There have been several times in the last three months when I have felt like a proud or an anxious mum – and this has nothing to do with school reports or scraped knees. I am referring to my debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME. Three hundred and sixty pages of words. My third child. The only thing in my life that I react to with similar emotions to those evoked by my kids (except perhaps my cat, but that’s another post altogether).
It is a curious thing. My book is capable of sending me into wild rages, moments of blissful happiness and nights of sheer terror. My book can bring me deep joy one day and utter despair and confusion the next. It is both a cause for celebration and quiet reflection.
And apart from the physical book that now exists ‘out there’ on the bookshelves of big chunks of the world (a feeling, by the way, that I imagine is akin to sending your first born off to boarding school in some remote part of Alaska), my second novel, and the current work in progress, cause me equal amounts of soaring ups and crashing downs. I fret. I worry. I cheer. I celebrate. I wonder. I doubt. I fear. I enjoy. I panic. I love. When it comes to writing, I do all these things, all of the time.
So, why exactly is my book like my child?
- I want to protect it and keep it safe at all times (a lonely copy spotted in the wrong section at WH Smith at Terminal 1, Dublin airport, caused me great angst. I moved it and felt much better).
- I feel incredibly proud when it achieves something or gets a great report.
- I feel hurt and want to cry when people say mean things about it or treat it unkindly.
- I want to march right over to the mean people and give them a piece of my mind. (I don’t).
- I want to hug it whenever I see it.
- I recognise it instantly across a crowded room (aka busy bookshop).
- I feel anxious when it is being a bit quiet and lots of other books are putting their hands up and getting noticed and picked for the team.
- I feel the urge to nudge it and encourage it and help it along, but I know that sometimes it is better to step back and let it work things out for itself.
- I want to shout about its achievements, but have to remember that nobody likes a show off, so I maybe mention it once and put notable things in frames on the walls of my office and on my desk and ring my sister to tell her about it instead.
- I want to talk about it all the time – especially after several glasses of wine.
- Ditto after several glasses of gin.
- It asks me a lot of questions, and I don’t always have the answers.
- It often wants me to come and play when I don’t really have the energy.
- It makes me smile when it does something totally unexpected.
But there is one overwhelming reason why my book is like my third child – why it keeps me awake at night and brings me such joy and heartache. Because I love it. Simple as that. I love writing. I love creating my fictional worlds. I love my book and my characters and I care deeply about what happens to them out there in the big wide world.
One day, my book won’t need me to make its lunch or find its socks or cheer it on until it reaches the finish line or cuddle it when it has a fall. One day, my book will grow up and exist out there and create a life all of its own. But for now, it needs me. And I am standing by.