The final countdown

With only three weeks to go until the launch of Liminal Ink’s second title, I can barely wait. In case you’ve forgotten, Life Is Elsewhere / Burn Your Flags is a novella by Scottish author Iain Maloney, who now lives in Japan, which makes for an interesting zig zag of emails across time zones.

When Paul and I came up with the idea of Liminal Ink we intended it to be a one off to publish my book during lockdown. We loved the community-feel of crowdfunding and enjoyed the alchemy of turning words on a page into books on a bookshelf. What we hadn’t appreciated was that the difficulty would not be in releasing the book but in getting it into the hands of readers: those all important people who turn writers into authors, a subtle but magical transformation.

A little bruised by our dealings with distributors, Paul and I reassessed our thoughts on what Liminal Ink meant to us. We were intrigued by the idea of softening the boundaries between writer and publisher. Of collaboration and exploration. As a musician, Paul was particularly interested in the fact that indie musicians are celebrated, yet indie writers often seem to be regarded as lesser somehow; unable to secure a ‘proper publisher’. Yet it wasn’t always so in music, nor is it always the case with writers. Things evolve. Move on.

At the same time as we were having these conversations, Iain contacted us to ask if we would like to consider his latest novella for publication. No stranger to working with indie publishers, Iain’s writing is eclectic, ranging from haiku to memoir and fiction, his novels roam over a variety of genres. He also shares our enthusiasm for experimentation and was open to approaching publication as a collaboration (and as I mentioned in a previous blog, his novella wowed us).

Over the last six months I’ve taught myself to typeset and Paul’s learned the delights of book design. All decisions have been passed back and forth across continents, and are agreed collectively. Our first Zoom meeting was a wee bit disconcerting, while Paul and I slurped coffee and blinked into the morning, Iain was kicking off his shoes and slipping into his evening gin and tonic. And yet it worked. 

We were intrigued by the idea of softening the boundaries between writer and publisher

For me, the highlight of the process so far has been watching the cover emerge. Paul mocked up several versions. Comments were exchanged, opinions sought. We agreed our favourite, and slowly it morphed into something we all loved. 

There are many sayings to contradict collaborative ways of working – too many cooks and all that – but in this case, the phrase that springs to mind is ‘more than the sum of its parts’. By that I don’t mean the words, they’re all Iain’s and deserving of the commendations he’s had so far; more the experience.

Of course there were challenges, one of the biggest being we all have other commitments, other work, other claims on our time. Some of the stages have taken longer than I or any of us would have liked. As for my attempts to make an e-book, I threw in the towel and enlisted help from another small, indie publisher north of here. 

Overall I’ve loved it. There’s a generosity that comes with this kind of working – a generosity of time, of humour, of experience. Perhaps we got lucky. Perhaps another combination may not have worked so well. Who knows? For now I’m delighted the book is safely at the printers. Soon we’ll have it in our hands. Very soon! And when we do, you’ll be among the first to know.

Life Is Elsewhere / Burn Your Flags by Iain Maloney is released on Thursday 16 September, and I’ll share details of the launch event as soon as they’re finalised.

In the meantime, you can preorder your copy via the Liminal Ink website or through your local bookstore. 

The joy of collaboration

A year ago, Paul and I set up Liminal Ink as an experiment – to publish My Heart’s Content and blur the lines between publisher and author. It’s been a steep learning curve for both of us and we realised we only wanted to coLnsider publishing again as a collaboration, and more importantly, if something wowed us. Well something did! 

We’re excited to announce that Liminal Ink’s next title will be the novella Life Is Elsewhere/Burn Your Flags by Scottish author Iain Maloney.

Iain Maloney, author of Life Is Elsewhere/BurnYour Flags

Originally from up the road in Aberdeen, Iain now lives in Japan and is a seasoned author with four books and a poetry collection under his belt. His most recent book, The Only Gaijin in the Village is a critically acclaimed memoir about his efforts to settle into his new, rural community, including his unusual approach to growing vegetables (at least according to the locals) and a penchant for reading beside an outdoor fire in the snow.

Life Is Elsewhere/Burn Your Flags is also set in Japan, but that’s where the similarity ends. It’s Christmas Day 2020 and at the start of the novella, Cormac is headed for the hills. In the midst of the pandemic, the bar he runs is closed and his marriage to Eri is falling apart. A phone call from his doctor could change everything.

Meantime, Eri has locked herself in the spare room, with too much alcohol and a box of old video tapes. As a teenager in late 1980s Tokyo, Eri documented the rise of a legendary female punk band. In the wake of its demise, she shrugged off her identity and ran. Thanks to an unexpected email she’s about to unearth long-buried memories and confront her past.

A beautiful, brutal meditation on love and death and the death of love … compelling, tense, gorgeously-drawn and perfectly-paced. This seemingly slight novella travels worlds and light years in a few thousand words. Eri and Cormac, and all the things they say and leave unsaid, will stay with you for a long time.

Kirstin Innes, author of Scabby Queen

It’s hard to say what moved me most about Iain’s novella. Eri’s struggles to reconcile her paid up, buttoned down life with the untethered, disordered mayhem of her youth, certainly resonated. Reading it reminded me of the out of control feeling of my younger days; the sensation of being spun round and round, the disorientation, the stumbling, the waiting for the world to right itself before doing it all again. The need for more. For those endless nights of vodka-flavoured freedom. Though in my case those days are recalled without Eri’s accompanying feeling of dissatisfaction and regret.

Cormac’s story is more introspective; measured. A wander rather than a hurtle. It’s the fleeting insights that held me. The playful use of Haiku. The laconic rhythm. I loved the feeling of uncovering new information, as if I’d stumbled across the fact by accident. As a result I no longer see snowmen in my future – it’s snow buddhas from here on in.

The book covers a lot of ground, both geographically and metaphorically, in a relatively small number of words. There’s a kaleidoscopic landscape of snow-covered hills, tight-lipped public schools, the punk scene of downtown Tokyo, bands and temples and squats and a yellow Gibson guitar. 

A raw yet compassionate take on a couple trying to deal with their fears and frustrations, both with themselves and with each other, in the time of Covid.

J. David Simons, author of An Exquisite Sense of the Beautiful

In a previous blog I mentioned that during my MLitt, we were told by a well-known Scottish literary agent that when we were writing we should consider where the book would sit in a bookshop. In other words, to be aware of the boundaries. That’s what I love most of all about Iain’s novella, it could fit into several categories; or none at all! Iain let the story dictate its length and style, unabashed, which for me is its greatest strength. 

Now I’ve got you all excited, here’s what you need to know so you can add it to your bookshelf. 

Life Is Elsewhere / Burn Your Flags is released on Thursday 16 September 2021.

We’re printing a limited run so add the date to your diary to make sure you don’t miss out. Better still, head over to Liminal Ink to pre-order and be among the first to receive a copy.

For more about Iain Maloney, have a look at his website: iainmaloney.com