Thursday, July 11, 2013

Collective Consciousness and the Color Green...

by A.G. Howard

My favorite poem of all time is Christina Georgina Rossetti's "Goblin Market." In fact, it's played a very big role in my writing career.

For one, it taught me to use sensory description to pull a reader into my MC's head. Upon reading the poem the first time, I was THERE, trying to fight the allure of the cursed and luscious fruits, forging a relationship w/my sister, grieving as she withered away before my eyes and I struggled to save her. Christina's words flowed like magic waves on the page, catching me in their tide until I was eternally enchanted.

Also, this deep appreciation for Goblin Market helped bring my agent, Jenny Bent, and me together. We talked about the poem once just before I decided to sign with her. She loved it as much as me, even directed me to several images via the internet -- Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Christina's brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti -- which complimented the masterpiece.

Knowing how much Jenny loved Christina's lush and evocative attention to detail was a big selling point for me. Since I'm a very descriptive writer, I knew Jenny would get that side of my writing.

So I guess it stands to reason, since this poem holds such a special place in my heart, that I hope to one day pen a YA based on some of the elements, in tribute to Christina's vivid imaginings; similar to how I wrote one in tribute of Lewis Carroll's masterpiece.

Currently I'm working on a different YA WIP, but in the back of my mind I've been toying with the Goblin Market spinoff for some time. I've come up with some interesting ideas, and was starting to get very excited about the concept until the other day, low and behold, I see a book review on someone's tweet about this self-published debut:

(click on cover for a blurb; it sounds FAB)

Curses! Foiled by collective consciousness! But I refuse to let jealousy rear its ugly head. Nope, there will be no green here today, except on the lovely book cover above.

As a writer, I have to embrace reality. This isn't the first time this has happened, and it won't be the last.

When I was querying Splintered I had an agent reject it on the grounds that there were several reinventions of Alice in Wonderland recently bought so she feared the market would be inundated with them. She scared me so much I researched PublishersMarketplace and found them:

Alice in Zombieland (about a girl named Alice who’s in a car accident; wakes up, her family’s dead, and she’s in a post apocalyptic world where zombies run rampant)

Alice À Paris (about an American girl abroad in Paris; non-fanstasy)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (a fantasy YA similar only to Alice in Wonderland in that the girl has an adventure in a fairyland).

At first I was worried, until I took a really good look at the synopsis for each.

None of them have any actual ties to the Lewis Carroll world. Mine is an adaptation/continuation of the original story. I pay tribute to the Victorian/Carrollian elements--tinging his characters a darker shade and twisting whimsical situations to pure creepiness. So that sets my book apart. Just like other elements set theirs apart.

I'm glad I didn't give up after that agent put the fear in me, because Splintered found a publishing home and an audience, just as those other Alice books did. And now there's going to be a sequel.
So with that in mind, I'm still planning to write my Goblin Market spinoff one day. My premise is different from the other author's, and I believe there's room for each of our books. The world we live in is made up of many different readers who want many different things. Subjectivity, which during my querying years seemed a thorn in my side, is at long last my hero.

How about you? Have you ever had a book idea and realized someone else was writing something similar? Did you let it stop you, or did you keep writing your story because your heart believed in it too much to quit?


Tammy Sparks said...

Laini Taylor also wrote a short story based on the poem (I think), called "Goblin Fruit." I wouldn't worry about what other writers are doing with the material. All that matters is what YOU do with it:)

Anita Grace Howard said...

Great point, Tammy! I totally agree. Thanks for stopping by! <3

Maureen McQuerry said...

I love the poem too! In fact, it played a big part in The Peculiars. Lena's long hands and goblin characteristics are in homage to Goblin Market to George MacDonald's description of goblins.