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Old 02-23-2009, 04:40 PM   #31
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Thanks for the interest in this! I'd like to answer a few of the queries that have emerged so far.

This book had a very long gestation, and you are not wrong if you think that the England described just before the plague has a somewhat earlier feel than it should. My agent submitted an early draft of the first 15,000 words or so to various publishers; a couple were enthusiastic but didn't think they could make money on it. Times are even tougher for fiction now, so this title has only ever been available as a shareware ebook.

My original intention for the story was to leave the setting open to doubt. There were three possibilities:

1. As described in the final draft.

2. Suter really was the only, and I mean the only, survivor. He has lived alone, in that house by the river, for many years, but now he is sick and dying and the narrative is an hallucination.

3. Suter is a patient in a mental hospital and the whole thing is delusion.

An echo of (2) comes when he is recovering at the end and conflates his room at the rectory with a room in his own house: especially the view from it, including the copper beech. (3) is strongly hinted at in the hospital scene when he is waiting on the stairs. The conflation of the two Helens is part of this too: the man pulled from the river can also be thought of as Suter himself.
Thanks for clarifying about the time frame it was written in

I also found an echo of 3 in when he was recovering at the end. I really did thing for a moment that it was either going to be a dying hallucination, or that he was in a mental hospital. Or, of course, possibly both.

I definitely intend to try your other books on the strength of this one.
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Old 02-23-2009, 05:41 PM   #32
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I too enjoyed the book.

I was initially struck by the similarities with The Stone Arrow. A single survivor living in the wild taking on the village... A completely different time, place and storyline but other then that there were some similarities.

I was raised in a pacifist religion so I found the religious commune credible. The contrast between the group that embraced religion after the devastation and the other group that used religious ceremony and rituals to perform the atrocities was interesting. Both forms of control (IMHO).

I liked the characters. The hero wasn't a superman/Rambo character and despite the planning and traps things go wrong.
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Old 02-23-2009, 06:52 PM   #33
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Thanks for the interest in this! I'd like to answer a few of the queries that have emerged so far.

This book had a very long gestation, and you are not wrong if you think that the England described just before the plague has a somewhat earlier feel than it should. My agent submitted an early draft of the first 15,000 words or so to various publishers; a couple were enthusiastic but didn't think they could make money on it. Times are even tougher for fiction now, so this title has only ever been available as a shareware ebook.

My original intention for the story was to leave the setting open to doubt. There were three possibilities:

1. As described in the final draft.

2. Suter really was the only, and I mean the only, survivor. He has lived alone, in that house by the river, for many years, but now he is sick and dying and the narrative is an hallucination.

3. Suter is a patient in a mental hospital and the whole thing is delusion.

An echo of (2) comes when he is recovering at the end and conflates his room at the rectory with a room in his own house: especially the view from it, including the copper beech. (3) is strongly hinted at in the hospital scene when he is waiting on the stairs. The conflation of the two Helens is part of this too: the man pulled from the river can also be thought of as Suter himself.

In the end I rejected all that as too arty and complicated and just went for the straight narrative, leaving in those few hints and echoes as a way of destabilizing his sanity further.

Suter's obsessive personality would have been the only thing that let him survive alone for so long. Such a man would have gathered absolutely everything and anything he could think of after the plague; his training as a scientist would have made that process even more methodical. His obsession with his former fiancée is a measure of his craziness. After all, what happened between them is nothing unusual or terminally damaging: one just moves on, yet Suter clings to the memory, because it gives him a form of masochistic comfort.

As for the reluctance of the villagers to resist the baddies, that is my view, nowadays, of the English, so much have we been infantilized by the government. Not everyone is like that, of course, but it's the majority reaction. That's why I made Davies a former civil servant. Suter's response to Muriel's report that Bex has confiscated all the weapons -- "Use a brick" -- is completely at odds with attitudes here towards criminals.

