In Chapter 4 of my book promotion handbook for indie authors, Sell Your Books!, I wrote: “As a reader, don’t you feel more of a bond with an author who comes from your home town or county?… Wouldn’t you be more likely to read their books?”
I can vouch personally for the lure of the local author, having just read a book that I bought solely because my local bookshop, the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, promoted it. And the reason the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop promoted it was because it had been written by a local school teacher.
This book was White Mountain by Sophie E Tallis. My curiosity was enough to persuade me to venture way outside my comfort zone. This book is an epic fantasy – a genre that I never, ever read. Given my irrational aversion also to characters with peculiar names, I was not expecting to enjoy reading about the adventures of Marval Agyk and Wendya travelling to places that require the use of foreign alphabets to spell them out.
However, I took the plunge and was glad I did. The book was full of lovely surprises. First of all, I was drawn in from the very beginning by well-developed, interesting characters. This is a book that really hits the ground running, and I found myself soon swept up and flying, along with Mr Agyk, on the back of a very agreeable dragon.
The second surprise: in contrast to the stark, monochrome cover, which leapt out of the colourful window display in the bookshop, the story was written with vivid, painterly detail. (I found out later that the author is a keen artist – so not quite such a surprise, in hindsight.)
Throughout, I had the feeling of being immersed in a three-dimensional, multi-sensory world, with endless rich adjectives bringing alive not just the sight and sound of the action but the smell, touch and taste of the landscape (not quite such a good thing for the squeamish in the battle scenes!) I had a strong sense of there being a back-story, as if the tale had been maturing in the author’s imagination for a very long time. This impression added depth and conviction to the adventure, which galloped along at an exciting pace right to the cliffhanger ending – a clever set-up for the planned sequel(s). With such likeable characters at the heart of the book, it’s good to know the story is to be continued. If this book evoked such an enthusiastic response in unadventurous old me, just think what avid fantasy fans would make of it! (It’s suitable for young and old, by the way – anything from 10 years up.)
White Mountain is published by a very small independent press enchantingly called Safkhet Publishing, named after the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, books and libraries. What’s not to love about Safkhet?! The publisher is clearly confident in the author’s potential global appeal, having prepared this edition for the American market (so grit your teeth if you’re unhappy with it being a colorful story rather than a colourful one). Well done to Safkhet for taking a punt on this original writer; I’m sure their faith will be rewarded by a big fan base in time. Meanwhile, the energetic Sophie is doing a great job working the local media and marketplace, as well as setting up booksigning events in bookshops far and wide. And that’s before she’s even read my book…
With many thanks to the far-sighted Yellow-Lighted Bookshop for luring me into Sophie E Tallis’s fantasy world. Please support the independent book trade by ordering from your local bookshop – but if you’re not lucky enough to have a local bookshop near you (use them or lose them!), you can order White Mountain online here and Sell Your Books! here.