Every now and then The PINK SOFA is lucky enough to encounter A Real Character. Such is its current guest, writer Seumas Gallacher. He has graced THE SOFA before - leaving a half-drunk bottle of malt and a rather restless haggis behind. Seumas lives and works abroad - a place The Sofa fully intends to visit once the ban on it leaving the UK has been lifted. This is Seumas' account of being an 'ex-pat' author.
Seumas of Arabia… on being an Author in the Middle East.
Seumas of Arabia… on being an Author in the Middle East.
I’ve been asked several times over the past few years what it’s like being a writer based in the Middle East. I never gave it much thought before that question was posed, but I suppose there are some salient things that differentiate a scribbler’s life out here, compared to elsewhere in the world.
At the outset, much of the routine of producing masterpieces for the universal readership consumption is much the same wherever the writer’s den is located.
The need for researching detail; attention to grammatical correctness; knowing your readership market; all of these are constants, plus many others I’m sure you can all think of.
However, closer focus will reveal some variations from the European, Australian or American writer’s lot. I speak only from personal experience on this, and I’d be happy to learn how others situated in different parts of the planet find it.
First off, with my writing, I produce crime thrillers, populated by all manner of international bad guys. By choice, I have elected not to jump on the bandwagon that many others have done, by tagging their villains as ‘Islamic Jihadists’ of all kinds of hue. Living in the Middle East, I count innumerable friends in the Muslim society that I’ve been privileged to live amongst for the past ten years. I choose not to ‘bite the hand that feeds’ even in my scribbling. It has been too easy a soapbox for too many writers, I feel. That said, I suppose I now have to be careful on my travels to Albania, Turkey, Serbia and Lithuania!
I also published hard copies of two of my novels locally and that has required having my galley proofs vetted by the National Media Council in Abu Dhabi. In one of the books, I was asked to ‘tone down’ a couple of paragraphs with an adult bedroom scene. I simply removed the ‘offending’ passage. The result made me realize that I don’t need these passages at all in what are essentially crime and action thrillers.
Another difference entails getting the books onto the shelves here. I visited each head office of the major book distributers and did hand-to-hand combat on pricing, discounts, deliveries and so on. All of it managed personally. I don’t think that would work in the UK.
Following that theme, because the newspapers and magazines are principally local in focus, my name and work is easily broadcast if I so choose. That also leads on readily to invitations to Guest Speak at clubs and associations, with the attendant book signing and sales opportunities.
With the Internet, access to information is at my fingertips. The availability of the social networks is probably the biggest factor in overcoming the geographic distance from potential readers and physical attendance at other author groups. I made a conscious decision when I began this late-in-life immersion in authorship to embrace as far as possible the baffling diaspora that is the Web. I’m glad I did. Without that continual application to building my own platform and connections, I think very little, if any, of the success that I’ve enjoyed to date would have happened.
Despite the credibility that self-publishing has acquired, as a businessman, I am not wont to turn away the opportunity to partner with a good publishing house. After six years of striving to find the right ‘home’ for that, along has come Crooked Cat Publishing, who have contracted to take my Jack Calder series aboard, starting in January 2015.
Had I not been based in the Middle East, I think my chances of garnering an Agent or Publisher may have come along quicker, merely because I know that I would have made the effort to visit addresses and people in the publishing industry in the UK.
Recently I have spent some of my other business time in Bahrain, (I have my own corporate ‘trouble-shooting’ firm) and now shuttle between there and Abu Dhabi. Discussions with the local distributors may see my books in the retail outlets in Bahrain soon. It was an indescribable pleasure to see THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY and VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK on the bestseller shelves at the W.H. Smith shop at Abu Dhabi International Airport, listed at #6 and #11 respectively. When it gets to that level at Heathrow, I’ll let you know!
So, yes, there are differences in being located in the Middle East compared to elsewhere, but somehow, perhaps mistakenly, I feel a tad more in control of my end of the ‘business of writing’. Oh, and the weather’s not too bad either.
Twitter : @seumasgallacher
Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/seumasgallacher
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
...thanks for having me visit the sofa again, m’Lady, a real pleasure ... mwaaah:)ReplyDelete
Hi both, it sounds so glamorous to be writing in Abu Dhabi but, as you say, much of the hard slog of writing is the same wherever it occurs. Interesting that the local censorship has encouraged you to rethink the inclusion of certain scenes. Well they do say that less is more! As for the restless haggis, Carol, I think you need to keep an eye on that. I've heard they bite!ReplyDelete
hi, Rosalind... only the free range haggis is the biting sort.. :):) cheers ;0Delete
This was fascinating, Seumus. A really different perspective on publishing in a specific market. I also found it interesting that the encouragement to 'tone' scenes for local censorship has made you realise you didn't need them anyway. Nice one. I really enjoyed this, Seumus. Thanks for the insights into a different world.ReplyDelete