One publisher's reader complained that Bex was not evil enough, so in the rewrite I just took my cue from what was in the newspapers -- accounts from Kosovo, Rwanda, Colombia, you name it.

I don't think gasoline or diesel would have become unusable after that period of time, if kept properly sealed. The ammo I don't know about. All the gun stuff came from library books; I know nothing about them myself.

May I also thank those members who have sent me a payment for Refuge? I greatly appreciate your support, but I did waive payment for the purposes of this reading, so please help yourself to another book on the house! Those who didn't mind the violence might like The Penal Colony; those who did should try The Tide Mill.
Huh. I must have no imagination at all. None of the 'intentions' you left open to doubt occured to me at all......I took the book at face value, and never questions Suter's sanity. Living alone for 12 years would make anyone talk to themselves, and act strange around other people as he did.

I don't think most people in countries like USA and England have any clue what real evil is. Kosovo, Rwanda, Columbia, they are just pics on the Tv.

We are so used to the niceties of civilized life, being able to call a cop if we need help, go into a doctors office if we are ill.

No one is going to saw off our heads in front of a camera while we are living to prove a religious point.

No one is going to come thru and massacre our menfolk, murder our babies, and rape the remaining females, ages nothwithstanding.

Not very nice pictures, true, but realistic in parts of the world. And I guess thats what struck me about this book.

Realistic picture of what could be.

Thank you, Mr. Herley. I won't be reading it again, but I won't forget it.
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Old 02-23-2009, 10:22 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Richard Herley View Post
Thanks for the interest in this! I'd like to answer a few of the queries that have emerged so far.

This book had a very long gestation, and you are not wrong if you think that the England described just before the plague has a somewhat earlier feel than it should. My agent submitted an early draft of the first 15,000 words or so to various publishers; a couple were enthusiastic but didn't think they could make money on it. Times are even tougher for fiction now, so this title has only ever been available as a shareware ebook.
[SNIP]
I'll comment on the content of the book after I've ruminated a bit more. But I had to comment on the "publishing" history... If your agent didn't send it to Baen, he/she should. I think this book would be right down their alley!

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Old 02-23-2009, 10:55 PM   #35
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Huh. I must have no imagination at all. None of the 'intentions' you left open to doubt occured to me at all......I took the book at face value, and never questions Suter's sanity. Living alone for 12 years would make anyone talk to themselves, and act strange around other people as he did.
From what I gathered, Suter may have started to go strange after Helen left him and when she died and he thought he was truly alone, that's when he started to talk to himself.
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Old 02-24-2009, 03:26 AM   #36
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Suter's obsessive personality would have been the only thing that let him survive alone for so long. Such a man would have gathered absolutely everything and anything he could think of after the plague; his training as a scientist would have made that process even more methodical. His obsession with his former fiancée is a measure of his craziness. After all, what happened between them is nothing unusual or terminally damaging: one just moves on, yet Suter clings to the memory, because it gives him a form of masochistic comfort.

As for the reluctance of the villagers to resist the baddies, that is my view, nowadays, of the English, so much have we been infantilized by the government. Not everyone is like that, of course, but it's the majority reaction. That's why I made Davies a former civil servant. Suter's response to Muriel's report that Bex has confiscated all the weapons -- "Use a brick" -- is completely at odds with attitudes here towards criminals.

Thanks Richard, for clarifications. I enjoyed this book very much, and it was a fast read, but I did feel like something was missing in the descriptions of the people involved - regarding both their physical and emotional lives. It has been mentioned by others - and I too sometimes had questions about the characters - and wished for a bit more elaboration on the background stories of both the good guy / bad guys - and the neutrals. Your explanations here makes for a real AHA-experience

Even though stories of survivors of doomsday is probably not that original, I haven't personally read many of them. And I was intrigued by the way the book made me think "out of the box" by putting me into this age of near future. I especially liked the descriptions of how the wildlife was claiming nature back. The transition of the vegetation and animals into more of a stone age condition "came to life" in a convincing way, and the story brought me into the right state of mind really fast. All in all, a very good read.
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Old 02-24-2009, 04:06 AM   #37
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I gave up after 2 chapters.
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Old 02-24-2009, 06:23 AM   #38
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I gave up after 2 chapters.
Nothing wrong with that - not every book is to everyone's taste!

