It’s a question Freddy Mercury used to ask. It’s also one that the BBC’s Nick Higham raised when interviewing Kazuo Ishiguro recently about his new novel, Buried. (You’ll find the interview at the end of this post.)
And it’s a question we’ve often asked about Gillian Philip‘s Rebel
Angels series – Firebrand, Bloodstone, Wolfsbane and Icefall – which has been a word-of-mouth international success.
To us, Rebel Angels is much more than fantasy. Gillian’s books are literature with a slightly unreal – but nonetheless familiar – setting, and we would argue that there’s more reality in her books than in many that purport to reflect the world as we know it.
How so? Well, because the characters and relationships that Gillian creates – and then usually savages! – are so very recognisable around us, be it in the subterfuge of international politics, in big business or in families and the loyalties than go with them.
The dilemma for publishers is the need to categorise books to make the job of buyers – at wholesalers and retailers – easier, because there are a lot of books to choose from. Books can easily get lost in ‘general fiction’, so categories (Fantasy, Romance, etc) have a certain appeal. However, they can limit readership, which is a shame.
As someone in our office once said of Firebrand, ‘Fantasy isn’t my thing, but I love this.’ We imagine that many fans of the late Terry Pratchett might feel the same way about his books.
There’s a similar issue with crossing the divide between Young Adult and General fiction. Janne Teller‘s Nothing is a good example. It tends to be thought of as YA, but it’s a philosophical book for all ages; it just so happens that the main protagonists are teenagers. We’re delighted that it’s now finding an adult audience after being lauded by David Almond on BBC Radio 4.
So, can authors have a foot in more than one camp? It’s a trick that Kazuo Ishiguro is trying to pull off and we wish him luck. Good books are good books, and they deserve to be read widely.
Nick Higham meets Kazuo Ishiguro (link to BBC iPlayer)