Sunday, 5 June 2011

A Time of Firsts

It's been a time of firsts lately. In the past couple of months, leading up to the launch of The Drop, I have been interviewed by newspapers, magazines and radio programmes and I've read reviews of The Drop in a dozen publications or on line, all of them, thankfully, very positive, including wonderful reviews in The Times and New York Journal of Books. I've done signings in branches of Waterstones and public readings of my book at Bookstock and the launch party, in front of dozens of close friends. All of these have been slightly terrifying experiences, the latter requiring copious amounts of alcohol beforehand, to give me the courage to read from The Drop to people I have known and cared about for years, but all went really well on the night.

When you are a writer you spend endless hours on your own, trying to create something readable out of one original germ of an idea that you hope, and I stress the word hope, someone will like when you are finally finished wrapping 90,000 words around it. The trouble is, you become so close to your work while writing it, editing it, rewriting it and re-reading it countless times that you end up not really knowing if it's any good or not. In other words you can't see the wood for the trees. That's why it's important to have a few loyal friends to not only take the trouble to read your book but also give you some positive feedback. This acts as the reassurance insecure writers need to keep them going.

While you are writing your book you barely dare to hope that someone will want to publish it one day and then, when it does happen, you can scarcely believe it. The time between shaking hands on a publishing deal and seeing your finished book on the shelves flies by but you must try to enjoy it because there are some lovely moments along the way. When I launched the book in Waterstones Metro Centre branch in Gateshead, friends I had not seen since my school days 25 years ago turned up to buy copies and wish me well. My old primary school teacher, from thirty odd years back, phoned the branch in Newcastle when I was signing there, as he’d seen me in the local paper. He called for a chat about the days when I used to play (badly if I’m honest) for his school football team and asked me for a signed copy. I’ve been on Radio Newcastle and Radio Leeds, where I was interviewed by my old and very close friend Adam Pope, who hosts the morning show. Adam and I were at Huddersfield Poly together 24 years ago and I told him then that one day I would become a writer. He kindly interviewed me on his show about the long journey to publication. I think, as much as anything, to ask me why it had taken me so long to get round to it! In all seriousness it was a big and quite emotional day for both of us.

Adam was one of many friends who took the trouble to attend the launch party for The Drop. It was a fantastic evening and the room seemed full of goodwill (or was I just drunk?). It is a quite surreal thing to sign copies of your book for your friends (including my good mate Imogen on the pic below) but it is one of the nicest experiences a writer can have. It also gave me the chance to publicly thank a few very deserving people like my fantastic publishers at No Exit, my terrific agent Phil Patterson at Marjacq and the friends who kept me going with their faith, when publication seemed as likely a prospect as dinner with Cameron Diaz…or Newcastle winning the Champions League…three years running. Finally, I got to thank my lovely wife Alison for putting up with all of those hours of writing and years of near misses before The Drop finally appeared in print. It was nice to see her having as much fun that night with all of our friends as I did, because she bloody deserved it.