Have you ever eaten foreign food in a foreign land and had your mind blown? Ironically, I had an online conversation with this next author about just that; I swear it’s relevant so just bear with me. I was a pudgy kid in my early teens and takeout Chinese was one of my favorites. Sesame chicken and Mongolian Beef were my favorites, but then again, aren’t they everyone’s? I’d dive into those odd little foldable paper boxes with a vengeance and gorge on MSG enhanced food, and just like the stereotype suggests, I’d want more of the sticky sweet soy in a matter of hours.
I was fourteen when my mother took me for a month long trip into Taiwan. As it turns out, the Chinese have a completely different notion of what Chinese food should be. I ordered Mongolian Beef and instead of the bastardized version I’d get back in the states, I received a plate full of perfectly seared vegetables resting in a mild broth with a single piece of beef centered in the plate like an island of culinary perfection. I guess this was my first exposure to the idea that Americans probably shouldn’t make everything American. There are plenty of things I love about our pop culture but our tendency to homogenize everything, to push it through a funnel and make it more palatable, isn’t one of them.
I’ve decided to stick with the theme I started in Part One of this little delve into self publishing and examine exactly how it is that this ability to put our own work out into the market without the intervention of a third party is changing the literary universe. In this second installment, I’ll talk about an author that has written a story that feels genuine in its English setting that would’ve most likely been diluted had it been published by a third party. I hope you enjoy.
Part Two – Jessica Sturman-Coombs
I met Jessica Sturman-Coombs on Twitter and I’ll have to admit that it was her cover image that initially made me click “follow” (@JessSturman). The simplicity of the black on white portrait with the embellished font seemed inviting. And I know it’s a stretch to say that I “met” someone on twitter, but let’s face it; this whole “social media” thing is probably the best thing to happen to indie authors since the laptop. Anyway, Jessica was affable and her book was decently priced so I also clicked “buy” on my Kindle (which I’m absolutely addicted to).
I didn’t really know what to expect because her book, Poker Face, isn’t what I’d usually buy but I was pleasantly surprised. It was the genuine prose that first captivated me. The feel of it simply felt British; it was like she typed with an accent. Thus the food analogy I made earlier. I remember thinking that the Harry Potter books were a comfortable read when I finally gave in and picked up the first one but Rowling uses her British slang sparingly even though her books are set in the UK and based on UK characters. She sparingly uses a British feel in her prose like a garnish as opposed to salting it in everywhere. I’m sure she did it intentionally; her book was written for children in a global market so too much of a good thing might alienate the average reader, right? Or maybe Scholastic Press, her publisher, pressured Rowling to filter out a bit of the British feel to make her work a bit more palatable (I don’t know; this is just speculation). After reading Poker Face, I’d say that such a paradigm is a fallacy. Ever since I went to Taiwan, I want my Chinese food to taste Chinese. And ever since reading Poker Face, I want my foreign books to feel foreign. Subtitles are part of the experience associated with foreign films, right? I don’t want to be one of those viewers that demands poor voiceovers for foreign works of art. I guess that’s why I enjoyed Jessica’s style of writing and the dialect between her characters. Since she was free to self-publish Poker Face sans the pressure to dilute her style for a global market, we’ve been treated with a story set in the UK with a palpable UK essence.
Lastly, I hope I’m not taking anything away from Poker Face by focusing on the British feel. Even without the novelty associated with Jessica’s foreign style, Poker Face is a fun read. Jessica has written a wonderful story centered on an even better character in Ruby Palmer. She’s brash and temperamental and flawed and comes across as an actual human being instead of a cliché following character, and that’s a must for any book I plan on taking seriously.
Poker Face is available via Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Poker-Face-ebook/dp/B00655U9XC
If you’re the type of reader that demands the feel of paper on your fingers, you can go to Jessica’s website for ordering information here: http://jesssturman.wix.com/jess-sturman-coombs
Sixteen year old Ruby Palmer is hot, feisty and out of control. She’s also about to walk into the most dangerous and frightening job imaginable; trainee office junior.
Her inability to type and her very bad attitude keep her moving around the firm like a hot potato and eventually she finds herself under the strict rule of Mr. Alessi – senior partner and successful criminal lawyer. Ruby soon discovers that Mr. Alessi isn’t quite what he seems when she accidently meets two of his very private clients. They come in through the backdoor, out of office hours believing the building to be empty, but Ruby is still there and now she’s seen too much.
All the worst kind of people think Mr. Alessi just employed himself an easy target. They intend to bully Ruby into retrieving an incriminating appeal file hidden somewhere in Mr. Alessi’s building. What they don’t realize is that Ruby isn’t one to bow down to intimidation or pressure.
She’s quick, she’s clever and she’s about to give them ALL a deadly run for their money.