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Identity Crisis

 

First the news that the paperback of Early Birds will be out on January 11th, rather sooner than I had expected.

‘To cheer people up in the dark days,’ says my editor.

‘Always supposing they have any money to spend after Christmas,’ thinks Laurie.

 

People sometimes get flatteringly excited about meeting an author. I fear it can be a cruel disappointment. Even those who sparkle on the page can be very mundane in the flesh, perhaps because we don’t get out much. Nevertheless it is nice to be stroked occasionally. Though perhaps I shouldn’t say that seeing as it’s suddenly open season on handsy, high-profile old codgers.

In social situations there are certain ‘writer’ questions I dread. For example, where do I get my ideas? The honest answer is I don’t know, and if I did I probably wouldn’t tell. Have I always been a writer? Yes and no. I was guilty of scribbling in my mother’s Cookery & Household Management at the age of three but I also spent the first 39 years of my life trying out other roles: Enid Blyton plagiarist, observer of human nature, square peg student trying to fit into the round hole of science, rubbish gardener, seamstress and driver, okay parent. I’ve also had a head-spinning number of jobs. Everything from dishwasher to office manager.

The toughest question of all is, what kind of books do I write? It is not enough to say one is a novelist. Are they detective stories? Science fiction? Young Adult? Romance? Well…. none of the above.

‘Aha,’ said someone I met recently. ‘You mean you write proper novels.’

His wife explained that he didn’t consider genre fiction as novels. Fantasy is fantasy. Historical is historical. An interesting perspective, but I didn’t feel it helped me to give a satisfactory account of myself. By ‘proper novels’ I suspected he meant literary fiction. The kind of books that get considered for the Man Booker and are not necessarily an easy, afternoon on the sofa with a bag of Maltesers kind of read. And clearly that’s not me either. Face it, Laurie. You’re unclassifiable.

There are times when I want to huddle in a corner and murmur, ‘I just write stories. Okay?’

 

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