I was chatting to a fellow writer on Facebook recently who asked my advice on her work. She’s writing a few different things on the way to her first published novel but one project is a type of romance novel and essentially, she wanted my view on how spicy she should make it.
She said: “I’m not sure how far to go with it because I could get a little graphic in that one if I wanted to. I just don’t know if I should keep it PG or not?”
Well my view is basically this – nobody can tell you as a writer what you are comfortable with when it comes to sexual content – it really is up to you.
An old mate of mine, we shall call him George, for that is his name, once told me a story about his childhood. His family was a long way from wealthy and foreign holidays were not on the agenda, but his aunt once made a trip abroad to Austria and returned to Glasgow with a gift for George.
He opened his parcel it to find, to his horror, that it contained a pair of lederhosen. To his even greater horror, his mother made him wear them to school the next morning. He had been hoping to get through the day by keeping a low profile but it wasn’t to be as his form teacher dragged him up in front of the class and made him model his outlandish attire.
“Look everyone,” she said. “George is wearing genuine Tyrolean Lederhosen.”
Sometimes I feel I was born in the wrong century – not in terms of technology, (I like iPhones and I’m looking forward to a car which drives itself) but professionally. I’m a man out of time.
I spent years as a print journalist and then newspapers suddenly and unexpectedly imploded into a puff of dust. When I started as a reporter, and even later as a news editor and editor, it was a reasonable profession akin to others such as teaching in its pay and prospects. These days it seems a dying trade, it’s a children’s crusade and those lured into it often end up desperate either to hang on or to get out. I’ve moved into PR now, there’s plenty of life in that thankfully!
I don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions as a rule. For the usual reason that I tend not to keep them beyond about the third week in January. In fact, for the most part, I suspect that making a resolution in public is a good way to ensure it is doomed.
I read an article somewhere which suggested that psychologically you are more likely to achieve aims you keep private. The theory is that by expressing your intention to other people you assuage your need to achieve it to an extent and so weaken your resolve. So scientifically, making a public resolution is probably something of a schoolboy error.
One of the curious side-effects of the publication of my latest book has been that it’s made me an accidental agony uncle.
The Pick-Up Artist is what might be called a sex-comedy, though there isn’t really any sex in it. It’s a mostly light-hearted book about relationships, what the Americans call ‘dating’, which is a nice neat term which covers a multitude of sins.
I doubt there’s anyone less suited to the role of dishing out advice in this arena than me since I can’t remember the last time I dated, having been happily married for about a thousand years.
I’ve been reading The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, the case notes of the recently departed neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks. It’s a fascinating book and deeply humane, dealing with the amazing curve balls our complex brains can throw at us when they go wrong.
It’s also very well written by someone who was clearly a great story-teller as well as a great scientist.
I wrote recently how book festivals seem to be gradually losing their connection with books, authors and readers. Instead they are becoming celebrity festivals who recruit their speakers from TV or turn into writer’s festivals aimed at those who wish to get published.
The fallout from it was significant. One thing I’d like to nip in the bud is the idea I’m calling for the festivals just to support literary fiction. This misunderstanding might be based on the fact they tend to be called literature festivals in the UK. But I’m not saying only Dostoevsky ought to get a gig. I’m suggesting that the march of the celebrity festival is trampling on all authors whose only claim to fame is that they have produced a book – be it sci-fi, romance, children’s literature or anything else, fiction or non-fiction.
Literature festivals seem to be increasingly popular in the UK – big ones attracting thousands of punters, little ones popping up like mushrooms.
Over the last few years, as an author with a couple of books out, I’ve appeared at both kinds – and the first thing I want to say is that I think they are a force for good. Anything which encourages people to cherish books is on the side of the angels in my view. And the ones I have attended have allowed me to flog a few copies of my own books – what author wouldn’t like that?
But something has struck me about literature festivals in this country which is that, increasingly, they don’t bother too much with literature.
Let’s face it – things are always special the first time. But hey, the second time can be pretty good too. It’s fair to say nothing beats the thrill of getting your first book published. A publisher finally saying yes, the first time you hold a copy in your hand, seeing it in a store. It’s all very lovely for those of us who have dreamed of being published authors. But – there’s something to be said for the second time around too.
Here are three ways it’s different with your second book: