Namisa and its sister island of Pundar are the setting for my new novel, A Traveller’s Guide to Namisa, which is available now on an Amazon site near you. Namisa can be difficult to find on a map and exceedingly problematic to Google, but when readers get there, they will have the time of their lives.
If I were to try to describe A Traveller’s Guide to Namisa, I’d say it is a contemporary, modestly amusing, coming-of-age-for-late-developers kind of novel, set in a world of work for the inadequately qualified.
Had I written about a real country, I would, alas, have been by now declared persona non grata by its government. A very unhelpful literary agent, who shall remain nameless, told me to set my story in a known location so that readers could more easily understand it and identify with it. If I had done this, I would have cancelled out all of the novel’s unique selling points – its whacky invented locations, its Namisan language, and its idiosyncratic customs.
You need to know that I have looked for an agent for my writing since the 1990s. Many publications and many prizes later, I have come up blank. In my lifetime I only ever received one response from an agent and that was in 1995. On that occasion, the person concerned was a very well-known and respected American agent. He had the good grace to write back to this new fiction writer with words of encouragement and guidance. It is due to him that I am still writing today.
Because I believed in this particular novel, I took it forward and published it myself. Literary agents are very valuable if you find a good one. Otherwise, there is absolutely no need for you to go cap-in-hand to someone who doesn’t know the difference between an adverb and an adjective. This, sadly, has been my experience. So very often, the people who are supposed to arbitrate public taste, lack the knowledge or the skills to do so. If you believe in your novel, if you have polished it as well as you can, and then no one replies to your agent queries, publish your novel yourself and move on rapidly to the writing of your next book. There is no overnight success. Don’t spend a lifetime hoping. You could die in the meantime.
My protagonist Philip Blair is an ‘innocent abroad,’ but he learns quickly. Among the issues he has to contend with in his role as Officer of Culture and Education for an NGO in Namisa are the autumn-autumn uprising, Pundexit, cultural appropriation, British imperialism, immigration, racism, the role of women, office politics, and happy-happy hour cocktails.
Writers, if you believe in the book you are writing, then stick with it and make it as good as it can be. Trust your own judgement when agents or publishers tell you that your book won’t sell unless you do X, Y, and Z. They may well be right up to a point, but ultimately you – the author – have to write the book that you need to write.
If you enjoyed Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and if you enjoyed The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, then the likelihood is that you will also enjoy A Traveller’s Guide to Namisa. If not, then you will need to wait for my next novel. Sorry about that!