Writing James Gong: The Big Hit
Publisher: Hybrid Publishers
Distributor: New Holland
Paul Collins has supplied me with a few words talking about his new book James Gong: The Big Hit. I always a guest writer. Over to you, Paul…
I originally got the idea for James Gong: The Big Hit from The Age newspaper. There was an 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 I have a martial artist kid who gets spotted by a talent scout. So a camera crew from Hollywood Productions turns up at training for an episode of My Life, only to see James perform his jumping spinning side kick. They decide to star him in a small budget flick.
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.
And this is where The Age newspaper article comes in. Hollywood Productions is a scam company that basically produces B grade ‘loser’ movies to offset huge tax bills. Hollywood Productions may want to lose money, but underestimates their star. Along the way, James thinks he likes a girl, but alas his affection isn’t reciprocated. He has much to learn about life in a short space of time. I like to think the book has dollops of humour.
The book also contains fragments of my life. I have two black belts in martial arts and was trained in kickboxing by Dana Goodson, then Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion of Australia. I also studied karate and kung fu, but not substantially.
It’s like reading a diary when I glimpse through the book. Lines and scenes actually happened to me. Even hints of my father are in the book. For example, if caught out doing something ‘wrong’, I would say to my father ‘So-and-so does it!’ to which he’d reply, ‘Some people are dragged up, others are brought up. You were brought up.’
James fails at his first attempt at earning his black belt, just as I did. James’ friend, Jay, gives him a cake with icing and a martial arts figurine wearing a black belt to congratulate him after the exam, and that’s what my then girlfriend did. (I couldn’t look at the cake after ‘failing’! lol) As an aside, the only reason I failed (by one lousy point) was because the instructor said I didn’t put effort into my forms. I got everything right. He just didn’t like the way I flew through the exam. And the rest of that story is in the book. I took the exam three months later and came second out of 15 students going for their black belts. I just put power behind everything I did. Even the segment My Life at the beginning happened to me. I was filmed sparring Dana Goodson. I think it was an ABC crew taking snippets of life around Australia.
Little things, perhaps, but I might’ve forgotten these fragments of history had I not written the book decades ago.
People have asked me why I didn’t publish James Gong under the Ford Street imprint. After all, it pre-sold 2000 copies to book clubs, so even before publication date, it has a solid sales record.
Mainly, I don’t like publishing my own books. It smacks of vanity press. So I have to ask myself whether I want money or maintain a reputation. Obviously if I publish my own books I make way more than the 10% royalties I receive from another publisher, but on the other hand, it’s more reputable for an author to be published by someone else.
I have to admit that I didn’t go straight to Hybrid with James Gong. I thought it was solid enough to sell to a major publisher. So I gave it to a literary agent. After several months she told me she’d tried around fifteen publishers but no one was interested.
This confused me somewhat. As the publisher myself, I reckon I know a publishable book when I read one. Still, it’s hard to judge your own work.
I have quite a few contacts among the small presses, so I figured I’d start at the top of my contacts with James Gong. The first publisher I sent it to was Louis de Vries and Anna Blay at Hybrid. Louis had published my first YA novel, Cyberskin, back in 1995. He’d commented some time ago that he’d publish anything of mine. So I kept him to his word and sent him the manuscript. He got back to me two weeks later and said he’d thoroughly enjoyed the book and would take it.
Matt Lin has illustrated every chapter and even created an excellent manga style cover for it.
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 Qld.
My partner, fellow children’s writer, Meredith Costain, has produced a trailer for it. Watch it here. It’s available from all good bookshops and via the publisher’s website and www.paulcollins.com.au.
About the author:
Paul Collins is the author of around 150 books for younger readers and adult. 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. You can follow Paul on Twitter or Facebook.