For a change, following the lead of my friend, Catherine Czerkawska, I’m trying to be promotionally aware. This time I’m making Shadow Selves one of Kindle’s Countdown Deals. What that means is that at 8 a.m. this Thursday, November 14th, the price drops from $3.50 to just $0.99, then on Saturday at 3 a.m. it increases to $1.99. This lasts until 11 p.m. on Sunday, when it reverts to its normal price of $3.50.
If you knew the time it took me to set this up (even though the process really is very simple), you’d buy the book out of pity. But for the heartless few, I need to give more positive reasons, which means bigging up the book (or, as The Simpsons would have it, ‘embigging’ it). In keeping with my habitual idleness, however, I’ll simply recycle a blog I wrote about it when it was first published.
The story was triggered by a visit to an operating theatre while an operation was in progress. It was arranged by Donnie Ross (Dr Dx to his online friends) and I’ve reproduced some details of the experience in the scene where Jack Carston, my DCI, visits the hospital to check their procedures. More interestingly, though, the whole book is set in and around the fictitious University of West Grampian. And why is that ‘more interesting’? Because I used to teach at a university and the assumption (among some people) may well be that the people and things I describe may also be based on personal experiences. They’re not, except insofar as I know the general academic atmosphere, the demands and privileges of working in such an institution and the small p politics in which some teachers and researchers delight.
The people are certainly fictitious. Books always carry the careful ‘any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental’ disclaimer but I have to say that, even though you’ll find it in my books, it isn’t really needed. I may borrow how someone looks, or copy what he/she wears, but using a real person as a model just doesn’t work for me. I only tried it once, and I found that my awareness and knowledge of the actual person prevented my character from growing and being himself. Presumably (and it was certainly true in my case), a writer ‘uses’ a real model because there’s something special or unique about that person – he/she is wonderful or despicable. The real person I chose was the latter but he wasn’t my character. In the end, I had to free the character and let his nastiness develop in the way he wanted to express and live it. The result was that he turned out to be more charismatic (in a horrible way) than the real guy. But I wouldn’t want to spend too much time with either of them.
So anyone reading Shadow Selves and expecting to recognise x, y or z will be disappointed. What I hope they will get, though, is a sense of the strange world of academia – a rarefied place where high culture and low cunning co-exist and some individuals continue to be blissfully unaware of how privileged they are to be safe in their ivory tower. Oh, and they’ll get a couple of deaths, a stalker and a case of sexual harassment.
And, as a PS which has nothing whatsoever to do with the above, I recently came across a fascinating and rather chilling site that gives statistics relating to the prison population in the USA. It’s run by Viviana Shafrin and you’ll find it here.
Just click on it and, on the first page, you get ‘greetings from the country that holds ¼ of the world’s prisoners’ and food for lots and lots of thought.