It's been ten weeks since my novel Filthy Still was released and nine since it went bestseller and I am no closer to figuring out how I managed it than I was eight weeks ago. During this time, in regards to the charts, I've been up and down more often than Kim Jong-un's weight, to the point that Kay my perpetually simmering marketing guru now suspects I'm doing it on purpose just to spite her. So this week she announced it was time to take things seriously.
Not since my parents began a sentence with, "We both love you but we need to tell you something" have words caused the cold hand of fear to grab my rectum so hard and so fast. This newfound seriousness manifested itself as an interview, which following on from last week's attempts to woo the press, Kay had secured for me with a popular magazine. Unfortunately this would not be my first interview concerning Filthy Still. The first was for a local radio station which Kay has since dubbed "chimpgate.'
I am usually a relatively talkative chap. I trained as an actor and spent several years as a stand up comic, so Kay presumed I would be good in this setting. As it happens Kay was wrong. Despite hours of prep the moment the recording light came on I immediately lost half my IQ, proceeded to answer everything monosyllabically and strangest of all began laughing manically at seemingly random and inappropriate things, to the point that the interviewer asked if I'd skipped my meds. In the end I was just grateful it was over and that sturdy soundproofed glass separated me from Kay, at least temporarily.
This interview, I should mention, has yet to be broadcast.
To be on the safe side this latest interview would take the form of a series of emailed questions, which Kay could thoroughly vet to make sure I didn't say anything too stupid. For the most part they were pretty standard; favourite book, least favourite book, fondest memory of my time in New Zealand, where the book is set. To which I answered truthfully; The Dice Man, anything with the word Twilight in the title, and Holly Hargreaves' bottom, which was at the very least a regional attraction, though this was retroactively changed by Kay to, "the people."
The next question however really got me thinking. What is the worst word or words in the English language? Initially I leaned toward 'moist,' which I find really creepy, but in the end I went with a combination of four. "I'm just being realistic."
As a writer I've heard them said many times and they're deceptive. When someone says, "I'm just being realistic," what they actually mean is, "give up your dream." For example I heard a story this week about a 34 year-old woman who had just moved from London to New York to pursue a career as a dancer. The man who told me this story shrugged and then said with great relish and absolute certainty, "Of course, she won't make it." When I queried why he said, "She's 34. I'm not being mean, I'm just being realistic."
I'm an author, which is as far from a realistic career choice as it gets short of astronaut, and I've spent most of my adult life waging war against realistic people and their realistic expectations. In my experience realists are what pessimists and cynics call themselves. But ask yourself, when has anyone done anything beautiful by being realistic? When has anyone done anything historical by being realistic? How many Nobel Prize winners began their journey by saying, "Ok, before we get started, let's be realistic about this whole peace thing, ok?"
I have no idea if that woman will ever become a dancer, what matters is that she'll try, and that's a thing of beauty, and as long as some of us try, there's hope for the rest.
I admit when I handed my answers over to Kay I was glad she had Lily, her three-week old child, in her arms, I've found it makes her easier to evade. However on reading them she patted me on the head and gave me a smile like the sun coming out on a rainy day, upon which Lily threw up on my shirt.
Which as an analogy for my experiences marketing a novel so far, was quite profound really.
Next Week: The Influencer - The Loudest Voice in a Very Small Room.