I’m not entirely comfortable with shameless self-promotion. At the same time, I’m aware of the need to make sure I (well, Waterstone’s, Amazon etc.) sell as many copies as possible of PRINCIPLES OF ANGELS (I cringed slightly as I wrote that – even the standard convention of capitalising book titles seems rather vulgar to me).
This is not, despite what I’ve jokingly been telling people, so I can keep Beloved in the lifestyle to which he’d like to become accustomed. Writers aren’t in it for the money. There are a couple of notable exceptions to the usual state of affairs, that of writing (especially genre writing) being a low-paid and marginal lifestyle. Their surnames begin with P and R, and the best of luck to ’em both. All I hope is to sell enough books that someone will continue to give me money to write them. If not, then I’ll have to go back to having a ‘proper’ job, and though that job will doubtless be better paid, and less all-consuming (temporally and emotionally) than writing, it will also be far less enjoyable, and I won’t be as happy as I am now.
Besides giving me the opportunity to spend time telling my stories, being published also means I have people to tell them to. When the first stranger came up to me and said she had read PoA, I felt oddly exposed. I wasn’t worried she’d say she hated it – years of brutally honest criticism from other writers means my response to that would be ‘Really, can you tell me what you hated most?’ It just felt odd to have all this stuff that’s been locked up in my head for so long out there, living its own life.
I got used to the idea that strangers are wandering around my world surprisingly quickly. I don’t really give it that much thought now. I’m not overly concerned about the critics either, though it’s gratifying to find that most of them seem moderately impressed.
However, I have discovered an unanticipated pleasure. It’s not seeing my books on the shelves of bookshops around the country, and it’s not the strange pseudo-celebrity experience of book-signings. It’s when my friends, people I’ve known for years, read PoA and tell me they enjoyed it. I know they aren’t telling me this to massage my ego – not all of my friends who read the book will like it – but I get a strange and slightly sentimental warm feeling when someone who is part of the everyday reality of my own life is touched the imaginary reality of my mind. There is an element of ego to this, but there’s something more: a (possibly naive) joy in discovering that other people are as interested in these characters’ lives – and the universe they live in – as I am.