Wednesday 21 August 2013

Acting the Part

It's hard, this writing thing. Not the writing so much - although that can be a long, hard slog sometimes, but the rest of it. The promotion, the selling, the publicity of it all. Now I don't spam. Never have, never will. When I release a book, I will send a one-time-only email and/or facebook message to people I know have read my stuff and I have interacted with in some way, be in in person or online. But I won't keep mithering, or tweeting or pushing myself into people's faces. That's not what I do. I'm not a pushy person by nature. Although people who know me might find it hard to believe, I'm really quite shy. Everything else is an act.

Here's the proof! I was 20, I think.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I owned a bright red leather mini-skirt. I wore it to student parties in Liverpool in the early 1980s with red fishnets and a black leather biker jacket (I was a wannabe rock-chick).  Why am I telling you this? Because to wear an outfit like that, you have to "be" the person that goes with it. You can't be shy or sit in a corner. It's a statement outfit that demands a statement personality to go with it. So you act. And I did. Frequently. It's not always easy to do - sometimes it requires a huge effort that half a bottle of wine doesn't fix on its own!

So I have mixed feelings about my almost-full-page article in this week's local paper, complete with huge photograph (which actually isn't too bad, given that I usually look fat, old and drunk in photographs - photoshop is my friend...). I talked to our local reporter for half an hour last week; I know her reasonably well - enough to chat with at village events and she'd said she'd like to do a feature on me.

But it's so personal, having your background splashed across a page and knowing your neighbours and work colleagues may read it. My reasons for starting writing in the first place came from a time in my life as a young teenager when I didn't have many friends. Somehow seeing that in black and white makes it more real, I don't know why. It's history.

And then there's the nature of what I write. It isn't nice. People judge other people on so many different levels, and I remain concerned that there will be those who will read a bit of my book for the novelty value and then judge me by what they read. It's nonsense, I know - some of the big crime writers do far more and it isn't a problem. But I don't have that validation yet - right now I'm just me. One person. Thankfully I have a lot of great friends who appreciate me and love what I write.

But of course - as every real writer knows - there's something of you in everything you write. You bleed a little onto the page every time. You open yourself up to criticism, ridicule and abuse. It's like self-harm sometimes, letting the blood flow and coming up feeling like you've produced something real, something worthwhile. But it hurts. It really does. Witness the current furore online, where some poor new author is allegedly being mercilessly bullied before she's even released a book. It's tough enough out there without wearing your heart and soul on your sleeve. And all that probably sounds horribly pretentious, but it's true.

I don't regret doing this article at all. If I'm to grow as a writer I need to reach out more. There will be people who hate my books - I expect that. But I hope some might like them too. Finding somebody who connects with what you do, who sees the blood on the page, makes it all worthwhile.

But then a work colleague came in the other day after being away on holiday and told me he'd taken my book with him, read it in a day and thought it was better than the first one. If that's not a result then I don't know what is


John Holt said...

A fascinating piece giving a bit of background and insight into an Indie author. Thanks Debbie - a great piece - oh and nice legs ;)

Debbie Bennett said...

Thank you, John. :-) I think if I dressed like that these days, my 17 year old daughter would disown me forever!

Mark Acton said...

Great article! The photo reminds me of going to Jilly's in Manchester in my youth. I mean, obviously I'm still in my youth but...

Debbie Bennett said...

I probably *did* wear that outfit to Jilly's in Manchester. I'm amazed it's still open. That brings back memories - Jilly's and Nottingham's Rock City ...