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In Defense of the Original English-Language Light Novel

As a writer of light novels I not only read them, but I also lurk around on forums dedicated to discussing them. Inevitably, some unassuming, aspiring writer wanders in wanting to either learn how to write an English-language light novel, or for someone to read what they’ve already written and tell them if they are on the right track. That’s when a specific type of light novel aficionado swoops in: “You can’t write a light novel,” they cry. “You’re not Japanese!” Sometimes others will come to encourage them, but usually once one of the naysayers has posted the others flock like vultures to repeat the message of: “You can’t do that; how dare you!”

If you’ve ever been run off a forum in that manner, then received a private message directing you to resources and offering encouragement, then it was most likely from me. Hello!

I see it quite often. I’ve been seeing it since anime and manga started getting popular in the USA, way back when I was in junior high school twenty years ago drawing in what my peers back then called “Japanimation Style”. [Note: Yes, I’m old. Also, the term Japanimation is like nails on a chalkboard to me and it kills me to even write it. I am extremely glad it never caught on.] It irked me then and it irks me now, because it’s such a haughty, purist statement. By that reasoning you can’t write a fairy tale if you’re not European, and don’t you dare put pen to paper on that country song if you’re not from the Midwestern United States! If you press them for a legitimate reason, the only argument they have is, “You’re not Japanese, and if it isn’t in Japanese then it’s not a light novel!”

All translated light novels suddenly cease to be light novels by that logic. So what if you’re not Japanese? So what if you don’t live in Japan? The author of the popular light novel “No Game No Life” was born in Brazil. Despite that he’s published in Japan under the pseudonym Yuu Kamiya. Of course, he’s a rare exception in the Japanese publishing industry–but it proves a point. You don’t have to be Japanese, live in Japan, or write in Japanese to create a light novel.

The base of the matter is this–the light novel is a format. It runs from novella word count range to full novel length. [Averaging roughly 50,000 words] It has a manga-style cover and monochrome illustrations at key points throughout. They are usually long, expansive series with multiple volumes–though one-shots are not unheard of. The target audience is late middle-school to early adulthood. The best equivalent we have for tone and length in the USA are the “Young Adult” or the “New Adult” categories. [The latter being a bridge between Young Adult and Adult literature.] But that doesn’t mean they’re childish–not by a long shot. They can be just as gory, profound, or racy as any other work of fiction!

“Slayers” was one of the first light novel series I had ever heard of. [And Naga is the best!]
I was around for the rise of anime into mainstream culture in the USA. I remember questionable-quality VHS fansubs that you ordered from some Geocities or Angelfire webpage–and if you were fortunate enough to have had a group of friends invested in the same series, you pooled your money to buy multiple tapes, and made everyone copies of them.

If you were lucky, you sent a check and got tapes back. Sometimes you sent a check and someone ran off with your money. It was a crap-shoot.

I remember buying manga in Japanese, then reading a [poorly] translated English script of it side-by-side that I printed out from the internet. I remember when Dark Horse and Mixx [Later re-branded as TokyoPop.] were the only legitimate publishers translating manga into English and bringing it over, even though they took liberties with the dialogue and flipped it to read left-to-right which made the art look weird. Now there are streaming services dedicated to anime, and manga magazines like Shonen Jump have been brought over. Right now light novels are on the cusp of pop culture awareness in the USA, and they are going to explode in popularity soon if history repeats itself. There are two publishers that I know of bringing them over currently, Seven Seas Entertainment and Yen Press. [Viz might be a third, but I can’t find evidence that they have started yet.] Neither of them are accepting manuscripts for English-language light novels.

Yet.

And I say that having seen western animation houses successfully pull off domestic anime [Avatar: The Last Airbender, or RWBY, anyone?] and more and more artists producing popular graphic novels and webcomics in a manga style. Light novels are next, and there are already English-language authors waiting in the wings, slowly building their audiences through web serials and self-publishing.

Write ALL the things!

So, if you’re starting out on your light novel writing journey and have run into one of these people, take heart. If you’re a light novel reader that has run out of things to read, then take a look at the self-publishing sector–there is quite a bit of talent out there if you know where to find it! [Plus, more often than not they participate in Kindle Unlimited, making them free to read if you are a subscriber.]

Those purists are going to get quite a surprise when one day they look at who wrote the light novel they just enjoyed, and find a non-Japanese name on the cover! But until then, all you aspiring authors can do is just keep on keeping on. Keep writing, keep creating–don’t let anyone tell you to do otherwise!

Atlantis: TVC Volume #2 is Now Available!

It’s here, it’s here! It’s release day!

I am absolutely floored that I got it done on time. I didn’t hit my original end of summer deadline, but I did make my fall one, and it feels good. I hope you all enjoy volume #2!

As for me, I’m taking the rest of the holiday season off to rest and spend extra time with my family, then start on volume #3 in the new year. I’ll still post here, so don’t worry about that!

I’m wondering if there is enough time left this month for me to kind of half-assedly participate in NaNoWriMo. [I keep swearing I’ll do it, but I never have time.] Maybe I can do it for real next year…

*coughs* Anyway, I wanted to say thank you all again for your support and patience. An author is nothing without readers, and I truly appreciate all of you. heart

atlantis_volume_2

[Volume two can be found here!]

Second Chances

One of the awesome parts of self-publishing is the ability to manage everything yourself. One of the horrible parts of it is the ability to manage everything yourself. So, you have to own any awful decisions you make.

The original cover of Atlantis: TVC volume #1 was a debacle. I originally made my artwork too small, and since it wasn’t vector it didn’t scale up well. I was in love with the concept of past and future Achine standing back to back and I didn’t want to let it go–nor did I want to start over from scratch. I compromised by scaling up the colors, and re-traced the lineart to be larger in Illustrator. The end result was what I launched the book with. It looked okay from far away, but close up… it was a mess.

When it came time to make the cover for the second volume, I tried to use the same template and the graphic designer part of me revolted. She threw up, then proceeded to mentally beat me until I learned what I had done wrong. I did learn, and I set out to redesign the cover template from the ground up. Once I finished my shiny new template I was forced to admit that the old concept for the first volume not only looked awful, but it was probably hurting sales, and needed to be changed.

Yesterday I rolled out the new cover in anticipation of the release of Atlantis: TVC volume #2 later this month. I have to say, I am really liking both the new template and the new image for the cover. It is leaps and bounds better than the old cover, and will hopefully give a boost to sales since volume two is coming out in a few weeks.

Speaking of which, here is the new volume #1 cover side-by-side with the cover for volume #2. Sneak peek!

If you missed it the first time around, volume #1 is available to read for free if you have a Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime account. If you don’t have either of those, it will be free for everyone for a limited time this weekend! [November 7th – 8th, 2015] You can find it here.