Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Visit from Alison Wells - self published author of 'Housewife with a Half-Life'.

Welcome to Alison Wells, and many congratulations on the successful self-publishing of her debut novel, 'Housewife with a Half Life', which has to be the most original and intriguing title I've heard in a long time! I am delighted to have a guest post from Alison, in which she talks honestly about her decision to self-publish. Would that all writers who took this decision went into it in the professional way Alison has! 

Of genre, writer’s identity and self-publishing 'Housewife with a Half-Life'
A.B. Wells.
When I set out to interest publishers in Housewife with a Half-Life one of the sticking points was genre. Was Housewife with a Half-Life science fiction or was it women’s fiction, who would it appeal to? These are reasonable questions for a publisher for whom publishing has to be, first or foremost a business, how will this book sell, how does it relate to previous books that have sold, where physically do we put it on the shelf?
In some ways the decision to go ahead and self-publish Housewife with a Half-Life  as A.B. Wells was, in a way, a desire to remain true to the book as it was and to the writer I wanted to be. (Having said that, I am pursuing traditional publication for my more literary fiction as Alison Wells.)
Dan Holloway’s article Writer, Who are you? has really crystallized my thoughts on the writer’s identity, what may be called voice. As a writer I am preoccupied with certain themes, certain ways of looking at and exploring the world that will permeate all my works. So, while Housewife with a Half-Life is a comic read, my literary novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities explores some of the same themes (a mother’s identity, the tyranny of our choices & our ways of living with or escaping them) in a much more serious tone. 
In genre writing and what is known as literary writing is it true to say then that we explore the same themes but within different conventions and using a different range of conventional objects eg in crime; police procedure, in sci-fi; speculated future technologies, alien species, in literary work; an intense and self-referencing language and story? 
As someone with a Postgraduate qualification in Psychology, I understand that people require schema or models with which they process information, trying to make it fit in order to operate in chaotic reality. But it is also true to say that it is that same tendency that makes humans form biases, make mistakes in their attributions (their explanations for why others do what they do), and why eye witness testimony can be misled by a casual word. (People who hear a reference to a crash rather than a bump will be more likely to say they recall seeing glass at the scene.)  
There is also the question of invention and innovation. Advances are often made, for instance, in the sciences by combining elements and understanding from many fields. As the speed of impressive technological advances quickens, the novel stands still in its 19th century format. Could there possibly be other ways of packaging writing or advertising it? When Amazon, Itunes and Google understand your purchasing profile on a very intimate level, does genre still matter? Will the death of the physical bookshelf be the death of genre?
But as a self-publisher I still need to attract readers. So I ask questions like, is Housewife with a Half-Life  like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but with a housewife in it, Susan Strong instead of Arthur Dent? Or is it Eat, Pray, Love in space as Housewife and mother Susan Strong travels around the universe to ‘find herself’ , re-integrate in time for that troublesome 40th birthday and save the universe. 
Housewife with a Half-Life is about being a human, making choices in life, being a woman, a mother, being a spaceman, lonely and confused in the universe but with a pretty good sense of humour. It’s about good and evil, lies and truth, being there and feeling elsewhere.  
Tania Hershman said:
AB Wells is not only a supremely talented writer but also something of an alchemist. Housewife With a Half Life is wondrously original and imaginative, combining the travails of domesticity with glorious scientific allusions and illusions in a fast-paced and sparkling tale of a wife and mother who discovers she is losing herself, and the stranger from another dimension who turns up as she's cleaning the bathroom to make sure it doesn't happen. A wild ride, this nuclear fusion of a novel is, underneath it all, the story of relationships, of family, of what it means to be a mother, a wife, a woman, and, ultimately, a human being. Move over H.G., A B Wells has written the time-travelling tale for the 21st century! 
Much of the first draft of Housewife was written during the writing challenge NaNoWri Mo and the ideas came quickly as I wrote. It felt almost as if the book was already there and looking back on it I can see that it shares many similarities in style with the television I grew up with, the Goodies, Monty Python and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on the BBC. It shares the same surreal asides and undoing of expectation. Indeed this is all the more possible when you introduce a character for whom this world is alien, except that this comedy of manners occurs with a spaceman rather than a foreign visitor. My book is also influenced by the greatly influenced by surreal literature such as Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. There’s a poem in my book about a Woebegone that reminds me a little bit of the Jabberwocky.
So what of the genre of Housewife with a Half-Life?  It is listed as sci-fi, it has literary passages, it is comic and will appeal to women and geek adventurers. Who’s it for? Everyone who cares about the universe. But perhaps it says more about the writer, about how I see the world, that words are there to be played with and turned on their heads, that in joy there can be a flint of sadness and in disaster there is always a glint of hope, that there are many decent people in the world out of the limelight doing extraordinarily good things, that family and choices are not straightforward but that it’s always good to turn outwards to laughter and fun. If that’s the kind of thing you think about, forget genre, perhaps you’ll enjoy reading Housewife with a Half-Life.
More on the author
Alison Wells is a Psychology and Communication Studies graduate, former HR Manager and Technical Writer. London born, she was raised in Kerry, Ireland, is married and living in Bray, near Dublin and has four children. Her short stories have been published in many anthologies including the Higgs Boson, Eighty Nine, and Voices of Angels and in Crannóg, The View From Here and Metazen among others and she has been shortlisted in the Hennessy Prize for New Irish Writing and for the Bridport and Fish awards. She’s finished a book of short stories and a literary novel and blogs for the Irish website www.writing.ie and on her own blog Head above Water .  She has released Housewife with a Half-Life as A.B. Wells and the book will be launched by Colette Caddle in Hughes & Hughes bookstore in Dundrum, Dublin on June 22nd.
More on Housewife with a Half-Life
Susan Strong is a suburban housewife who is literally disintegrating. When Fairly Dave, a kilt-sporting spaceman arrives through the shower head to warn her, she knows things are serious. When she and her precocious four year old twins, Pluto and Rufus, get sucked through Chilled Foods into another universe it gets even messier. Where household appliances are alive and dangerous, Geezers have Entropy Hoovers and the Spinner's Cataclysmic convertor could rip reality apart, Susan Strong is all that’s holding the world together.
In this madcap, feel-good adventure, Susan and Fairly Dave travel alternate universes to find Susan's many selves, dodge the Geezers and defeat evil memory bankers. From dystopian landscapes and chicken dinners, to Las Vegas and bubble universes, can Susan Strong reintegrate her identity and will it be enough to save us all? The sequel The Meaning of Life is Monday is already underway.

The paperback is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. 
The ebook is also available on Kindle  at Amazon.com  and Amazon.co.uk  

Many congrats again, Alison, and loads of good luck with 'Housewife with a half-Life'.


  1. Fantastic post, Alison and Vanessa. If I hadn't already read the book, I would want to now.

  2. Good post. Love the idea of the 'tyranny of our choices'. I've read the book and it's on my gift list for several friends. Martha

    (Sorry my openid/wp urls are fighting & I keep coming up as anonymous...?)

  3. Increasingly I think such genre defying books are calling out to be self-published - it's wonderful Alison has pulled it off so well.

  4. This is a great post. Thank you Vanessa, and thank you Alison. It's made me really want to get my hands on this book! Briliant.