Sunday, 18 March 2012
How To Be A Novelist
'Um, yes. I've written a few, but they aren't all published.'
Authors are always reluctant to blow our own trumpet, because the first comment out of anyone's mouth at any sign of pride is going to be, 'I've never heard of you.'
'Oh, I never read books.' At my shocked/surprised expression she continues. 'Well, they take so long to get through don't they, when there are so many more interesting things to do. What type of books do you write?'
'Oooh, I could never remember all those dates and things.'
'Dates? I write about people caught up in historical events.'
'You know what I mean, but then you were always were good at history. It kept you in the top set even though you couldn't handle maths.' She lifts the bottle over her third glass of wine.'Are you sure you won't have some? It seems indulgent to drink the whole bottle myself.' Then she proceeds to do just that. 'You know, I may write a book one day. After all, if you can do it....'
'But you just said you never read.'
'What's that got to do with it, silly?' She emits a high-pitched chortle that doesn't fit with her fifty-year-old face. 'It's not as if you have to have any qualifications. I mean, you aren't a journalist or anything, though you were always top of the class in English. [How did she remember that when I cannot recall anything about her other than she always wore gorgeous shoes]
'So how do you write a book then? She asks.
I treat the question as serious, and while lulled into a false sense of security I begin to formulate a suitable answer that is doomed to remain unspoken.
'I mean,' she trills, acrylic nails flashing. 'It's not as though you have to write an original story, as there's no such thing.'
'I beg your pardon?'
'Well, think about it. Every scenario has already been written by someone, the stories are simply regurgitated in different guises.'
'Of course. I would simply have to find a good one, change the names and locations, and there you go, I've written a new novel.'
'So it has nothing to do with talent, dedication, or learning the craft then?'
'Hmm... oh I suppose that comes into it, partly. But with computers it's so much easier than it was, say, in Jane Austen's time. Books write themselves now don't they?' Glances at her own empty glass. 'Do you want another sparkling water, dear?'
'No! er- no thank you.' I say through tightly gritted teeth.
'Just going to get another drinkie.' She wriggles off her stool. ' So glad I met up with you, darling. I quite fancy myself as a novelist. It will give me something to do.'
I give her a strained smile as she wobbles away on her Laboutons, and while she's chatting up a waiter half her age, I delete her number from my mobile.