On the book tour for Fiona Gibson’s new book called ‘The Mum Who’d Had Enough’, Fiona talks about the reality of being an author.
I always loved the idea of writing a book. ‘How glamorous,’ I thought, ‘living the life of an author, travelling the world and being invited to, er, things!’ I imagined trotting out novels – which would be no more taxing than stringing a few anecdotes together – and spending the rest of my time on ‘research trips’ to glamorous destinations.
I’m not saying I don’t enjoy what I do. In fact I can’t imagine making a living any other way. But the reality of the job isn’t quite how I pictured it, when I dreamed of a writer’s life way back in my childhood bedroom…
The dream: a glamorous wardrobe
Reality: I used to think that authors did lots of ‘public’ things (ie, general swanning about) and that this would require beautiful outfits. Yes, there might be the odd event to promote a new novel or take part in a book festival. However the actual writing part generally means pulling on something either very plain or downright disgusting, as you’re usually too befuddled by what feels like a monumental project to make sensible choices about what to wear. My first novel was written when I had three children under five, plus the builders in, and was covered in a fine layer of plaster dust.
The dream: fabulous parties
Reality: Disappointingly, these imagined glittering occasions don’t come as part of the job. I’m lucky in that my publisher Avon’s parent company hosts a walloping annual do – but honestly, these are rare. As far as I’m aware, 99% of a novelist’s life is spent typing away in a draughty room, forking in potato salad straight from the tub.
The dream: a secretary
Reality: I once imagined that, whilst the writer obviously did the writing part, there’d be someone on hand to take dictation/handle correspondence/tackle other less glamorous tasks. In fact every author I know breaks off regularly from writing to attend to laundry, check kids’ homework and bung a chicken in the oven. When one friend is stuck with a tricky aspect of her plot, she manically scrubs the bathroom floor.
The dream: limitless tranquility in which to write
Reality: Many people don’t regard writing as a proper job. They think it’s okay to drop round – ‘Not working, are you?’ – to sip tea on your sofa for five hours while you sit there, rigid with panic, feeling your deadline breathing heavily down your neck. Life is full of distractions; if it’s not the window cleaner banging on the door for money, it’s Facebook luring you to look at the holiday pictures of someone you’ve never met.
The dream: inspiration strikes
Reality: It does, occasionally. There are bursts of elation when the book seems to be literally falling out of your brain and onto the page – followed by lengthy periods of confusion when you realise that ‘Tom’ has mysteriously turned into ‘David’ and, actually, he belonged to your last book, and not the one you’re meant to be writing now.
However, after saying all that, for me the reality is better than the dream version. It is hard graft, for something like six months to a year or more – and by the time I type ‘The End’, I’m both exhausted and elated. But it’s also sort of addictive because within a week or so I am itching to type ‘Chapter One’ and start all over again.
You can buy The Mum Who’d Had Enough from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.