So here it is. Twenty one sleeps until The Ship is published. Twenty one sleeps until I am a published author. And here are some good things that have happened:
The inaugural Curtis Brown Book Group selected The Ship as its first book choice, and tomorrow I get to answer questions in a live online forum, from people who have read it. It’s hard to describe how excited I am by this – it’s right up there with seeing the proofs and hearing the audio book being recorded.
Last week, I hosted the first 40+ Debut Authors’ Lunch. Thirty two authors from all over the country descended upon Covent Garden and talked to each other. Writing is a solitary pursuit by definition, so to meet other writers – particularly other debuts – and realise that we are all in this together, and that we can and will support each other, was a truly uplifting experience. It was particularly special that this lunch arose from nothing more than a passing observation on Twitter – Are there any other 40+ authors publishing debuts out there? – which became a conversation, which became an idea, which became a lunch. If you’d like to join in, let me know – the only criteria is that you published your debut – or have a contract to publish your debut – over the age of 40.
And I’m still glowing because this morning, my six year old asked if he could have a copy of The Ship to give to his teacher.
Three good things that are yet to happen:
Two launches, one in London, just around the corner from my protagonist Lalla’s flat, and the other – on 19th February, launch day itself – in Bristol, a city I greatly fear would be underwater if the events of The Ship came to pass. The Bristol launch, at Foyles Cabot Circus, is a public event open to anyone so please, please come along. Spread the word. There’ll be wine AND cake.
On Tuesday 17th February, I’ll be joining nine other authors who’ll be reading while the audience eats cake and drinks cocktails. The readings will be short and the cocktails will be named after our books. The event is at Drink, Shop and Do (just around the corner from King’s Cross station).
And on the 24th February, I’ll be at Short Stories Aloud, a wonderful evening hosted by Sarah Franklin on the fourth Tuesday of every month. Professional actors read short stories by two guest authors (so I’ll get to meet Lucy Ribchester, too), and the authors take questions, and it’s lighthearted and serious and absorbing and fascinating all at once. Oh, and there’s cake. Lots of cake. I’ve been in the audience and loved it, and can’t wait to be a part of it from the other side.
So, as the months have ticked down into weeks, and the weeks are ticking down into days, it comes down to this: Nothing has changed. I’m still scrabbling about for time and space; my life is still ruled by school uniforms and homework and housework and meal preparation and the ever-present, often unattainable wish to spend at least some of my life with the man I chose to share it with. Sometimes it feels as though James and I are partners in a twenty-four hour enterprise, constantly covering for each other and only pausing for long enough to pass the baton. And yet, everything has changed. I am a writer. I don’t know what’s going to happen to my novel. I don’t know. My fervent hope is that it does well enough to give me the chance to publish another. But – yes, even more than that – what I hope for, as The Ship sets sail, is that my story so far can offer light to anyone else who’s driven to write. Because it was hard. It is hard. Impossible, even. And yet, The Ship is there, in all its primary-coloured cover art glory, actual and real and solid, with printed pages and a dust jacket and everything.
It can happen.