothing like mine. Phew.
But this morning, as I was reading the excellent blog Editorial Ass (odd name, I know) I saw this...
And I read this....
If the cover image of a fearless Chinese heroine reminds readers of such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, that’s intentional; the story inside will, too. First-time novelist Pon has a screenwriter’s talent for producing a sweeping saga, and in this, the first of two books set in ancient China, 17-year-old Ai Ling faces demons, monsters, and gods as she tries to fulfill her destiny. Frightened after a local man tries to blackmail her into marriage, Ai Ling resolves to journey to the emperor’s palace where her missing father was last seen. Along the way, she meets the handsome Chen Yong, who is of mixed parentage and on a quest to find answers to questions about his family that have haunted him his whole life. (In the story’s prologue, readers get hints about his origins.) As in most martial-arts movies, the story sometimes takes a back seat to the action, but Pon doesn’t stint when it comes to her characters. Ai Ling is a clever and determined heroine, Chen’s younger brother is a witty teen whose girl-crazy ways transcend the centuries, and even the monsters have dimension. Pon’s writing, both fluid and exhilarating, shines whether she’s describing a dinner delicacy or what it feels like to stab an evil spirit in the gut. There’s a bit of sex here, including a near rape, but it’s all integral to a saga that spins and slashes as its heroine tries to find her way home.
And afterwards, although I could see straight away the characters and the story are different, I felt a little bit ill.
Ancient China, 17 year old protagonist, demons, gods and monsters - oh my!
But then.... I realised something. In my reading of countless agent's blogs I've noticed a theme - everyone is totally sick of Vampire novels, and everyone is looking for something new. If Silver Phoenix is a big hit, perhaps the way will be open for books set in a similar style and feel, and maybe it won't be such a disaster that somebody has beaten me to it.
I really hope so - in the meantime, what a roller coaster ride this writing business is turning out to be.