Last month I made the decision to accept self-published work as well as books via traditional publishers. I did this because of the slush reading I have done for Angry Robot - I've discovered that there are many GOOD works going unpublished, and thought that it would be a good idea to highlight self-published works since these authors do not have the marketing machines behind them that published authors do.
Pauline Barclay was the first author to contact me once I had made this decision, and offered up her novel Sometimes it Happens.
In Sometimes it Happens we're introduced to the Villas Bonitas as we meet Doreen Wilkinson. Doreen is a true rags to riches story - a council estate girl, a single mother, living on the breadline; someone who suddenly wins millions on the lottery and has to adjust to her new-found wealth. The Villas Bonitas are also home to a number of other characters, who we gradually come to know over the course of the novel. These characters range from the sweet, to the downright horrible, and all have a story of their own.
Pauline Barclay's prose is exuberant and has a real sense of fun. She sets the scene with a holiday atmosphere, and I could almost feel the sun lounger under my back and the drink in my hand as I read this story.
In Sometimes it Happens Barclay also takes some time to examine the different ways in which money might affect a person, especially someone who has previously had nothing. It was great to see Doreen remaining true to her roots, but I also appreciated the idea that winning the lottery would not instantly make a person's life full of happiness and serene.
Barclay's characterisation is also pretty good. There are some very well-defined characters here, and I never had any problems telling them apart, which can happen at times when you have a large cast of people within a novel.
On the self-published side of things, I felt that the text was perfectly readable. There were some errors and Barclay made a habit of using commas a little flagrantly, which sometimes caused sentences to read oddly, but I didn't stumble too often.
The most difficult part of the novel for me, and the part that I felt let Barclay down, was the dialogue. She was determined to retain the down to earth nature of Doreen, but unfortunately it led to some clumsy speech that interrupted the otherwise relatively smooth prose: "Gawd gel, you don't fink I'm old do yer? I ain't no spring chicken I grant, but I ain't no gerry-attic eever." Perfectly understandable, but a little difficult to read.
Altogether, I'm pleased that my first foray into self-published works was a success. I was entertained by the story of Doreen Wilkinson, and would recommend this as an easy read on a summer's afternoon.