I was going to enter my soon-to-be-published book As It Is When It Was into a novel writing competition run by Myslexia. But I didn’t, because a novel has to be 40,000 words or over, and mine was a few thousand short. Also it would delay getting the thing self published and I had been working so long getting this story out of my head that a delay was unimaginable. So then I wondered whether it was somehow inadequate, that it wasn’t a proper or complete story? Being under 40,000 words meant it was classified as a novella. I quite liked this term, as it sounds like Nutella, but again I wondered if it was somehow not the work of a successful author (which I would love to be of course). A novella is defined as a long short story with a compact and pointed plot, often with a moral or satirical point. Were there any brilliant writers out there that had produced successful novellas?
One of my favourite books, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, is a neat little slimline paperback which was always perfect for slipping into my bag to read whenever I found a spare few minutes during my day. Apart from being a classic, I would choose it deliberately to be my handbag book on account of its size. So there’s one. Plath was definitely a distinguished author, so writing a novella was nothing to be ashamed of. Then there’s my bath book, La Chamade by Francoise Sagan, dog-eared and water stained, and also the perfect size. In fact her famous Bonjour Tristesse is another novella. As I searched my bookshelves, I realised that most of my faves were all novellas… Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess ♥ Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote ♥ Death In Venice by Thomas Mann ♥ Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck ♥ The Outsider by Albert Camus… And then I realised they had all been made into films too, including The Bell Jar and my two Sagan faves (and I can watch the beautiful Death In Venice over and over again.) In fact, Camus’ The Outsider (changed to The Stranger as a movie) also inspired The Cure’s song Killing An Arab. And The Fall took their name from his other novella, entitled, well, The Fall. I realised that most of my favourite music artists were the ones that reference literature in some way, and most of my favourite movies were based on wonderful books. So actually, writing a novella is pretty cool as it turns out. And it kinda makes sense that my debut fiction book is a novella given my preferences in literature, music and film. And come to think of it, As It Is When It Was would make a great film, especially if Shane Meadows directed it. After all, the soundtrack is already amazing as it is inspired by New Order‘s Power, Corruption & Lies, Low-Life and Brotherhood.