Well Hello! This is my first ever blog. I feel a bit weird about writing it, foisting myself out into the great unknown. Somehow with books, it’s more civilized. By the time my words are written, edited, polished and published I feel a reassuring distance from them. If I happen to see a punter in a bookshop pick up one of my books, then after the initial adrenalin rush, the only panic I feel is because I can’t recall the character’s names or remember how to pitch my novel well. There’s a vague sense of pride, but the words in the book have nothing to do with me anymore. Whereas this…well this is immediate. Scary. There might be…feedback.
As a writer, feedback is a tricky area. Asking for it never turns out as you expect it to. I’ve learnt never, ever to ask someone in a bookshop if they’re going to buy my book. It terrifies them and puts them in a horrible spot. Quite often they refuse to believe that you’re actually the author, as if anyone might pose as an author for fun. People also don’t expect authors to actually talk, as if talking and writing are mutually exclusive. I suppose people assume that female authors ought to be bouffy and dressed in a white power suits and bespectacled and tweedy if they’re a man. The last time I told someone they were holding my novel in their hands, they demanded proof of ID. So I had to get out my bank card, dropping nappy wipes and baby milk in the process. So terribly glam. They didn’t buy my book.
But nevertheless the desire for feedback is undeniably strong. When Come Together came out, Emlyn and I stalked a man in Manchester train station who was reading our book. He remained glued to the pages all through the ticket buying, through the barrier, onto the train. He didn’t stop reading, but he didn’t laugh once. By London, even though he hadn’t looked up from our carefully crafted comedy, we were both despairing and Emlyn refused to let me grill the poor bloke as to why he hadn’t so much as smiled. It was just as well, as it turned out later that he was a critic. He said our book was hilarious. Never trust the critics, I say.
The next time I saw someone reading our book, Emlyn wasn’t on hand to stop me. I marched up to the poor unsuspecting woman on the beach and asked her if she was enjoying the book in her sandy hands. She said that she was, but was quite confused that I’d asked. Again, I guess you don’t expect to see an author in a bikini. When I told her that I’d written that very tome with Emlyn, I turned to introduce him and saw that he’d disappeared into the sea with our daughter and looked as if he was swimming the channel to get away from his embarrassing wife. And this is a man who hates cold water. The woman left the beach almost immediately and I was left standing there, scratching my head.
So I guess you have to be thick-skinned when it comes to feedback. I saw one of my books on a second-hand stall on the beach front the other day. My eldest asked the stall-holder how much it was. He said a pound, but she could have it for fifty pence, as it wasn’t very good!