, Out of the Tunnel
, will be out soon, in the second week of July. Proofs have been sent out to newspapers and magazines by the publishers, in the hope of it being covered or reviewed. Interviews have been pitched. All authors are expected to do publicity for their books, and I am no exception. It is part of the contract that you sign. You have to 'push' it. There are thousands of books published every year. Only a small percentage are 'successful'. 'Success' criteria being debatable in these days of store-driven discounts and multi-buys and the collapse of the net book agreement. You don't just have to tell
it, you have to sell
it, nowadays. Margins are too tight for talent or skill alone to see you through. It's a hard-nosed, cut-throat, high-pressure business. But you can take cynicism too far...
I discovered that some people were saying recently on a few websites and blogs that they thought the whole cyberstalker thing was a 'PR stunt to sell the book'. I didn't bother to argue, after I saw the accusation posted more than once, ( what is the point of arguing with people who think like this?) but for the record, no
, it is hardly sensible to try and PR something that has not been printed, or to try to sell something that cannot be found on the shelves. A decade in advertising did teach me that much.
In fact, all the attendant hoo-ha over FJL was a real problem from the point of view of the book launch: the publishers would have much preferred the story, and me, not to be in the news at all, as it was seen as being very risky in terms of the book PR they were planning which is to start when the book is actually available. (Next month, not now.) I am still slightly staggered that a few people actually seem to think that I got harrassed for a year in order to sell a book
that, at the time of the harassment starting, back in spring 2006, was not even conceived of, let alone written. Or the idea that I perhaps deliberately arranged to be attacked, bombed and then stalked in order to 'become famous'. Yeah, right. Hmmm..
.*I failed the Big Brother auditions in 2001, so I thought, what can I do for my next bid for attention...? I know, I'll get attacked by nutters...* I didn't audition. Obviously. But sometimes I wonder if I have to spell this out.
The CPS and police made the decision to prosecute way back last year because the damn woman was harassing me and it kept escalating and she wouldn't stop, not even after being ignored, arrested, warned, and it was frankly scary...(And no. I didn't 'use it as material'. It is not in the book. Argh
I know why I wrote Out of the Tunnel
. I wrote it because I was asked to write it. I wrote it because when I had PTSD the first time around, after the rape, I was frantic and desperate to find out what was happening to me, and to read the stories of other people who had lived through it. Accounts of violent sexual attacks by strangers, that's what I was looking for, then. Not really their graphic accounts of survival, but the aftermath. The days, the months, the years after, how they coped, what they felt, if they changed, if they healed. There weren't many books about afterwards,
not back then.
Now there are whole shelves in Waterstones and Borders titled 'painful lives'. 'Misery memoirs', they're called in the trade. Child abuse, mostly, suffering and survival and horror and degradation. I have never picked one of these books up and paid for it and taken it home. I tend to read novels, not real-life tales. I wonder whether people will think my book is a 'misery memoir'. Maybe they will. I didn't write it like that. But I haven't ever read any of the white-covered books with wide-eyed children's faces on the cover and titles like Inside I'm Screaming
and Stop, Mommy, No
. So I haven't anything to compare my book with. I just wrote what it was like, what happened, what happened after.I wrote things I had never told anyone before. Not on this blog, not ever.
'Did it make you feel better, writing it?' friends ask me, hopefully. Sadly, no. Writing it was an absolutely grim experience, and it set off the PTSD again, big-time, and it made me depressed and anxious, and what with the stalker as well, and having suddenly stopped working in an office where I used to laugh and chat all day, it was a pretty horrible time. Stressed as hell, on my own all day, writing and re-living the worst moments of my life, worrying about the effect it was having on me and people I love and respect, and the abusive messages from that strange woman pinging into my in-box all the time, it was frankly, awful. I was pleased when I had finished it, in the same way I am pleased when the painkillers mean the headache has gone. Re-reading the proofs last week was almost more than I could stand. If it had not been for my publisher's patience, and the kindness of David, my agent, who lent me his office to work in, so I had space and peace, and a vase of spring flowers, so I could escape the demented cyber-bombardment and the loneliness of the cold empty flat, the book would never have been finished at all. It is all new content; the blog provided the notes, but it was written as a book, from scratch. Hard work.
'But it will make you lots of money, eh?' people say next. Nope. In fact, my earnings have dropped by more than 80% since I took voluntary redundancy and became a writer. If I make any
money on this book, I won't be paid it until March 2008. My redundancy money will have run out long before then. It's almost gone now. Big Fat Advance? Ho ho. Put it this way, if I hadn't taken redundancy there was no way
I could have written the book. I would have run out of money after six weeks. And the book took quite a while longer to write than that.
So why did I do it? Because, in the end I had
to. I wrote it to pay tribute to the people who helped me and inspired me, including my fellow-passengers. And I wrote it for myself. Myself as I was in 2002, after the rape, and myself as I am in 2007. I couldn't not write it. I want to write, it is all I want to do, now, it is the thing that is most meaningful to me, even though it will never provide me with an advertising director's nice salary and an expense account. But perks and salaries stopped being important. I wanted to start off being a writer by writing my own story first, so it was gone, and done and out there and I could let it go, and move on to writing other people's stories, fiction, new things. I want to write for the rest of my life. But not just about bombs and terror, not any more.
And I wrote for this
moment: My first written reaction from a reader who has read Out of the Tunnel
. A man whom I like and trust and admire, a commissioning editor on a big newspaper, Bob, who first commisioned me to write my story
back in November 2005.''I’ve just spent the past two hours reading the proofs of your book. I should have been doing something else, but I couldn’t stop because it’s brilliantly written and a gripping narrative. Congratulations.''
That made it, makes it all worthwhile. And now, I want to do more, write more things. I'm still pushing for an independent inquiry into 7/7, with the other survivors and families in the group. I'm also working on a novel, slowly. Doing freelance stuff. It took a bomb going off to start me writing, but now I can't stop. I hope that I can keep writing, make a living from it somehow, but even if I can't, I won't give it up, because writing has kept me moving forward, one foot in front of the other, got me out of the tunnel and into the light. It saved my life, in more ways than one. And it was you readers, you people on the internet who read my stuff and sent support, and cared enough to come back, and kept encouraging me, that got me writing and kept me writing.
There's a dedication in the book to you. You know who you are. Thank you.
Labels: blogging, books, writing