My debut novel “The Travelers” was released by Burst on February 3, 2014. While I am admittedly excited and anxious at the same time, I find myself reflecting on how the novel will be received by readers who lean mainstream, paranormal, or literary. I majored in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing and encountered mentors who were definitely literary-oriented and dismissive, even hostile, to anything that might appeal to a mainstream audience. “The Travelers” is a mainstream novel with a paranormal/fantasy hook. My fictional premise involves a 1947 radio signal from the luxury liner Queen Mary which is intercepted by an extraterrestrial intelligence leading to a North Atlantic encounter between a World War II GI and his British war bride and an otherworldly, desperate mother and her two small children. The couple left Southampton with only each other but arrive in New York as a family.
When my college mentor read the manuscript before I even began querying publishers, he told me that he was very impressed and pleased but in the same breath indicated “I only wish it were more literary.” I expected the response, to be honest, but still am somewhat irritated. Should all readers and writers be admonished because they do not adhere to an elitist viewpoint? My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald but I still admire mainstream, fantasy, and science fiction authors. I personally feel that every reader deserves a means of escape from everyday difficulties and if this means a mainstream work is in order, so be it. Although I was not born at the time of the Kennedy assassination, I read recently that Jacqueline Kennedy told acquaintances that she needed an escape from reality and found it daily on the 60s soap opera Dark Shadows, hardly a high-brow program but hugely popular to this very day. Perhaps academics and the literary elite need to take a cue from the former First Lady and acknowledge that excursions into fantasy is necessary in today’s society.
My characters are realistic people who deal with fantastical situations. Readers, both friends and family as well as strangers, relate that once they reached a critical point at the beginning of the novel, they were unable to stop reading. While quite complimentary, I do wonder if my college mentors would approve. I have come to the point that I no longer condemn myself for my fantasy forays and embrace the fact that a larger part of the population are enjoying my work than they would a strictly literary one. So for all of us authors who write for the masses, kudos! Our work is just as detrimental to satisfying readers as any other form of writing.
Visit www.keithwaynemccoy.com for more information about Keith McCoy and his writing projects.