Happy Family

By James Ellis

Sometimes, for one’s own sanity, it’s best to rip up an entire life and start again. The question is: whose life? And who does the ripping?

Fiction | Humour
101% funded
127 supporters
Preparing for print

Publication date: February 2020

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Set in the near future, An Other’s Look is a darkly humorous tale about the filters and frames we use to shield ourselves from reality, and what might happen should we discard them.

Germaine Kiecke was a foundling, an orphan, brought up by the infamous ‘Motherhood’ in a Belgian orphanage. Now she is a successful art academic who defines herself by her profession and prefers to experience the world through art and an augmented reality game called Happy Family.

But when the artist Tom Hannah, the creative force behind Happy Family, moves to Spain, surrounds himself with high walls, three large guard dogs called Harpo, Chico and Groucho, and a runaway who teaches him to think like a tree, his existential melt-down threatens all Germaine holds dear.

She is forced to re-engage with life and travels to Spain to try to make things right. Along the way she meets people who are also, for one reason or another, dependent on Tom’s fictional world to augment their own ‘real’ lives.

An Other’s Look is a working title, and although it is not a sequel, it is related to the novel, The Wrong Story, which was published by Unbound Books in March 2017.

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  • James Ellis avatar

    James Ellis

    James lives near Bath and writes fiction. An Other’s Look is his second novel. The first, The Wrong Story, was published by Unbound in 2017, and he is currently working on his third novel.

    He has had a number of short stories and flash fiction published as well as a travelogue of his journey through Central America. He is a Real Writers prizewinner, a Carers UK prizewinner and highly commended in British Fantasy Society short story awards.

    James also provides a structural and developmental editing service for fiction writers, creative writing mentoring for unpublished writers, and creative writing workshops.

    In the past he has worked as a technical author, a user-experience designer, an information consultant for NGOs and charitable organisations, and as an information and solution designer for an outsourcing and consultancy company.

    He is a graduate of Oxford University's MSt in Creative Writing and spent his placement reading submissions at an Oxford literary agency. He is a member of the Society of Authors and the International Flann O’Brien Society. At their academic conference in Prague he presented his paper: Boundaries between Fiction and Real-life – an area he still finds interesting.

  • A back door opened and a shaft of harsh yellow light fell onto the patio along with a large man. He landed heavily on his knees and there he remained, head down, his long tangled hair and unruly moustache and beard obscuring his face.

    “Ouch,” he said. “Horrible pain.”

    It had been a peaceful scene until then, the quiet time that comes after midnight when there is a spring chill in the air and a pre-dew dampness rising from the grass. Now this man was here, breathing heavily and staring at the paving slabs.

    “Hard,” he said. “Very hard.”

    He stood up, slowly, stiff-legged, tottering to one side as he did so. He was wearing a dressing gown, open and untied with the cord hanging loose. He was naked underneath. He raised and lowered each leg and his knees crackled as cartilage moved where it hadn’t moved before.

    “Restorative,” he said.

    He took a bottle of rum from his dressing gown pocket and drank from it extravagantly, tipping back his head and holding it above his mouth. He held it there for a long time until he belched and said, “Pardonnez moi,” and put the bottle on the ground, placing it exactly in the centre of the paving slab. Then he set off across the lawn heading towards a shrubbery and a ring of woodland beyond.

    His bare feet quickly became wet and he stopped once and knelt on the damp grass as if hoping its coolness would soothe his knees before struggling back to his feet and carrying on. He passed through the shrubbery – tiers of landscaped bushes that had once been tended and nurtured and which now grew wild and uncared for – and entered the prickly, drier, darker area of the woods.

    Silence and stillness returned. The garden was peaceful again and the night settled down to its business. And then two other shapes detached themselves from the shadows. One was a dog, old and threadbare, its eyes hidden behind curls of fur; and the other was a girl, a teenager, who had been sitting on the damp grass away from the light. The dog walked onto the patio and sniffed the rum and knocked the bottle over and waited as if expecting some liquid to drip out. The girl watched him and then made a clicking sound from her back teeth. The dog left the bottle and came over to her.

