Monday, June 06, 2005

Thoughts from a one-year veteran

Deadfolk came out a year ago, give or take a day or two. During that time, a lot of things have happened. A lot of things have changed. My novel may not have set the world alight, but it has perhaps found its place in the pantheon of interesting debut novels, somewhere near the remainder bin. But most of all, of course, it has provided me with a few secondary thrills...

1. Readings

For me, most of these have been festivals. For some strange reason, I was able to appear at posh ones like Hay and Bath, and a couple of music festivals like The Big Chill. This is a very, very strange experience. You get treated like you're important, just for a couple of hours. You feel like telling them that they must have made a mistake, that the real guest author is probably wandering around outside somewhere, lost. (And the sad thing is, they're going to agree with you.)

And then the best bit happens - you get to sit down and deface copy after copy of your book (soon to be owned by a valued punter) with your child-like, keyboard-corrupted scrawl.

2. Other authors

I knew one or two published novelists before I became one myself. I kind of held them in awe, of course. (It helped that I liked their books.) But it's only natural that you get to know a few more, once you're amongst their ranks. And the cool bit is that they don't laugh at you and make jokes at your expense anymore, once you're one of them. Instead they confide in you, telling you about all the wild shit that goes on at publishing parties. (I swear, you wouldn't believe...) And then they get all lachrymose and start telling you about their problems, about how they can't seem to reach the heights they once reached, or how this reviewer panned them because of plain old jealousy, or how their wife just doesn't understand that when your sitting quietly like that, staring at the wall, you're working.

3. Walking into shops and seeing your book

I must admit, this was always going to be the big one for me. Go to any town, walk in off the high street, and BANG - there's your baby sitting right there. Trouble is, you have to search high and low to find a bookshop these days. And when (if) you find one, you have to search high and low to find your book in it. And when (IF) you find it (after two hours) there's only one copy. And it's not face-out. It's not even spine-out. It's loose-leaf-out (ie: some fool has put it in the wrong way round).

4. Reviews

Getting great reviews is great. But getting shit reviews? You guessed it.

The best bit about getting a great review is the feeling of being reassured, for the brief moment it takes to read the thing, that you're not some mad, weird, embarrasing excuse for a human being after all, despite what your family and friends tell you.

The best bit about getting a bad review is letting things lie for a few weeks (while your family and friends have a good laugh), then tracking the reviewer down and beating the shit out of him in front of his family and friends.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that the above example of "late night" humour may be open to misinterpretation. Let it be known - I do not assault reviewers. I seek no kind of retribution whatsoever for personal injuries suffered in the name of literary criticism. I am a lover, not a fighter. Etc. (Jesus...)

5. Saving money

Visiting that cheap bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, seeing your beloved, priceless debut on sale there for ONE POUND A COPY, and buying up the lot of them. Bargain.

The cheeky bastards.

6. Getting recognised in the street

"Oh, hello there."
"You're that..."
"You know - the feller..."
"Well, yes."
"Boris Becker."
"Fucking hell, Boris Becker."
"No, you're making a..."
"Blimey, you can talk English better than me. Well done, Boris. See ya."

7. Checking your bloody Amazon ranking

Bloody bloody bloody bloody bloody bloody.

8. Having something to blog about

You think this is something to blog about? This is the act of someone who is awake at 1:00AM on a weekday, waiting for a flipping file to arrive. (Day job. Yes, it's the middle of the night, but... Ah, never mind.) This is the product of sitting here, drinking tea, asking myself "Hmm... what can I blog about?" and not having an answer.

9. Equating the number of blog "comments" you get with literary success

I am a writer, not a blogger.
I am a writer, not a blogger.
I am a writer, not a blogger.
I am a writer, not a blogger.
I am a writer, not a blogger.

10. Looking up at your shelf, in your own home, and seeing your book there

Because at the end of the day, when everything else has gone, that's all you're left with.

(Until the house fire.)


Lynn said...

One of the more memorable moments from my rookie year was a bookstore manager asking me for ID at my second booksigning. He was probably just jealous, though.

Katrina said...

Hey, there's a long list of us that aren't published yet that think you are somebody important, somebody who made it, somebody to look up to and emulate.

Charlie Williams said...

Lynn - I would love that. I'd tell him I don't have any ID, see how he plays it from there.

Katrina - wow, thanks. I really appreciate that. And I can see what you mean. But I wouldn't emulate me. Looking at Lynn's site, she's the one you want to emulate.

Stuart MacBride said...

I once was mistaken for a completely different writer by someone in one bookshop. He wanted to know if I’d sign some stock...

Lynn said...

I thought the guy might want fingerprints, Charlie. I am not a role model, btw, Katrina -- more like a warning sign.

Stuart, I just commented the other day about the striking resemblance between you and Josephine Tey...(ducking)

Anonymous said...

Just picked up on your blog because of Paperback Writer. Very nice. I notice you include my blog but with an out of date name--the new one is Ed Gorman and Friends. I'll be adding your name to my blog list as soon as I figure out how to do it. Good luck with everything. Best Ed Gorman

Demented M said...

Nice post!

I'm with Katrina.

I'm still at the stage of trying to find an agent/pub, meeting with pub and being told 'no, we never find authors at these conventions. However, if we were looking we would want hard sci fi.'

Umm, I write fantasy.


Charlie Williams said...

Ed - I made the change. (I've been looking for that Nightmare Alley for years!)