Monday, 4 August 2008

The Art of a Three Second Pitch that can Make a Best-Seller - Part Two

Read Part One here.

The high-octane terrorist thriller, Deep Ice, centred on a world held to ransom, was published by BeWrite Books in 2003. His Young Adult novel, Joko, also from BB, tells the story of a runaway teenager and his Big Foot friend coming to terms with their individual versions of civilisation. It was released in 2006 and was shortlisted this summer for the international Dream Realm Award. A sequel is already in the pipeline, as is a new SF trilogy.

Karl said: “The muse wrote Deep Ice. I just sat there and enjoyed the process. Some scenes were total surprises. I write stream-of-consciousness and can’t use an outline to save my life. Indeed, I started with a mere idea.

“That idea came in the late 70s reading a National Geographic article about the Ross Ice Shelf – if it collapsed it would raise the world’s oceans and instantly flood some of the greatest and most heavily populated cities on earth.

“It was written very quickly and sometimes as I read over it I don’t remember writing it at all, and it seems like someone else’s prose. My wife assures me I did, however. But I must say, it is indeed a strange thing to have the Muse take hold. That was the biggest surprise during
my first few writing experiences.

Joko is an examination of man’s place with nature. Both characters – the runaway boy and his hunted Big Foot friend – become strangers in an alien world … or different worlds alien to each of them. All my work contains that Stranger in a Strange Land element.

“I also have a science fiction trilogy that I am just finishing. Each book is a different type of tale. SF is my
chosen field but I wanted to do traditional works first to prove my writing skills before I attempted SF prose.

“My current work, the stand-alone in a series called The Diver Trilogy, is Farthest Reef and takes a maiden voyage to an extra-solar gas giant to see if another reef of life exists on those gas giants as it ‘does’ in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot – the place called Jupiter’s Reef. The story is sweeping and chock full of alien worlds.”

But, perhaps, Karl’s most ambitious and unique work is the Galactic Geographic Annual 3003 – a thick and glossy coffee table book in magazine format to grace the living room of a home that still has coffee tables and coffee table books … a thousand years from now.

Karl explains: “In 1976 I said to a friend, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if publishing used its skills to uncompromisingly produce a book that appeared to be from the future? Wouldn’t that make a great thing to have on your coffee table?’

“Thirty years later I finally got it done. By that time I had the computer and I was able to do it all. My publishers, Chrysalis, received twenty-six match-print spreads and 9 CD ROMs that they handed directly to production. The only other hands on it were Paul Barnett’s who did a brilliant editing job. I am very proud to be able to say, when people ask me ‘who did all this art?’ to just raise my hand and smile. It is a marriage of all my skills. Artist, designer, illustrator.

“The point of the book is to utterly suspend disbelief. Many artists and authors have tried that, but when they have their names HUGE on the cover it immediately destroys the illusion. SF publishing, I think, has missed that obvious truth so these types of books didn’t work before.

“Having myself behind the curtain and headlining only Galactic Geographic on the cover completes the illusion that it’s a news-stand periodical, a kind of National Geographic, from the year 3003 … but it does confuse those who think genre; the Library of Congress had a lot of trouble trying to place it in a convenient slot.

“It’s an art book, it’s a graphic novel, an artifact from the future, and everyone who sees it says, ‘What a cool idea. Why didn’t somebody do this before?’ I like to point out the 3003 date and say, ‘they’ve not even done it yet.’

Below the title, there’s a list of ‘topical’ articles to be found inside: The Passing of the Airwhales, Diving in Methane, Music of Other Worlds, The Rope Makers of Betel 2B, Harvest on InsandorAt Home With the Tsailerol. Inside, there’s breathtaking illustration … and ads for off-world tours, extraterrestrial zoos and 31st Century must-haves. And this is just Earth Edition!

But the seemingly unrelated ‘news’ articles weave themselves into a coherent story of space exploration, adventure and contact with three intelligent races, a ripping yarn that reads more like fact than fiction when you enter Karl’s world of 31st Century reportage with its utterly believable, textbook-like detail and its list of intergalactic journalistic contributors and editors.

Jan Pagh-Kofoed is named as Inter-species Editor, perhaps a distant descendent of Janet Kofoed, Karl’s 21st Century wife. If so, she’d have the background.

Mrs Janet Kofoed is the daughter of a NASA engineer, lived near Cape Canaveral and witnessed first hand the beginning of the US space program, through to the moon landings.

She had completed most of a PhD in psychology when she abandoned academia for art and is now a successful jewelry designer and maker whose work bears a strikingly futuristic resemblance to Karl’s.

Janet said: “Although our respective work medium is very different, Karl and I often help each other. He has done several jewelry designs for me, and I proof and rough-edit his writing. We both find it valuable to have someone we can show things to whose judgment we respect and who we can trust to see both the good and the not so good.

“Karl is one of the most universally curious people I’ve ever known, interested in almost everything. That’s a trait I share, and we delight in bouncing ideas off each other. We’re equally capable of keen insight and analysis and delightful flights of fancy. We’re seldom bored.”

“Amen to that!” says Karl. “Without Janet my Galactic Geographic or my other two books would exist.”

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