What the public thinks of writers

Morris_dancers_during_well_dressing,_Etwall_-_geograph_org_uk_-_505411It’s funny the reaction you get when people find out you are a writer and that you’ve had a book published. A fair few look at you as though you are a little odd – they’ve learned something slightly strange and off-beat about you on a par with finding you belong to a religious cult or are a Morris Dancer.

Others are vaguely impressed – they might say something like ‘I’ve never met a writer before.’ They tend to assume you must make some sort of significant money from your book – sadly I have to disabuse them of that notion.

51ATyzrOYVL__AA200_Sooner or later people will compare you to one of their writing points of reference. Up to a couple of years ago this was always JK Rowling. They would say: “Do you write children’s books? Harry Potter is very successful you know.”

This used to make me a bit grumpy – I know writing children’s books is an important skill all of its own – but I write books for grown ups, and that’s quite difficult to do well too. I didn’t say anything though – I’m too polite.

800px-Martin_Amis_2012_by_Maximilian_SchoenherrI remember reading that someone had the brass neck to ask acclaimed literary author Martin Amis the same question.

“People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children’s book,” said Amis “I say, ‘If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children’s book’.”

He upset some of the more thin-skinned children’s authors with that one but, I must confess, it did make me laugh.

fifty-shades-of-grey-cac1d39d5bb5c20810b1314bcbf61dee35d8219b-s2-c85These days, things have changed – nowadays authors are no longer asked if they would consider writing for children in order to reap riches beyond dreams of avarice. Now, because of fifty shades of whatnot we are asked if we would consider writing porn.

I can only speak for myself, but again, it’s a no I’m afraid. The truth is I probably know more about wizards than I do about vaguely sadomasochistic mummy porn so I’m just not really qualified to do the subject justice.

When you tell people you’re not going to try your hand at these things they seem disappointed in you – as though you are deliberately, perversely, refusing to do that which would make you successful. But of course the truth is that any writer who becomes a success is a hit because of what they do, not because of copying others.

And there’s no point trying to transform yourself into something you’re not. I’m afraid I’ll just have to continue ploughing the poorly rewarded furrow of literary fiction, because that’s all I’m cut out for.

Song of the Sea God visualIf you’d like to see how I’m getting along why not take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.