October 25th, 2013
Now, I know this sounds ridiculous, but I used to think once I was published the A for Author would be permanently emblazoned on my chest (a reverse Scarlet Letter – denoting pride rather than shame) and life would be different because of it.
Here’s the truth: very little changes. The dishes still pile up in the sink, the dog still needs walking, the children their hair brushed/lunches made/fights broken up and none of them think I am any different now that I am an author. Okay, well, the kids are thrilled about the fact that “mummy wrote a book” and they fought to hold it the first time they saw it in a bookstore. But then they spotted the children’s section and pulled me away, asking for a real book – one with pictures in it.
It is impossible not to worry that What Was Left will go unnoticed. I search for it in every bookstore I go into. I have been known to ask why the bookstore isn’t carrying it, like the most annoying author on the planet. I have looked at all of the reviews – good and bad – in newspapers, journals, on Goodreads and Amazon. I have Googled the title to see what appears first. I have Googled myself to see if the title comes up. And yes, all of this does detract from precious writing time. But I can’t help myself. I don’t know how authors don’t read reviews of their book – I understand why but I don’t know how their will is that strong. Is there a pill I can take that delivers that degree of self control?
As for friends, family and acquaintances – they have been (mostly) very supportive. Champagne, hugs and kind words aplenty. My mother did give me four out of five stars on Goodreads, but she’s never been one to sugar-coat things. And then I get asked the same question, a lot. How is it selling? Honestly, I have no idea. I’m not out there selling copies personally, so I just don’t know. I won’t until I get my first royalties statement.
The best surprise has been how many people are still readers. People who, in spite of smart phones and blogs and Twitter and Instagram and TV on demand still devour actual books and share them with friends and talk about them. I have been delighted by friends of friends and total strangers approaching me and talking to me about my book. I realise that this is the purpose of publishing in the first place, this shared experience. What Was Left becomes about the readers, the experience they bring to it, it is their book now. That scarlet A was never real, it was in my head. And now What Was Left is a part of its readers, just as The Scarlet Letter and every book I have read is a part of me.