Monday, 27 August 2012

Guest Blog: Leo Cookman's 'Welcome the Pigz'

In what's becoming a weekly feature on my blog, I'm handing over today's post to a guest blogger! This time it's over to first-time novelist, Leo Cookman.

I have just published a novel you know. Welcome the Pigz is actually my third novel but the first I have published. Self published that is. I spent the last year or so hawking this to all and sundry in the hope someone would gasp at its flagrant, almost libellous, similarities to other incredibly well selling books and snap up the rights like a hungry man at John Prescott's dinner table. But they didn't. The near universal response was “It's great! It will never sell.” The reason for this is because despite WTP having a car chase, a love story, a heist and a climactic battle to the death like every Hollywood movie, best-selling novel and its dog, mix this in with personifications of wind and shadow, the Asian mafia, an anthropomorphic frog, the quandary of existence, the deconstruction of narrative, lots of swearing and the eponymous pigs and this is confusing, “too whacky” and “too clever for its own good”. You see, a lot of my favourite authors, and by extension their books, tend to either play with formula, genre or expectations or are just plain silly. As such, I derive great pleasure in taking the well established formula of an adventure or thriller story I love so much and bung in the silly things with it. I would argue this makes a worn out formula and story more interesting. The people in charge see this the other way.

Welcome the Pigz is about a young student called Bevan Croft who takes some LSD and then sees a live pig in his fridge, a frog in his garden and a Vietnamese emperor in his bedroom. The emperor informs Bevan he actually took a magic potion that will help him save the world and leaves him with the emperor's personal body-guard, a ten strong drove of pigs. Upon coming up with the idea of a drove of pigs following the protagonist around  I was chuffed, I love pigs and not making them human but having them assist our lead character was just a hilarious concept to me. The idea came from my brother writing the title on the fridge with colourful magnet letters. It didn't mean anything but it stuck with me and inspired the story. Beyond that I only had a few vignettes in my head of what should happen; I wanted a car chase, I wanted two friends crammed in a car with the pigs surrounding them, I wanted a scene where the protagonist finds the dead pig's bodies hung from the ceiling that holds back the imaginary/ghostly pigs and a few other moments. Initially it was going to be a period 30s piece set in Egypt about a couple of cursed Indiana Jones-style tomb raiders. My mother then pointed out pot-bellied pigs were Vietnamese and not that old a breed. I then saw the cover of an Irvine Welsh book called 'E' with a fridge magnet letter on the cover. My mind made the jump to a 'drug caper' style novel which fitted better as drugs explained hallucinating a load of pigs more acceptable. Tie in the paltry research on Vietnam and its creation myth I did and BAM. Incredible loose plot ahoy! The idea sat as the title and those ideas for about 10 years until my friend Amelia said I should do NaNoWriMo, so I dug it out for that and wrote the first chapter in an evening. I again gave up on it as it was halfway through November at that point so I put it back to bed. It was only when I told my then girlfriend about it, who flipped her lid over the premise, that I, at her encouragement, did a bit more work on it. We then broke up and during that particularly bleak and depressing time I wrote the whole novel in a month sat in the spare room of my mother's house at the end of the bed with no job and no home. Again I was just going to let it sit and fester on my hardrive but after cajoling from friends and family I did some editing, got it read and 'critiqued' made some more changes and started sending it off.

I've written quite a lot in my short years on this planet; screenplays, stageplays, work newsletters, blogs, poetry pamphlets, short stories, songs, comedy sketches, and none of them have been successes (largely because I don't publicise them) but this was the first time I was getting genuinely positive and encouraging feedback from people who know their stuff, despite them all still saying 'No'. So after rejection #4056 I decided I wanted people to read it, with or without the lavish hardback, dust-jacketed design I had in mind, so I bought some magnetic fridge letters, made the cover, formatted the text and here it is:
What is becoming clear about this book, and believe me I am not one to toot my horn, is that it seems to actually be original. Or at least the whole is, even if the sum of its parts aren't. People don't seem to know where to put it or what to class it as which in the current market is a rare thing. I don't, however, think it is merely a curio. I like the characters, I think the story is exciting, I'm told it is engaging, I am very reliably informed it is actually 'well written' and its got Pigs in it! In my opinion that's a book on top of my reading list and, by extension, should be on everyone else’s. But like I say, I'm not one to brag.

1 comment:

  1. I love it. The post and the book. And my son, of course. Oh, and Paul.