How many cocks does it take to sabotage your book sales?

 

Viral: A slutty shameful book about slut-shaming

The first line of my next thriller, Viral, has the C-word in it. Not the Class-A one meaning vagina, but the apparently less heinous one meaning penis.

My publishers asked me to remove it. Booksellers scoffed and turned it down. Supermarkets have indicated that they won’t dirty their shelves with it. Basically, my book is doomed to bomb due to the C-bomb.

Actually, the line refers to a dozen penises. I thought about negotiating – eight cocks? Four cocks? Two cocks? – but that would have been silly. And I like the way twelve scans.

Viral is a thriller, so you could expect the first paragraph to describe the torture of a faceless woman or two. No-one would have a problem with that. That’s entertainment.

But to swear?  To open a crime book with the voice of a frank and interesting woman? One who’s suddenly been defined by the world as a slut, as a whore, as the kinda cow who’ll say “cock” a lot? Goodness gracious, the buyers seem to think, why didn’t the author just murder the slag?

Viral came to me at the Harrogate book festival last July. At 3am, I ran up to my room and wrote down the first line. When I read it the next day, I was over the moon. In just a few words, I’d nailed the inciting incident, the voice of the character, and a problem hefty enough to drive the novel: Public shaming defines and destroys you – is it possible to shed? Is it possible to survive?

The line was all I needed to get going, and I wrote the first draft of Viral in two months. It was the best writing experience I’ve ever had. I am very proud of every line in this book.  And I don’t apologise for the first one. I believe it’s the perfect way to start a story about social hypocrisy.

If it offends you, then head to the supermarket and grab yourself a wee yarn about a nameless prostitute getting raped in a basement.

If not, you can buy Viral on Amazon here or at Book Depository here.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Viral-Helen-FitzGerald/dp/0571323510

(PS I don’t know why, but the trade paperback which is out in Feb is hard to find on Amazon. I eventually found it – link above.)

RESPONSES TO VIRAL SO FAR

A nuanced and perceptive look at social media and misogyny. (The Guardian, Best Thrillers Round Up).

A fast and well-written thriller with a topical theme, this is a more thoughtful novel than just a mother/daughter/viral sex tape romp. (Daily Mail)

My favourite contender for the inevitable title of “the next Gone Girl”. (Katy Guest Independent)

A dispatch from the front line of contemporary life to enlighten the pre-social-media generation. (Literary Review)

That first sentence is certainly memorable – I’ll leave it to you to discover it – but it’s a testament to the strengths of the story in between that the last sentence, beautifully judged, is the one that will stay with you. (Steve Mosby, author of The Nightmare Place and Dark Room, blog at The Left Room)

A sobering fable of savagery in social media, it combines impressive storytelling with the courage to tackle the ugliness lurking beneath the shiny surface of the modern world.   (Mark Billingham, author of the Tom Thorne novels)

Viral is not just about a mother seeking justice with all the tools of modern communication at her disposal, it is also about the relationships within a family itself – the bond between mothers and daughters, sisters and sisters – whether through blood or adoption.  A rollicking read with all the ingredients of a bestseller. (J David Simons, author of An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful and The Land Agent).

My favourite opening line to any novel for a long, long time. And the book gets better and better from that point. (Luca Veste, author of Dead Gone and Bloodstream)

Finished Viral by the fab @FitzHelen. SO glad I said no to 17-yr-old going to Kavos. Gripping, horribly plausible and utterly shocking. (Tammy Cohen Twitter)

“Viral is a compulsive and compelling thriller, topical and emotional in equal measure. FitzGerald has thrown her convincing ordinary family into a terrifying chaos of shame, abuse and revenge. Utterly brilliant.” (Doug Johnstone, author of Hit and Run and The Jump).

Will be the most talked about opening line of 2016 – from Helen Fitzgerald’s latest, VIRAL. (Eva Dolan, author of Long Way Home and Tell no Tales)

‘Fresh and uncompromising, reliably topical and filled with unexpected reversals and twists, Helen Fitzgerald’s VIRAL is the latest gripping and darkly funny novel from one of crime fiction’s most daring and original voices.’ (Chris Ewan, author of Safe House and Dark Tides)

“A compelling tale about the darkest aspects of contemporary humanity told with intelligence and surprising wit.” (Lisa Ballantyne, author of The Guilty One)

A blistering tale of a mother’s revenge – unflinching and utterly compelling. (Louise Millar, author of Accidents Happen and The Hidden Girl)

I loved Helen’s book – it takes this 21st century subject by the balls and shakes it around with controlled yet rollercoaster abandon. In one page-turning thriller, she covers heredity, the internet, shaming, sexism, sibling rivalry and cultural identity. As well as being a rattling, sometimes graphically described tale, it is inherently warm-hearted, on the side of humanity. It has one of the best first lines I have ever read – up there with Anna Karenina – as well as a completely surprising, but beautifully structured ending. As a fifty-something woman, I particularly appreciate the character of Ruth, a 360 degree, complicated, fiery, avenging mother. A rare treat! (Julia Crouch, author of The Long Fall and Cuckoo)

It’s got all the juicy components to keep you hooked: a Magaluf sex tape, a suspicious supporting cast, an angry mother who is also a judge. Read it. (Stylist, ‘One of 2016’s New Gone Girls’)

 

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~ by helenfitzgerald on January 9, 2016.

3 Responses to “How many cocks does it take to sabotage your book sales?”

  1. It’s a great strapline (if that doesn’t sound rude…) A psychiatrist of my acquaintance tried to flog a book called The Grandeur of Delusions to her publisher. The Sales Team came back with: ‘We’re not sure what this means, so nor will any customers.’ Head – desk – etc.

    Like

    • Sales is the No 1 job I never wanted to do. Finding myself in the middle of it, and predictably bad at it.

      Like

  2. Just preordered. Thanks to Russel McLean for the referral. I’ll take swearing and a woman’s POV over torture any day.

    Liked by 1 person

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