So for a long time I just wrote books and kept pretty much to myself. I mean, who’s interested in writers, right? We’re just like everyone else, (except of course for being hell of a lot more insecure and self obsessed.)
But no, it seems I was wrong all these years. Apparently the idea of some guy scrunched over in an attic with wearing track pants and ugg boots and scribbling away with the nub of a pencil is not the kind of image that helps sell books.
I get the problem. I’ve always found it hard when I meet people for the first time and they ask me what I do. When I tell them I’m a writer their eyes glaze over. They have one of two reactions; one, they think it’s a euphemism for being unemployed and I’m not not going to be able to buy my round; or two, they think I drive an Aston Martin and I’m going to buy ALL the rounds.
When I say I’m an historical novelist, it gets worse. They check out to see if I have leather patches on the elbows of my jacket and then they ask me if I smoke a pipe. They figure I must be a professor or at least, you know, an intellectual. Like the history teacher they had at school. I think the reality disappoints.
What can I say? I’m none of those things. I shower, shave and get dressed every day, just like everyone else before I go to work. Okay work is just down the hall, so the commute is easy. The office politics is pretty uncomplicated too; the office Christmas party is a bit of a fizzer though. It’s just me holding a Christmas cracker but there’s no one to pull the other end.
There’s an upside and downside to everything.
As for earning a living; I’m still working on the mansion in Cape Cod that I assume Stephen King and John Grisham have. It was enough for me that I paid off a couple of mortgages and kept the kids fed and educated. By the time they both headed off for fame and fortune in London I figured it was probably too late to get out and get a real job.
As for an intellectual: well. I can hear my friends slapping their knees over that one. I don’t think I fit the mould, really. I played contact sports all my life and had an undeserved reputation at one stage as a barfly. Yes, sure I love literature as well – with an absolute passion. I am fascinated both by history and by the telling of stories, the ones I create and other people’s.
But for years I thought: why would anyone be interested in any of that? The mechanics of writing are only intriguing to other writers. Most people don’t want to know about labour pains, they just want to see the baby.
I have lived and loved with passion; but then, so have a lot of other people. That’s why I like writing stories, because people fascinate me endlessly, both past and present.
So what am I going to write a blog about? I asked my agent. Just tell them a bit about yourself, he said, a little gruffly. Get down out of your ivory tower so you’re not so anonymous any more. If they read one of your books, and like it, maybe they’ll want to know a bit more about the bloke who wrote it. Make my job a lot easier.
So here I am. It’s a horrible feeling, like organising a party and wondering if anyone will come. So here I sit with the Jim Beam and the corn chips, feeling like an actor called on to play themselves.
Next week I am going to write my mission statement. My Jerry Maguire moment. Hold on to your hats. And if you’d like to get the blog delivered painlessly every Friday, there’s a clicker thing or some such on the right hand column. Join up! Please. Let’s not all be lonely.