Of course, none of the nice writer-chums who encouraged me to write the dratted book and to get it published TOLD me that I would feel all of the above.
Why didn’t they explain to me that every time I meet someone who has read the damned thing, I would feel just a tad bit unnerved?
Oh sure, I had all of the “prepare to steel yourself – or just don’t read the book reviews” side of things. Plus the “you might get a bit of jealousy.” Also “your more paranoid friends might avoid you and fret that you’ll write about the time they had it away with the really ugly lad from the tyre shop.” And I even received a bit of sage advice along the lines of “don’t give your heroine the same hair colour as yourself or they’ll all think you’ve been at it with someone in local government. And that you wish your husband would kick the bucket in a freak motorbike accident” (wise titbits which readers of the book will know that I duly ignored…)
But the lack of helpful guidance on what to do with the E factor (EMBARRASSMENT) has been utterly appalling. I feel as sold down the river by my writer friends on this little one, as I do by the older generation who told me that having kids was “hard work, but rewarding” (i.e. about as helpful as giving someone a jar of Marmite who has never tasted it before and telling them that it tastes like chocolate spread.)
Yeah. Every time someone – whether a good pal from old times – or a random stranger says ‘Hey – I’ve read your book!’ I just want the earth to open up and swallow me. What DO you say to someone who tells you this? Because publishing fiction is a little bit like … Well. I’m supposed to say something along the lines of ‘exposing the dark edges of one’s soul – of laying out for the masses the very depths of one’s being.’ But that just sounds a little bit too up-itself for me. So I shall have to use a knicker-analogy. It’s a little bit like showing someone your knickers. Or perhaps… your entire knicker drawer (the good, the bad and the very dodgy looking ones that you should have binned years ago.)
Bit of a conversation stopper. For me, at any rate (although a certain sister in law of mine will tell you that I have no problem in flashing my knickers at people. But that was when I was 15, dear!)
So I get wound up about chatting to people about my book.
I’ve tried the simple “Oh, thank you!” (makes me feel like grovel-bag of the century, makes them feel like that have to follow it up with “No – it was really good!”) I’ve also used the “Really? Who was your favourite character then?” (makes them panic as they feel they have to remember all of the names. Or induces guilt – that they’ve fibbed about how much of the book they’ve actually read.) And I’ve done the “Great! Will you do me a review on Amazon or Good Reads then?” (makes me feel like a mercenary scumbag and makes them fret that they have to give it pretend to like it, when they thought that it was a bit bobbins.)
So all that I’m left with is the flippant “Blimey. You must have been bored with your life recently, in order to get through all of that.” (And not everyone shares my sense of humour.) Or the shoving of hands over my ears and bursting forth with a song. I find that old Black Lace tracks such as ‘The Conga’ are the best for blocking out any further responses from people. But quite frankly, reacting to people with dreadful 80’s pop makes me come across as a little bit eccentric.
So, if you have any suggestions on how I should respond to people’s very lovely and (usually) very warm-hearted approaches towards me in relation to having read ‘Mind Games and Ministers’ – then please do send them on.
In the meantime – I want to share one of the latest reviews. A real out of the blue critique. And written by someone which much experience in social housing, who had heard aboout my book. And who’s take on my scribblings had me laughing out loud.
In fact, I’ll go with my gut instinct on this one – I’ll just say CHEERS. No fretting over wobbly embarrassing moments. Just a big Cheers to John Perry – Mr Social Housing and International Development Himself and writer of this review who really made my day!
(PS – if you clicked on The Conga link there – more the fool you. Because you’ll be singing it for the next 6 months. As we have been doing in our house…)