It's been nearly one year since Chaturanga was released. Here's what I've learned during that time.
It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog. Why the interlude? To be honest, I have been wrestling with how to “blog” about a novel. On one hand, Chaturanga is finished – and I don’t want to give away aspects of the story for those who haven’t yet read it. On the other hand, the novel merely cracks the door on the wide diversity of stories that could be told about Central Asia. There’s so much that remains to be learned and written… but perhaps that is material better left for another novel, not a blog.
So, in this post I’ll simply share a few things I've learned over the 10 months since Chaturanga was released.
1. Marketing books is not simple. Shortly after publishing Chaturanga, I began to understand why researching, writing, and publishing a manuscript are just the first steps to “being a novelist.” In fact, there’s a lot more to it than just telling a good story. Getting your book into the hands of reviewers and readers is an entirely different process and skill-set. While I don’t have a background in marketing, I’m learning more every day!
2. Chaturanga remains relevant. World politics seems to be getting crazier and more complicated every day – just take a look at the latest newspaper headlines! How can someone possibly keep up with this avalanche of ever-changing news and events, to say nothing of rampant misinformation and stereotypes? One reason I have long been drawn to geopolitics is its focus on deep-rooted, long-term, fundamental forces: geography and history. These forces are enduring – they continue to affect today’s world politics in ways that haven’t changed much across centuries. Readers of Chaturanga will appreciate how these powerful forces have shaped Central Asia over the past, how they are affecting it today, and what will likely unfold in the coming decades. In contrast to today’s sensational and dramatic news stories, Chaturanga takes the “long view” towards world politics.
3. Today’s young readers still desire wholesome adventure fiction. Surprisingly, not every middle or high school student is drawn to dark, apocalyptic, supernatural, romance, or classical literature novels. In fact, at a recent book fair, I was encouraged by the number of students (mostly boys) who shared with me their frustrations at having to read books they don’t enjoy or can’t relate to – either because their teachers make them, or because they can’t find any good alternatives. Boys will be boys – and there’s nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned adventure yarn. They are still my favorite kind of books!
4. Parents appreciate “clean” entertainment for their kids. Back when I was a teacher, I heard parents’ concerns about what their children were reading. On many occasions, a mom or dad would ask my recommendations for books without profanity, violence, and adult themes. But it wasn’t until I became a parent that I fully appreciated their concerns. As a father, I am surprised and disappointed by the inappropriate adult themes woven throughout children’s and young adult books, shows, and movies. While some kids have the intellectual abilities to understand advanced subject matter, they may not have the emotional maturity to process the other material. It’s nice to know there are many other parents who want wholesome reads that share positive, age appropriate messages.
5. You never get it wrong, and you never get it done. I completed Chaturanga over the course of 13 months – that includes time spent developing the idea, researching and writing the manuscript, designing the cover, and editing and publication. For this, I am proud – there are gazillions of unfinished manuscripts in this world, and any author will attest to the accomplishment of simply finishing one. That said, Chaturanga is far from being a “perfect” book. There are plenty of details I would change, add, or plain leave out if I had to do it all again. But I’m not going to do it all again. Instead, I’m going to work on my next book – while trying to keep in mind that you never get it wrong, and you never get it done. There is no one, perfect story – there’s just life. And life is simply the story that you decide to tell. – Andrew C. Katen