These days, writers are advised to know their audience.
Not what they feel they need to express, mind you, but who they might connect with to sell the story.
It’s always bothered me. Sounds too much like pandering.
Still, with news stories back when I was a newspaper editor, we could begin by the places where they lived. Where they worked or sent their kids to school, too. Voted. Paid their taxes. And then work out from there. You could never go wrong with pictures of dogs or children.
Advertisers think in terms of demographics. They might want something like unmarried females age 22½ and then look for a radio station whose programming hits that market.
But books? It gets trickier.
When it comes to my novels, maybe I can define it this way:
New adults trying to get their act together and want inspiration.
People curious about the hippie era and want to be amused by it.
People who were part of a counterculture and want perspective.
This still isn’t quite not where I’d like to be but maybe coming closer.
In fact, Cassia in my novel What’s Left seems to speak for those I hope she can reach out to.
Just look at the topics percolating in Yoga Bootcamp.
Here are ten:
The origins of yoga as a popular American practice.
Yoga as a way of life. It’s much more than a means of physical fitness.
Back-to-the-earth lifestyles. There’s a lot of basics to learn from a hands-on perspective when it comes to gardening, firewood, well water, construction, and the like.
Sharing a household. It’s another way the resident yogis come to know each other deeply. That includes faults and failures despite individuals’ idealized professions. Their goal, of course, is to help each one become a better person. You can’t do this part alone.
Authentic identities. There’s no room for holier-than-thou facades in this maverick laboratory. Swami’s faults are front and center.
Meditation and selfless service. These are emphasized more than the physical exercises, for good reason.
Celibacy and sex. It’s a struggle to stay focused on the spiritual path. Just look at all the males in their bramacharies.
Vegetarian as more than a diet. They also garden and make their own bread. And then there’s the coffee, which other ashrams would ban. Oh, yes, and they fast every Monday. Care to know why?
No recreational drugs, no radio, no TV. The ashram is a place for detoxing from addictions of all kinds.
Counterculture identity. The story is set in the high hippie era, and despite their prohibitions on sex and drugs and the like, the residents are more counterculture than ever in their lives. They’re seen on its cutting edge, in fact. It’s a curious paradox, in its own way, but it is colorful and exciting.
My newest novel takes place in a Yoga Bootcamp. It’s run by an unorthodox American swami who’s also known as Elvis or Big Pumpkin, for good reasons. His followers think he’s divine, and they’re out to spread the word as yoga itself is first becoming popular across the nation.
Each of them has moved to his farm to intensify their practice. What they find has as much to do with cleaning toilets or weeding the garden as does standing on their heads in exercise class. Even a single day can embrace eternity as well as a cosmic sense of humor.
Mysticism? It’s largely quite down-to-earth, as you’ll see.
The novel is being published and released today at Smashwords.com. And that certainly has me levitating.
In the expansion of the family restaurant in my novel, What’s Left, her father proposes an office for her uncle Barney that includes a wall-length bookshelf for his cookbooks.
At this point, of course, I could have been led to page after page of a bibliography! My wife would have Anthony Pellegrini’s pioneering volumes right up there. And I’d go for Julia Child, not that I’ve ever followed one of her recipes to a T. I just love her descriptions.
Now let me ask, what food books would you put on Barney’s shelves? And why?
In my novel, the family restaurant could have been like this.
In addition to my own novels and a poetry collection, my page at Jnana Hodson at Smashwords includes brief reviews of other books by authors touching on many of the themes in my own work. Some of their works are really fine reading – and some of them are even free.