What made you give up on it?
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Old 02-24-2009, 12:36 PM   #39
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I gave up after 2 chapters.
You gave up too soon. The book really takes off in chapter 5.

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Old 02-24-2009, 12:53 PM   #40
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I gave up after 2 chapters.
I do understand why you gave up, but, the book is a lot better after that. Give it another go.
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Old 02-24-2009, 02:04 PM   #41
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Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. To answer a few points arising:

Sparrow - thanks for finding those typos. I proof my texts about a hundred times, but some always seem to get through.

radius and lilac_jive - "puissance" was a term introduced by Bex to impress his followers with the strength of his, and their, magic powers. It's a common enough word in old literature about knights and jousting and whatnot.

DixieGal - I hope you like The Tide Mill.

Barcey - yes, there was even a little in-joke: the voles. When Tagart is waiting for deer, he sees a vole being taken by a pike; but Suter's vole is cannier than that.

Xenophon - too late, the book's already in the wild!

Blackvoid - fair enough. That's the nice thing about "pay-if-you-like-it".
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Old 02-24-2009, 03:26 PM   #42
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Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. To answer a few points arising:

Xenophon - too late, the book's already in the wild!
Not necessarily too late. Really. Baen has published in paper books they gave away online first. They've given away books that they published in paper first... Basically, it can't hurt to ask.


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Old 02-24-2009, 04:57 PM   #43
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Basically, it can't hurt to ask.

Xenophon
You're quite right, of course, so I have done just that. Thanks for the advice!

As my mum used to say, in pre-email days, "it's only a stamp" ...
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Old 02-24-2009, 08:52 PM   #44
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I'm going to check out your other books (but too bad, I'm donating!)
Ditto. Though I appreciate the offer for a freebie, I'm feeling guilty. How can £1 be enough? Is that what a writer makes from a hardcover? a paperback?

Feeling guilty because now that it's read I'm missing it. That tells me I loved reading it. Only a few books have made me feel that way.
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Old 02-25-2009, 09:10 AM   #45
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How can £1 be enough? Is that what a writer makes from a hardcover? a paperback?
The average paperback royalty is 7.5% of cover-price, half of which goes to the publisher of the original hardback, if there was one. So the author normally gets 3.75%, less the agent's commission, typically 15% on home sales and 20% on foreign, less VAT on the commission. Thus, from a £6.99 paperback sold in the home market, the author can expect to gross 21.7p. This was the setup when I was being published in paper; these days the author gets even less, because of discounting by supermarkets and big chains.

On hardbacks sold at full cover price, the author typically grosses 10%, so he might get £1.49 from a £17.99 sale; and again, much less on "price received" deals with discounters, book clubs, and so on.

Of course, better selling authors and their agents can negotiate better deals than this, and 15% royalty is common higher up the food-chain. Even so, many, many books have to sell before the author can contemplate writing as a profession.

By the time a £1 payment reaches me from PayPal, I get 76p, which is about half a hardback royalty and 3.6x a paperback royalty; but then the majority of downloaders (something like 98%) do not pay. What the proportion of non-paying, satisfied readers is I don't know. However there is an inbuilt expectation that stuff from the internet should be free; and with books this sense of entitlement is further reinforced by the fact that readers pay nothing to borrow from the public library.

My take on the economics of modern authorship is here:

http://www.richardherley.com/FTCebooks.html

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Feeling guilty because now that it's read I'm missing it. That tells me I loved reading it. Only a few books have made me feel that way.
That is one of the nicest things I have ever been told by a reader --
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