I know you are all watching and waiting and wondering when I am finally going to publish a novel. I’ve been talking about it since the summer of 2009 and there’s no sign of it yet. What’s gone wrong, why is he so slow, I know you’re all thinking.
Well, I’ve actually been putting in some serious effort over the last few weeks in order to make one of my novels publishable. It has been tough. I’ve had to concentrate for nearly an hour at a time. Some days I’ve gone without television. I’ve even got up earlier than usual once or twice.
And then I started to get cold feet. What if they don’t like it? What if they tear me apart like they did to E.L. James and J.K. Rowling? Or worse, what if it’s a runaway success and I become a media darling and everybody thinks they own me?
The worst thing about the media is that even if that happens, if people actually read my novel and say they like it, the media will still tear me apart like they did to E.L. James and J.K. Rowling. The best thing that can happen, the best I can hope for, is to be ignored. The fact that this is also the most likely outcome is the main thing that keeps me going.
The reviews of The Casual Vacancy make depressing reading.
“Doesn’t deserve the media frenzy surrounding it,” wrote Theo Tate in The Guardian on a day in which four out of five of the most read articles in The Guardian’s book pages were about the novel.
“Quite punishing to read,” said David Sexton in the Evening Standard.
“It’s just dull,” said Sherryl Connelly in the New York Daily News.
But most depressing of all was the tone of moral outrage in some of the reviews, like this rebuke from Allison Pearson in the Daily Telegraph.
If you have sold 450 million books, mainly to children, and you have achieved a net worth of £560 million, often from the pocket and birthday money of children, then you may not consider yourself to be their babysitter, or their teacher, but you were certainly their bedtime reading, and they will be helplessly drawn back to your voice.
But the media thrives on frenzy. There were so many articles in so many papers it was a struggle to work out which of them was the paper’s review by someone who had actually read the book. There were opinion pieces, interviews, editorials, features, rumours, hatchet-jobs and anecdotes. So many strident, desperate, hysterical voices all clamouring to be heard.
Once people have actually read the novel, then there will be the blogs. Oh my god, blogs! Sir Peter Stothard, who is the judge of this year’s Man Booker prize, hates blogs, and has been sounding off about them to Nick Clark in The Independent.
“The rise of blogging has proved particularly worrying. Eventually that will be to the detriment of literature. It will be bad for readers; as much as one would like to think that many bloggers’ opinions are as good as others, it just ain’t so. People will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good, the good will be overwhelmed, and we’ll be worse off. There are some important issues here.”
There are some important issues here! Oh my god! Indeed! People will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good. That would be awful.
But maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they could be encouraged to buy and read one of mine. To buy and read but not review. That would probably be the best thing. Because the reviews, let’s face it, are bound to be hysterical.