- GUEST AUTHOR & PUBLISHER -
Today, I'm pleased to present one of Australia's most noted authors, publishers, and characters.
Paul has been short-listed for many awards and has won the Inaugural Peter McNamara, A Bertram Chandler, Aurealis and William Atheling awards. However, he has just published his latest novel, and it’s presented here today.
JAMES GONG: THE BIG HIT
Publisher: Hybrid Publishers
Distributor: New Holland
James Gong is training for his black belt in taekwondo. One night a camera crew from Hollywood Productions turns up at training for an episode of My Life, only to see James at his most ornery aggressiveness. They love James' jumping spinning sidekick, and decide to star him in a small budget flick. Trouble is, Hollywood Productions is a scam company that basically produces B grade ‘loser’ movies to offset huge tax bills.
Meanwhile, James, who likes his sister Caitlin’s best friend, Amber, thinks his sudden film career will curry favour. Not so. If anything, Amber shuns him more so. Hollywood Productions may want to lose money, but underestimates their star.
About the author:
Paul Collins has written many books for younger readers. He is best known for his fantasy and science fiction titles: The Jelindel Chronicles and The Quentaris Chronicles ─ co-edited with Michael Pryor. His trade series The Earthborn was published in America by Tor. Paul has been short-listed for many awards and has won the Inaugural Peter McNamara, A Bertram Chandler, Aurealis and William Atheling awards.
I originally wrote James Gong – The Big Hit as a book for Lothian back in the days when they were publishing a stack of my books. These included six Quentaris Chronicles titles, The Great Ferret Race and The Dog King. I was also co-editing the series with Michael Pryor – we produced about thirty titles all up.
Alas, Lothian was bought out by Transworld and within weeks, Hachette took out Transworld. Although he Quentaris Chronicles held on for six more titles with Hachette, Lothian’s other books were dropped. As an aside, one of them went on to sell to Penguin, so there was an upside!
But not so The Big Hit as it was known as back then. It did the rounds but nobody seemed interested. At that time there was what’s known in the industry as the mid-list implosion. Many publishers were getting rid of those authors who weren’t performing so well sales-wise. It’s getting worse now, as I see some former A-list authors getting published by smaller presses.
But back to James Gong! I originally got that idea from The Age newspaper. There was a big article on the bottom of the harbour schemes whereby businesses would deliberately strip themselves of assets just prior to tax returns thus avoiding tax to the ATO. There’s an article on it here:
So I figured, okay, what say we have a martial artist kid who gets spotted by a talent scout who’s associated with a shonky producer that needs to lose some money on producing a really bad movie to avoid paying tax.
I’ve since learnt that a similar idea was used in The Producers (‘Springtime for Hitler’), but I really did get this idea from The Age. A bit of trivia: I wrote Cyberskin in 1994 and Hybrid published it, and that’s who James Gong – The Big Hit is published by. Anyway, the elevator pitch for Cyberskin might be: Movie star is filmed basically making snuff movies whereby people have to fight to stay alive. The movies are screened worldwide as gladiatorial sport. Sound familiar? The Hunger Games might have the same pitch. But I wrote Cyberskin two decades before Suzanne Collins wrote her series. It happens.
But I’ve digressed again. One of my tips is to never throw out a manuscript. The Beckoning was written even before Cyberskin, and I finally resurrected it and finally sold it to Damnation Books. I took the same line of approach with James Gong.
I can honestly say the lead-time between writing the first draft to when it was actually published was around thirty-five years. I dabbled with it from time to time, added things, deleted scenes, etc. It’s been very much a hobby book, during which time I had other books commissioned by Scholastic and others. One thing most people don’t realise is that often, authors write for specific markets. And The Big Hit didn’t really fit into what people were looking for at the time. Hence it usually took a backseat to books that I had commissioned and knew would sell.
When I finally had the draft I was happy with, I secured an agent who thought it was great. Alas, she had no luck in placing it. She tried about fifteen publishers and gave up.
This worried me somewhat. As the publisher at Ford Street Publishing, I reckon I know a good book when I read one. I hope that doesn’t sound too bigheaded, but I knew there were way worse books being published. Regardless, cutting a long story short, I remember Hybrid telling me that they’d always publish me if I sent them another manuscript. So I tested them and sent James Gong – The Big Hit.
The publisher got back to me some weeks later and said he’d be true to his word and publish the book. He added that quite apart from keeping his word, he actually thought it was a great read.
You can imagine his delight when four book clubs pre-ordered 2000+ copies. When this happens you know the book has legs. Book clubs get offered most of the books being published in the country by the major publishers. So for a small press to get a book taken up by four of them, you have to say the publishers who rejected the book got it wrong. 2000 pre-sales is a good figure to any publisher, big or small.
Re the book itself, it contains parts of my life. I have two black belts in martial arts and was trained in kick-boxing by Dana Goodson, then Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion of Australia. So all of that experience hopefully shines through in the book.
It’s early days, but so far a couple of reviewers have given it ‘Highly recommended’ reviews. Here’s one from a teacher-librarian in Queensland:
My partner, fellow children’s writer, Meredith Costain, has produced a trailer for it. Watch it here:
'James Gong: The Big Hit' is available from all good bookshops and via my own website.
Clancy's comment: Well done, Paul. I hope you sell squillions of this book. Keep up the good work, and stay safe.