    She was small and wiry and wore jeans and an old baggy jumper and ruined flip-flops. She swung a knapsack from her back and rummaged through it until she pulled out an object wrapped in a faded towel. It was a large knife. She ran her finger along the blade. “This is why you have to look after things,” she said. “To keep them sharp.” She looked down at the dog. “Come on.” She left the bag on the patio next to the bottle and set off across the lawn, following the path in the grass left by the man.

    Read more...
  • 14th October 2019 Happy Family is being serialised

    Hi - as part of its pre-launch marketing process, Unbound have arranged for Happy Family to be serialised on The Pigeonhole. This is a great way to get reviews and build a buzz before its publication early next year. You can check it out and get early sight of the text here: https://thepigeonhole.com/books/happy-family. If you do, please a leave a review.

    This is both exciting and daunting because…

    27th September 2019 An Other's Look has another title

    Hello - how was your summer? The hottest on record? The wettest? Mine seemed to be the shortest. Nonetheless a lot has happened to 'An Other's Look' since my last update: it's been through two rounds of developmental editing, a full line (copy) edit, and a full proofread.

    Some very nice things have been said about the book along the way - here are a few examples:

    'The novel feels extremely…

    27th September 2019 An Other's Look has another title

    Hello - how was your summer? The hottest on record? The wettest? Mine seemed to be the shortest. Nonetheless a lot has happened to 'An Other's Look' since my last update: it's been through two rounds of developmental editing, a full line (copy) edit, and a full proofread.

    Some very nice things have been said about the book along the way - here are a few examples:

    'The novel feels extremely…

    27th September 2019 An Other's Look has another title

    Hello - how was your summer? The hottest on record? The wettest? Mine seemed to be the shortest. Nonetheless a lot has happened to 'An Other's Look' since my last update: it's been through two rounds of developmental editing, a full line (copy) edit, and a full proofread.

    Some very nice things have been said about the book along the way - here are a few examples:

    'The novel feels extremely…

    25th May 2019 An Other's Look - in production

    Hello - while the reality-pantomime plays out in Westminster, the production of An Other's Look progresses in a smooth and orderly fashion.

    Unbound's production and editorial managers have both been in contact, advising me of the publishing schedule and generally surrounding me with encouragement and support. It's a welcome shock after months of solitary writing to find myself part of a team…

    6th May 2019 Update: the manuscript is with the publisher

    I have just sent the manuscript for An Other's Look to Unbound. I have a few hours left of this Bank Holiday Monday and I think I'll spend it looking at things that aren't words on a screen. I'm very happy with the result, though, and I hope when you finally get to read the book, you will be too.

    There are a few things to happen between now and then, such as a structural edit, a copy-edit, and…

    14th February 2019 Hot off the press - yippee

    Hello - and thank you. I normally spend a lot of time writing and editing these updates but today I'm just blasting it out. We're there. I've just checked the Unbound dashboard and after 356 days the crowdfunding is complete - 101%. An Other's Look will be joining its elder sibling, The Wrong Story, on the bookshelves.

    So, what next? Well, obviously, a lot of my day will be taken up with shouting…

    29th January 2019 An Other's Look - oh, so close!

    It has been a great start to 2019. An Other's Look is now 95.6% funded. 10 more supporters (ish) and we're there. 

    Because we're so close I'm checking the Unbound dashboard several times a day, every day. It gives me a detailed breakdown of progress and also the opportunity to thank new supporters individually which is something I like to do. After all, this book will be published because of your…

    19th December 2018 Only 12% to go...

    Dear kind and generous An Other's Look supporter - only 12% left to raise! I'm going for a big push to get the book fully funded before the end of this year. Here is the new social media graphic that will go on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and so on. I really like it. One of the themes of the novel is how we self-identify by how others see us, particularly in terms of what we do for a living - which…

    1st November 2018 Remember Remember

    With Bonfire Night just around the corner – well, in a few days, I don’t think time goes round corners does it, or does it? Tricky thing time. I remember when I was young the summers seemed – anyway, yes, as I was saying, with Bonfire Night just around the corner and An Other’s Look at 85% and just needing an extra pledge or two, I thought I’d put out this seasonal video.  Hope you like it.

