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Book of the Week: Keyhole Factory, by William Gillespie


Keyhole FactoryOur current feature is William Gillespie’s new novel, Keyhole Factory, which was just published by Soft Skull Press. Gillespie is the author of several small-press books, an award-winning hypertext novel, and the world’s longest literary palindrome. He was granted an MFA from Brown, where he received one of the first MFAs in Electronic Writing. His work has appeared in American Book Review, Context, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, and the &Now Award Anthology. He is also the founder of Spineless Books, an innovative literary press “with an emphasis on collaborative writing, formal experimentation, and utopian thought.” Gillespie lives in Urbana, Illinois.

It was our great pleasure to recently feature a conversation between Gillespie and one of his earliest writing instructors, Philip Graham, who Gillespie studied with at the University of Illinois in 1990. In that interview, Graham and Gillespie discuss such topics as the mind-warping narrative strategies of the pulp writer Harry Stephen Keeler, story maps, and DIY publishing.

The two also speak about the circuitous route that Keyhole Factory took to reach publication. On this topic, Gillespie says:

I finished the first draft of the manuscript in 2005, then began a long tournament of manuscript tennis with every publisher and agent I knew of who seemed sympathetic to this sort of work. I continued to revise for five more years. Beyond the normal pain of rejection, I began to experience biting frustration at version control. From the beginning I had designed Keyhole Factory as a 6 x 9-inch book, but protocol dictated submitting the manuscript double-spaced on letter-sized paper. In my failed effort to second-guess what editors were looking for, maintaining two different versions of the text—the book I wanted and the manuscript I thought somebody else might want—was laborious, and led to mistakes and lost revisions. So I decided to do what was once considered literary suicide: I published my book in a small run on my own label, Spineless Books. You might call this “vanity publishing,” but to me it was “humility publishing.”

I went all out: a handsome hardback with enclosed fold-out map and CD-ROM. I sent this book to a few more agents; I had nothing to lose, and Keyhole Factory presented itself better as an imposing black hardback than as a sheaf of twelve-point Times New Roman. […] There then followed more rejections, mysterious disappearances into slush piles, but also a smattering of applause from a few unexpected readers who liked it, two good reviews, and a cool award.

I never found an agent, but an agent accidentally found me, and interested the notorious independent Soft Skull, a press who has something most larger houses don’t: character.

We’re happy to announce that we’ll be giving away a copy of Keyhole Factory to three of our Twitter followers. To be eligible for this giveaway (and all future ones), simply click over to Twitter and “follow” us (@fictionwriters).

To all of you who are already fans, thank you!

Links and Resources:

  • Visit the Keyhole Factory Website.
  • Read the rest of Graham’s interview with Gillespie.

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