Mr. Joyce Receives Good News (Helen Lyttle)

Dear James,

Thanks for submitting your novel Finnegan’s Wake to Hogwarts, Da Vinci and Smut Literary Agents.  

First, the good news.  Irish fiction is huge at the moment.  If you’ve got a story about young literary types falling in love at Trinity College Dublin, readers will be all over it.  But your novel, James?  Not so much.  Don’t get me wrong, there were things we liked about it.  Garamond is Jocasta’s favourite font and Tristram was thrilled by your double-line spacing.  You’d be amazed how many authors don’t get that right.  You’ve spent seventeen years on an experimental novel which nobody will ever read.  When you write something decent, that bio will go down a storm.  And the bohemian living abroad thing you’ve got going on.  Gauloises, red wine, sun on your face as you cycle to the boulangerie.  It’s a reality series in the making, James.  Tristram is pitching it to commissioning editors right now.  We don’t normally do this but we’d like to help you with a re-submission.  Your lifestyle is phenomenally marketable.  All we need is a product to go with it.          

Let’s start with the title.  I mean, you can’t call a novel after your favourite pub.  Think about the demographic you’d attract.  Middle-aged men with veins on their noses, smelling of labradors and damp tweed.  Let me tell you James, those people don’t buy books.  You want a title that’s clever.  Mysterious, even.  Marian Keyes is your woman for this.  I picked up Rachel’s Holiday thinking it was about Rachel’s holiday.  Big mistake!  Keep them guessing, James.  And keep it light.  Wakes give off the wrong vibe entirely.                 

Now for the plot.  In an ideal world we’d like to you to have one.  I mean, it’s all very well saying the end is the beginning and the beginning is the end but Cheryl on the 5.37 out of Newcastle wants something to relax with on her way home.  Our research indicates that she’ll tolerate the literary stuff – in small doses, it makes her feel intelligent.  But what she really wants is highbrow romance.  A Mr Darcy for the twenty-first century.  Your man Earwicker, could you see him in a white linen shirt?  And could it be tight enough to show off his six pack?  Let’s say he’s on a demo to save the planet.  One minute he’s chanting slogans alongside Greta and the next, here come the water cannon.  Now the shirt’s wet and it’s sticking to his nipples.  Anna Livia Plurabelle (love the name!), is on her way to a business meeting and the demo is holding her up.  She toots the horn of her little red Mini, Earwicker turns round and bang.  Ephipanies all over the shop.  They start a company producing sustainable yoga mats and build their own eco home.  It’s touch and go with the council as they fight to get planning permission but everything works out in the end.  Loads of money, spiritual fulfilment, beautiful children, et cetera, et cetera.    

These are just thoughts, James.  You may be having thoughts of your own right now.

We love it that you’ve soldiered on with a broken keyboard.  Such commitment to your craft.  But fear not James, there’ll be no more hundred-letter words for you!  How does a shiny new Macbook sound?  And we’ll enrol you in a creative writing class too.  You mentioned that your daughter has mental health issues.  We can arrange treatment for that.  Not until after the series airs, though.  Mental health is big news these days and we don’t want her getting better too soon.  Your life is going to change in ways you can’t imagine.  And so will ours when the royalties roll in.            

Speak soon,

Portia Porsche-Portland, CEO   


Helen Lyttle is working on her first novel.        


image: MM Kaufman