10 March, 2014 / General

The birth of a book


My new novel, Take Mum Out, is out this Thursday, and it feels a bit like the run-up to giving birth. Okay, when a book is born, no one rushes up to tell you off because it’s not wearing a hat. And you don’t feel compelled to make a little room absolutely perfect, in readiness for its arrival.

But still, like the very end of pregnancy, it’s almost impossible to keep your mind on anything else when publication day’s around the corner. I am fidgety and eating masses. For instance, yesterday: the biggest salad known to man (I say salad, but it was basically a mountain of roast butternut squash and feta) for lunch, followed by a blow-out curry at our local Indian. I am, literally, eating for two.

It’s due to nervousness, I think. I know I’ll soon be checking Amazon sales ratings like a woman possessed, which goes like this:

7.20 a.m  Mustn’t keep checking Amazon. It’s not helping me in any way.

7.22  All right, just a little look.

8.20  Another quick look. Things might have changed dramatically. Oh… they haven’t.

9.10  It feels a bit dysfunctional, checking this often…

9.30  I MUST STOP!!

10.17  Just one more little look and then I’ll stop…

…and so it goes on, achieving nothing except worry and strife, like trying not to call a clearly disinterested man back in 1987, but being unable to stop my pathetic fingers grappling for the phone.

Anyway, it’s not all bad, because really, when your book is let out into the world, there’s not an awful lot you can do about it. When my first novel was published ten years ago, I expected the kind of fuss and attention you’re party to when you produce a real baby. But of course, it was just a normal day. My kids (then aged three and seven) expressed disappointment that there weren’t any pictures in it, and my dad said he didn’t like the cover.

So far, so good. I popped into Glasgow to prowl around Waterstone’s, as if trying to muster the courage to steal something. In fact, I was really building myself up to ask someone who worked there if it would be okay to sign copies of my book. ‘A signed book is a sold book,’ a publishing person had told me once, assuring me that it was perfectly fine to march up to a bookseller, brandishing a pen, and say, ‘Hello – I’ve come to sign your stock.’ ‘Authors do it all the time!’ he declared.

I hovered about by the self-help titles, sweating profusely and sensing my face going red. What if the staff member thought I wasn’t the author, but some random weirdo who scribbled on books for fun? I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I left the shop, feeling like an utter fool and wondering if anyone had observed my creepy behaviour on CCTV.

In fact these days most of my books are sold in supermarkets, rather than bookshops, which is the way of things now – and you can’t stomp into a massive branch of Tesco and start writing on things. So I don’t even try. Instead, I’m attempting to be sensible this week, and keep myself busy by pushing on with the book-in-progress.

And it’s helping. It feels good and purposeful. In fact it’s made me realise that, when your book is born, the best course of action is to throw yourself into making the next one. Which isn’t always the case with a baby.



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