(…or How Bees Make Honey Pimped My Novel)
By Darren Simpson
Once upon a time I wrote a story. Well, two stories. Or maybe three…
Anyway, however many, they started doing interesting things. Even though they were very different, I kept spotting common themes, images and motifs. The stories started merging together, and quite naively, I left them to it. I didn’t think about implications, target audiences, markets, genres. I just thought I’d see what happened. I ended up with a novel called The Dust on the Moth.
I remember the first time a literary agent showed an interest in The Dust on the Moth. She gushed a little in her emails, and then invited me to meet her in London. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was pumped. I booked a train ticket without hesitation. On the day I ironed a shirt and put on my lucky boxers. I was ready for destiny. And then, over an overpriced cup of Earl Grey, the agent – who was lovely, by the way – told me that she really liked the book but found it a little intimidating, and wasn’t really sure what she could do with it. I nodded politely and smiled with clenched teeth.
Fair dos, I thought. That’s just one agent. Plenty more fish in the sea. But other agents who requested the manuscript did the same: ‘It’s a great book…but perhaps a little too offbeat for the market.’ ‘Very strong imagery…but it’s a tricky book to categorise.’ ‘A refreshing concept…but it seems to fall between genres.’ And so on.
So I couldn’t help wondering: what’s the point? I’d tried to write something not only entertaining but also ambitious and original. I’d given three years to it. So why bother? What should I have done instead? Should I have watered myself down? Should I have been more generic? Would I have been better off writing about a young wizard who uncovers a Catholic conspiracy while getting gimpy with a sexy vampire millionaire?
It was disillusioning. I became jaded and bitter. I started shouting at kids in the street, kicking old ladies’ cankles, pushing prams down stairs. Eventually I found the strength to move on and write other things, but the bitterness of The Dust on the Moth lingered like the aftertaste of vomit in my mouth.
And then came a minor miracle in the form of Kirsty Fox – miscreant megamind behind Bees Make Honey and one-woman creative industries empowerment machine. She chanced upon The Dust on the Moth through Panspermia Press, and wanted to make it the next project for Bees Make Honey’s publishing arm. I met her at the Gladstone in Carrington. ‘But it’s too offbeat,’ I stammered. ‘Genres… Pigeonholes…’ Kirsty didn’t care. She saw all of the agents’ ‘buts’ as strengths. She wanted to publish it because it was different and because she liked it. Simple as. That’s how Kirsty works. The girl’s got balls. Figuratively speaking.
It was refreshing. It restored a lot of faith. My eyes had been opened to the integrity, passion and freedom of the DIY publishing scene. I was overjoyed. I started being nice to kids, helping old ladies cross the road, visiting injured babies in hospital. I was shitting rainbows.
So we got to work on polishing the story. Kirsty lent me her editor’s eye and I learned a lot about dialogue tags and thinking even more carefully about readers. As the story started to refine itself, Kirsty began to feel that it deserved better. She shone the Bees Make Honey signal into night sky and Dan Layton and Phil Formby came abseiling in through the windows. It was amazing to watch how, in their hands, The Dust on the Moth slowly evolved from run-of-the-mill ebook to lush multimedia objet d’art, complete with illustrations and photography. And with time, even that wasn’t enough; online and musical elements started to take shape. Exciting times.
And then, another ‘but’. How were we going to fund such a lavish product? The answer was crowdfunding through Kickstarter. We felt optimistic that we were offering something unique that people interested in literary fiction/art/photography/curios would be interested in backing for a piece of the action. So we ploughed on. It was just like the A Team, except with less flame throwers and more cans of Red Stripe. It wasn’t long before The Dust on the Moth had taken on a life of its own. It’s no longer just a story. It’s no longer just mine. It’s a genuine collaboration – a one-of-a-kind, living, breathing, beautiful monster.
I’m chuffed that The Dust on the Moth has found a home with Kirsty and the lads – not only because it resonates so well with Bees Make Honey’s spirit, but also because I’ve had the opportunity to work with a nifty team of nerds I could almost call my friends. Almost.
Right. Enough about me and Bees Make Honey. The Kickstarter campaign goes live shortly before our launch party/gigzabition at Nottingham Creative Fringe on 28th March. Over to you.