Thursday, March 06, 2008

Drew Asked For It...

After my discussion about agents and the trials and tribulations of writing two unpublished novels, a few folks (Drew first) expressed interest in taking a look at my unpublished work. I figured what the hell. Take a look if you want. Aspiring writers may find some comfort in comparing their work with mine. Although, these are books that didn't get published, so perhaps comfort is not quite what these will provide...

Anyway, I've included portions of the first chapters of both books here. If you click on them they'll open as Pdf Files. Remember, now, that these were essentially my MFA novels, literary coming of age type stories that are neither fantasy or historical. That said, I'll otherwise let them speak for themselves...

Here's an excerpt from my first novel: Cicada


another from my second novel: AUGUST FURY.

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Blogger Meghan said...

"He stepped into the tub, scowled at the heat and stood there, listening."

I love these kinds of images. I can actually picture this scene because you have such a great knack for describing the atmosphere. Personally I don't get why these weren't picked up.

4:35 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


You're kind. If we can assume they were decently written books that carried their narratives to sufficient conclusion (and I think that's true)... well, I see two big things going against them.

One, especially in the case of a Cicada, the novel deals with the rather difficult material of child sexual abuse. And not just that, but paternal sexual abuse of a father on his son. This is actually not that big or graphic a part of the book - it's more about the neglect that comes afterwards - but it does start it off and hang over everything that happens afterwards. Everyone in the industry told me that this would be a hard sell for that reason.

Two, the market for literary fiction by African-American males was and is pretty small. August Fury, though violent at times, isn't gangsta, urban, hip-hop or anything else that the book world believes black males (the assumed audience) want to read. Black male writers of contemporary literary fiction comprise a small group, and we've rarely - in recent decades - made a big splash commercially. Publishers look at numbers, evaluate trends, compare and contrast similar books. None of this boded well for August Fury.

My conclusions? Well, from a purely publishing minded perspective, you may find it insurmountably hard to find publishers for material they don't consider marketable. Doesn't matter that it's great. Doesn't matter that you're special and full of talent and can't they tell? Most editors are just going to say no.

Am I saying not to write such material? Absolutely not. Write what you have to, what you need to, what you believe the world needs. Just don't assume that your passion (and even your talent) will be rewarded because of it. It may be, but it's certainly not a given...

5:01 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

I should add, though, that it's not that I ONLY think outside issues changed the fate of those books. That's part of it, but I also don't think either book is a complete example of my writing at its best. I matured a lot between them and Gabriel's Story.

So my second point in reference to all this is that writing - even novels - captures in words a portrait of who a writer is at a given moment. Not all of those moments need to be for public consumption. And the works that are - in my case at least - were written standing on the back of the ones that didn't make it. I'm cool with that.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks so much for posting these two chapters. Slowly making my way through them, trying to enjoy each line. Interesting though that you wrote in first pov. Do you find a certian pov easier to write?

Thanks again. Having a blast reading them.

6:47 PM  

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