    13th September 2018 Nearly there

    Dear supporters of An Other's Look. We are at 80%. To quote a friend of mine, this is 'totes great'.

    The campaign for seeking pledges has shifted to speaking events. I am giving a talk on crowdfunding at our local preservation trust next week and I'm at the Bristol Literary Festival at the end of October with United Authors, again talking about our books and the joy of crowdfunding. I'm hoping…

    13th June 2018 61%!

    A massive thank you to all 95 supporters of An Other's Look. Because of you we are now at 61%. That seemed an unattainable percentage just a few weeks ago but it's happening. Thanks also for your patience. There's probably a few weeks left to run before we we hit 100% but as soon as we do, the book wil enter the Unbound editing phase preparatory to publication. Yay! Thank you again for your support…

    30th April 2018 An Other's Look trailer #1

    Did you ever see any of those grainy trailers that used to be shown in the cinema? I love them. As the support for An Other's Look has jumped forwards 6% in the last week and a half (which is amazing and very gratifying), I thought I'd start introducing some of the main characters using that retro look. Here's the first one - It's Germaine Kiecke. Let me know what you think, and if it's working, I…

    27th April 2018 #AmBroadcasting

    Dear Patrons of An Other's Look. Frome FM is right behind us! Helen Ottaway, Karen Stewart and Sheila Hedges invited me to their On-Air Book Group at Frome FM and gave me the platform to discuss An Other’s Look and crowdfunding in general – and they gave a big shout-out for where to pledge. They're great. I will definitely be listening to their book group next month.  Thanks to everyone at Frome FM…

    16th April 2018 For you to read

    Dear patrons and supporters of new voices in literature. I'd like to tell you why I’m so excited by An Other's Look that I can override my natural awkwardness and ask people to help me; why I am willing to thump the drum and rattle the cup and toot the whistle for pledges.

    An Other’s Look is my second novel and builds on all that I thought I had learned when writing The Wrong Story. In this book…

    10th April 2018 Frome FM 96.6

    Dear supporters and patrons of An Other's Look. If you can, tune into the Frome FM Book Club (96.6 or http://frome.fm/programmes/talk/on-air-book-group/ online). I will be talking about An Other's Look and how I came to write it.

    Things are going well and support is building - 63 supporters and (as I type) 36% funded. Thank you all very much for your backing. I can't wait for you to read the book…

    29th March 2018 An Other's Look - the journey so far

    Hello patrons and supporters of An Other's Look. If you've already seen this video on FaceBook and Twitter then I do apologise, but I like it so much I thought I'd share it with you.

    https://youtu.be/3Z0YwYNB0HA

    24th March 2018 A watched kettle...

    Dear supporters and patrons of An Other’s Look. We are now a third of the way through the crowdfunding period, with 60 days to go to the deadline of May 23rd. Thank you very much for getting the project this far. But having reached 25% I know that around this time the dreaded first ‘plateau’ puts in an appearance.

    To help get over this I’m broadening my campaign to include contacting bookshops…

    15th March 2018 Three weeks in, ten to go...

    It's three weeks since Unbound began to crowdfund An Other’s Look, which means there are ten weeks to go. The clock started ticking on the 22nd of February and we have until 23rd of May to hit the target. So far, the support has been fantastic: 21% of the target raised; 30 supporters; many more people promising to add their support; lots of posting, retweets, FB sharing and Instagram likes on the…

    26th February 2018 8% and climbing...

    I’m getting good at sums – particularly percentages and averages. Here’s a quick update on how things are going. Four days since the An Other’s Look site went live and I’ve hit 8%. I have 90 days to reach 100%. It’s possible.

    Thank you to those who have already supported the publication and pre-ordered a copy(ies) – it means a lot. I hope you’ll all be at the launch party! I think the reward levels…

    22nd February 2018 Welcome...

    ...to my Unbound site for An Other's Look. The site has gone live and here it is!

    I spent all last year (2017) writing An Other's Look following the Stephen King model: I wrote the first draft as fast as I could, kept it hidden and let it brew. Only after the second draft was complete did I let it out for peer review. And then a third draft before submitting it. (No doubt there will be a few more…

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