How easy it is for readers to pick up a book and enter the world of others. I doubt that the majority would ever contemplate the hundreds of hours it takes to get it in their hands. Pop into a bookshop, cruise the shelves, the areas of interest, the best title, cover picture and back page spiel and, off you trot to curl up and let it take you to wherever. I did that for years. Not any more.
Since the release of my childhood memoir, I look at everything I read in a very different way. In it all, I cannot help but consider opening lines to every chapter, the way the narrative unfolds, the structure of the entire book, how it ends. Words. I think of the writer.
Did they, like me, shut themselves away in their backyards surrounded by plants and things they love, listening to birds as the sun rises? Did they unhook the phone, disconnect the doorbell, call the shots with those wanting to sit and chat? Did they ache from hours of sitting, shoulders and back, and did they fill hot sore eyes with drops to cool them when enough was gloriously enough? I wonder.
Editing the stories of enthusiastic, competent others is such a welcome bonus. Such learning. Such affirmation. It’s not only me who gets it wrong—repetition, punctuation, typos and apostrophes in the wrong place—the flow. The way my Fremantle Press editor sat with me, gently guiding, suggesting cuts, rearranging, holding me is one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learnt—such a mentor.
How about marketing? Let’s not forget that. A publisher can only do so much—slap it all over the Net, gets books out to potential readers who’ll snap it up and run with it. And what if they don’t? Damn. Here comes a new learning. Marketing, book talks, public speaking about the issues you raise, and what a world—a big world, competitive—no room for sloppiness there! You have to be on the ball and that takes time.
How about those moments of doubt? Am I good enough? Is what I write worth reading? Should I write comedy, romance, something to make readers feel good, rather than tackle the silences, issues that knock people down and keep them there?
I’ll continue to meet the challenges and never forget that as a child, I thought I came from another planet, here to observe and write what I know.