I'm not the only one who feels a fraud...
I had a bit of a crisis before Christmas. I don’t mean an ‘Oh my God, I’ve set fire to the kitchen again,’ crisis. That happens more often than it should but I can deal with it.
It wasn’t even an ‘Oh my God, what do you mean this train’s not going to Cheltenham?’ crisis. That’s just embarrassing in an I must remember to check the train before boarding way, and I can deal with that as well.
Or even the ‘Do you have a cervix?’ ‘Not on me – no,’ crisis. I’m not going into any details about that one except to say it’s not what you think.
Having set the scene, I think we can all agree I’m no stranger to a crisis – as my examples show. As an author, I’m always being told – show not tell.
Anyway, back to my existential crisis just before Christmas. I suppose a lack of confidence hits everyone every now and then. I was working hard and worrying about the Christmas story because it was a little bit different – as I think most people noticed. And I was worrying about the Time Police novel – the first book in a series is always difficult. Then there was Christmas itself and sprout trauma and so on, and I had a bit of a panic.
I’ve always felt I’m a bit of a fraud. No one was more gobsmacked than me when Just One Damned Thing After Another did so well. At one point I was convinced I was getting someone else’s reviews. If Amazon had emailed me to say, ‘We’re awfully sorry but there’s been a dreadful mistake ….’ I wouldn’t have been the slightest bit surprised. Shocked and upset yes, but not in the slightest bit surprised that the world had caught up with me – the imposter – and it was all going to be taken away from me and given to a proper writer.
In my saner moments – I had one last October before anyone makes an unkind comment – I put it down to my age. I don’t mean ‘that certain age,’ but my generation was brought up to be modest. Especially girls. It was definitely not done to toot your own trumpet. The correct procedure was to sit around and wait for the world to discover your genius. This is probably why I’m so crap at filling out application forms. I’m brilliant at the name, address and telephone number bit, but sooner or later there’s always the State why you think you’re the right person for the job box and because, deep down, I’m never convinced I am the right person for the job, there’s a bit of a problem.
Anyway, I tried to pull myself together. As my Chanel-clad agent keeps reminding me – I have books to produce, new publishers to impress, agents to keep in caviar and stretch limos, and to stop moaning, Taylor, and get on with it.
And then, a couple of weeks before Christmas, I was browsing Amazon instead of working – yes, that does happen, although only until my agent returns from her fourth Caribbean holiday this year and pokes me with a sharp stick. I justify it as market research. I’m looking at what’s hot and what’s not and generally getting a feel for what’s going on in the publishing world – an excuse generally met with a disbelieving snort as she departs for her vineyard in France.
Meandering back to the point again – I came across Neil Gaiman’s book – Art Matters.
I think I’ve mentioned this before so feel free to wander off and do something else if you want.
I’d been meaning to order it for ages. Anything Neil Gaiman writes is worth reading, Chris Riddell’s illustrations are magical and my own writing was going nowhere so I ordered it. As usual, Amazon had it through my letter box almost the next day, so I made myself a cup of tea and settled down to read.
Imagine my surprise. I’m not alone. There are other people out there who feel they don’t deserve their success either. That they too are frauds or imposters and they’re going to be found out at any moment. Neil Gaiman actually goes so far as to describe the clipboard-clutching member of the Fraud Police he expects to come knocking on his door.
I can’t tell you how this resonated. That another author would feel exactly as I did. Yes, all right, in my case the fraud feelings are justified, whereas he’s Neil Gaiman, for heaven’s sake, but heartened, I returned to the laptop to which my Cartier-bedecked agent had superglued me before she left for her loft in New York.
So here we all are. New year, new publishers, new agent, new website, new series – there’s a bit of a theme going on here, don’t you think? – and here’s my new blog to go with it. Sadly, it’s the same old author but short of reincarnation there’s not a lot we can do about that.
There’s lots to look forward to this year. Hope for the Best is out in April. There’s a summer short story entitled When Did You Last See Your Father? when Max’s husband meets Max’s father, and the Time Police novel, Doing Time is out in October. I even have notes for the new Christmas story. Would anyone object to a Frogmorton Farm Christmas story …?