Between the Voice and the Echo

A Novel


Posted by William Bain on June 2, 2009

Switchgrass Books has graciously offered to publish Between the Voice and the Echo in the spring of 2010. They have made a lot of great suggestions for revision and seem very excited about releasing the book.

Switchgrass is small and new. They are an imprint of Northern Illinois University which has a strong catalogue of nonfiction. NIU is expanding into fiction and Switchgrass focuses on writers from (or who write about) the Midwest. I’m excited to be part of a new press. Although they are small and new, I think they have a lot of energy to go out and make a name for themselves. As they work to get exposure for my book, it’s my hope that I can generate a lot of interest in Switchgrass.

This fall, Switchgrass will release its first two novels. My novel will appear in their second release, spring of 2010. Their plan is to release two novels per season (4 per year).


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ABNA and Publisher’s Weekly

Posted by William Bain on April 23, 2009

My Publisher’s Weekly reviewer describes my novel’s world as “macabre” and “disturbing.” The reviewer also says that I “[render] its illusory world intriguingly enough to entice the reader to try to keep up” and closes with “It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this novel has cult potential.”

Boo Yah!!

But I’m out of the contest. No semi-final round for me.


I can’t pretend to know how the decision for the contest was made. I thought I had a pretty good shot at the semi-finals, but the novel is strange. And the PW review doesn’t dispel that particular quality. When I read the review, a few days after learning I wasn’t in the contest anymore, I laughed. I liked the review. I still do. But I have a hard time believing that the words “cult potential” are the ones that Amazon and Penguin publishers want to hear.

The review and the fact that I was eliminated from the contest echoes a chorus I’ve heard from several agents:

“Your writing is great. I can’t sell it.”

I’ll keep sending it out. I’ve another book in the works. Can’t sit still.

If you know an agent or a publisher looking for something with cult potential and an ” impressive unity of vision” gimme a shout.

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Publisher’s Weekly Review

Posted by William Bain on April 23, 2009

This multi-pronged novel weaves several stories together in a fashion that makes it difficult to determine what and whose reality is actually real, but nevertheless renders its illusory world intriguingly enough to entice the reader to try to keep up. Wabash, Ind., college student and library employee Chance Bresheare is intrigued when Gilley West presents him with her library card, which was issued in 1936. August LeVey is a private eye with no shadow and no reflection, which makes him appear two-dimensional. Dan Turner, a fictional Pulp detective, assumes an unwelcome reality in LeVey’s presence. Gilley lives alone in a remote farmhouse, alone except for the echoes, shadows and reflections which attend her. Here mirrors aren’t merely reflective surfaces, but (for some) are portals between two planes of reality. Likewise, the concept of shadows — the novel does begin, after all, on Groundhog’s day — is tweaked: shadows have lives of their own that impinge directly on the lives of the three (living) inhabitants of Gilley’s house. The author’s created a macabre and disturbing world where traditional concepts of reality, space and time don’t apply, bending abstract concepts in weird ways but with an impressive unity of vision. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this novel has cult potential.

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Enemy Mine

Posted by William Bain on March 24, 2009

ABNA contestants square off...

ABNA contestants square off...

Two more cool people to check out in the Amazon contest.

Scott McFadden and I graduated from Wabash (Scott a few years ahead of me) and his novel, The Lover’s Tree, is also a quarter finalist in the ABNA contest. Check it out here:

In case you are wondering, he’s Dennis Quaid.

Alexis Wiggins, a fellow UNO grad, is also in the running. Her excerpt, Looker, is in General Literature. Check it out here:

Alexis is not pictured above. I’m willing to bet that while Scott and I argue over who gets to be Dennis Quaid and who gets to be Louis Gosset, Jr., Alexis is quietly attending to the adult conversation in some other room.

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Through Black Spruce

Posted by William Bain on March 22, 2009

Joseph's newest novel...

Joseph's newest novel...

Joseph’s latest novel has been released in the States. I got it yesterday and immediately sacrificed a good deal of sleep in its company. This image is from the Canadian release. I like it better than the US cover. maybe that goes without saying.

I will go on the record as saying that both Boydens, Amanda and Joseph, have had brilliant books marred by questionable covers. Amanda’s Babylon Rolling had a gorgeous cover that got rejected for the US release. I wish I could show you a side-by-side comparison with the one she got. Mind boggling.

I don’t hate the US cover of Through Black Spruce, but it seems weaker than the Canadian. This happened with Joseph’s first novel. The Canadian cover captured the beauty and mystery of the story while the American cover made it look like a History Channel documentary of trench warfare.

Me? I guess I just want my own cover about which to complain.

Check out both Joseph and Amanda Boyden. They are great writers and wonderful people.

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Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Posted by William Bain on March 22, 2009

Between the Voice and the Echo in the ABNA contest!

Quarter Finals have started! There are 500 hopeful quarter-finalists in this year’s ABNA contest and “Between the Voice and the Echo” is in the mix. There’s a lot of great writing in all the categories. I wish I wasn’t such a slow reader and horrible typist.

Check out my excerpt at and leave a review. Let me know what you think.

more posts to come…

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Shadow Art: Michael Neff

Posted by William Bain on December 17, 2008


Check out this series of photographs by Michael Neff. The combination of chalk and shadow is fascinating.

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Shadow Art

Posted by William Bain on November 28, 2008

I couldn’t stop staring at these pictures.

Dirty White Trash [With Gulls] 1998The shadows that inhabit Gilley’s farm take the shape of objects and humans and nightmare creatures, but I always imagined that if there was an object or entity that was throwing the shadows, it would look a lot like the sculptures by these artists.

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The Hollow Men

Posted by William Bain on November 27, 2008

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

I am fascinated with the intersection of things, and the naming of those moments. I am especially drawn to the things to which we give names and yet they aren’t things at all. Not in their own right. But we have named them, and in doing so, we have given phenomena like shadows and echoes and reflections the semblance of a body and soul. We often think of shadows and reflections and echoes as distinct entities– separate from their source– and once we do that, it not such a big jump to think that maybe they can have their own agendas.

They all require a source and a surface. The reflection is the interaction of light as it strikes first the surface of your skin and then the silvered glass. The voice projects the sound but it must strike something and return to become an echo. And a shadow is an absence that borrows its shape from an object that blocks the light, the surface upon which the light doesn’t fall, and the angular relationship between the surface and the object.

I hated Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” in college, but as I wrote about characters without shadows or reflections, I came across the poem and those lines at the top of my post. I wanted to do with a novel what Eliot did with those two lines. I wanted to give more than a name to the shadows and the echoes and the reflections.

I’m sure my students hate a lot of what we read now, just because I require them to study it. Maybe they will return to Othello and A Clockwork Orange and “The Night of the Curlews” in the way that I returned to “The Hollow Men.” In their own time. With their own characters and nagging questions.

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