When (in times to come) I try to remember the excitement of having a book published, I think I’ll fix my mind on that brief moment yesterday morning at 9.45: when the sun was tunnelling in through the windows for the first time in a fortnight, and my murder scene was read out on Radio 4.
It’s an enormous privilege for any writer to have their work selected to be read on Book of the Week but, equally, yesterday felt quite symbolic – as if it was a kind of public externalising of a story that for so long had lived inside me. For the first time since I started I had no control over who had been chosen to read my words or which sections had been chopped and which had not. As a writer, at this point, you’re a little like the archetypal American Dad, who’s built a soapbox in the garage, hauled it up the hill and given it a hopeful push. But someone else is behind the wheel as it careers off down the road.
AL Kennedy wrote an excellent punchy piece in the Guardian on the book launch and the days that follow it. She disliked the time because as soon as publication came your work was suddenly wrested away to become ‘just another volume on a shelf in a bookshop, much the same as all the others [and belonging] to everyone but you.’
I liked that article and there’s truth in it. But listening to Radio 4 over the past two mornings has not only been a little odd and exciting, but it has also presented me with a new perspective of the story. There’s the pastoral music, the flecks of birdsong and, most of all, Alex Jennings’ beautiful delivery which has quite different rhythms, stresses and pronunciations to those that I’ve repeated in my head. It’s freshening experience and makes the story, which in my mind had gradually been smoothed over like a river stone, immediate in the way that it was when I started off a few years ago.
Image credit: Bethan