In a few days time Phoenix Ark are proud to publish The Terror Time Spies by David Clement-Davies. Based loosely on the exploits of The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy, during the French Revolution, it sends a daring band of youngsters to Paris, to confront Terror everywhere. Though intended as the first in a much lighter, entertaining series, it was the book that Sarah Van More had had for nearly two years at Abrams, and would have taken an absurd four years to publish, since signing a contract, if that battle had not happened. There we are.
In the ‘good ol’ days, its publication would have meant lovely things like proper editorial support and dialogue, proof copies, interviews and author’s copies, arriving in brown cardboard boxes, to grace a private bookshelf. The stuff of real life books, that are things and characters in themselves too, not to mention becoming a record of others’ reading joys and histories. All part of those enormously special and intimate things to any author though, made far more intimate by a two year relationship with an Abrams editor, Tara Break, and by a ten year editorial relationship with her colleague. Which was once a source of joy and pride, made all the more tragic in the weird atmosphere of an American firm, of not even being ‘allowed’ to mention it, as if some crime had been committed. But so Phoenix Ark Press was born, and now, because at present they are only to eBook, publishing means, beyond the work of course – creative, editorial and the wonderful cover too, designed by Seb and Julia – the literal press of a button.
The Internet has revolutionised publishing in a way perhaps only comparable to Shakespeare’s day, over four hundred years ago, viz-viz other work here, the creation of The Stationer’s Register in London, that closed only so recently, developing copyright law itself, and, in a sense, the creation of the very idea of ‘the author’. There are many bad things in it, on the Internet too, but many good, like people who did not read hugely, suddenly saying their Kindles or readers had opened entire worlds, and at least it has kept Phoenix Ark alive as a creative voice. It’s massive downside is Amazon’s proud trumpeting of the fact that Borders has declared bankruptcy and the pumping out of work that perhaps should not see the light of day. Perhaps publishing was always rather ruthless, battles of books deeply personal too, and nothing ensures a work’s surival. Perhaps the only thing that really matters is not how we read, but the quality of the stories we are reading, although physical books will never die and we must be very wary indeed of breaking vital human connections. The Terror Time Spies coming soon.