Yesterday’s Luggage [an author’s tale]

Rob ShermanRob Sherman is a 25 year-old writer and musician from London. His favourite topics include wholegrain, gods with more than one face, and cryptozoology, as well as his own suppurating, horrific body. This is his first guest blog post on BookMachine.

My name is Rob Sherman, or elsewhere the Hogherd, and I would like to tell you the story of how I came by this second, more mythical moniker. It is the story of how I became a full-time author, an occupation of which I have dreamed since I was very small. It is a story that I could not replicate at any other time in history; as tellers of stories, we live in a time when life has never been easier, harder, or more terrifying, and when a combination of luck and a strong lifting arm can lead to one of the largest publishers in the world taking a punt on one’s ludicrous idea. As I say, my story is one that more and more young writers can tell, and are being given the opportunity to tell, by the rise of the digital environment.

At university, I produced a piece of fiction called Loss, a red leather suitcase filled with charity-shop trinkets, army-surplus finds, and a hefty journal to knit together the story of the eponymous, abandoned town. I received a very high mark, though this may have had something to do with the (apparently) fictional disease impregnated in the suitcase, with which my tutor learnt he may have been infected when he went delving. If you take nothing else away from this piece, learn that direct threats to another’s health will get you what you want, in the end.

After university, we hauled this heavy, menacing piece of “artefact fiction” (as I had smugly termed it) around London to many different publishers, trying to drum up backing for a digital version. Almost everybody that I met took one look (and sniff) and asked us, very kindly, whether we would consider turning it into a novel.

I would then explain, very calmly, that I would have written a novel if I had wanted to write a novel.

It was then that I was put into contact with Dan Franklin, a Digital Publisher at Random House, who was looking for a piece of work that would fit his budding remit and responsibilities. Loss has since become The Black Crown Project, a gargantuan expansion of my original piece, with a growing and receptive fandom to whom I am “The Hogherd”, the farmer of their experience, one which might have disappeared into obscurity, an ugly oddity, if I had taken the wrong advice.

I am well aware of how incredibly lucky I have been, and how differently it could have gone. All that I can hope is that my luck could become tomorrow’s practice; as the divide between a publisher’s bestseller list and everything else widens, and “diversify or die” fills mouths all over the industry, authors must ask themselves if this is the only thing that they can be, authors of books. Perhaps it is time to adopt a less proprietary occupation. Perhaps we can be just tellers of stories, no matter the format, and with a little extra work, we might find a better way to tell the story that we need to tell. There are certainly those who wish to help us.

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