WHERE WAS I? That sounds like one of my book titles. Sadly, in the weeks since it came out, “What I Was” (we’re talking the title now, not the book itself) has become a source of hilarity to my cruel and insensitive family, all of whom now infuriatingly pronounce it Wot I Wuz. Including me. However, I finally gathered enough courage to flick through the book (first time since the final edit) and thought maybe, just maybe, Time Out was right. I never used to understand why so many film actors refused to see their own films, but now I do. It’s a bit like not being able to stand the sound of your own voice on an answer phone, only more so. Or as Philip Roth put it, “I’d rather read Conrad than my own books.” As a general rule, I’d rather read Conrad than Philip Roth too.
Just back from Glasgow and the Catalyst book prize (for Just In Case) along with the charming Graham Marks and the delightful Anthony McGowan. (Also Louise Rennison, but as she didn’t show, hard to know exactly how delightful and charming she is…) I had a fiver on Tony McGowan to win, and he did, for the hilariously outrageous Henry Tumour. I’m a bit squeamish about tumours, but I have to admit the man has a terrific original voice and is fearless in his pursuit of the politically incorrect. For which I admire him greatly. Graham Marks and I spent every available free moment (there were only six) trying to catch up on industry gossip, which we never have time to do in London, despite living only about a mile apart.
I’ve somehow managed to do everything but write books lately, though a plot epiphany came to me in the middle of my book tour, which is the sort of thing that makes writers weep with relief. So if I ever do get back to working on Nomansland, I’ve got a new character who might just turn the rambling narrative of the first draught into an actual story. “Found a plot at last,” is going to go on my gravestone.
Aside from the Catalyst (where I took 700 kids on an imaginary trip to a newsagent and killed most of them by unnatural disasters on the way — to prove a point about Fate, obviously) I’ve been on something of an if-it’s-Tuesday-it-must-be-Bury-St-Edmunds book tour, criss-crossing this great nation and spreading the gospel. Because of this, I missed Nick Hornby’s launch of Slam, but still managed to make it to Cathy Cassidy’s friendship festival in Greenwich and Sally Gardner’s launch of The Red Necklace. But lovely as it was, I’m glad to be back home for now. My husband and daughter are very long-suffering and who knows? I might actually write that book someday.
If I were Jacqueline Wilson, I’d have used all that time on trains, busses, and planes to great effect, and written at least four new books in transit. Instead, I’ve read every magazine from Country Life to Cosmo, reread Middlemarch and Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders (to get in the mood for writing a 19th century novel) and then decided I’d better get back into the 21st century pronto, before I went mad and started finding words like “Prithee” and “Sirrah” creeping into my prose.
Loved Michael Clayton, which was a fantastic film despite two or three hundred holes in the plot. I’m halfway through Per Patterson’s Out Stealing Horses, which doesn’t do much for the Norwegian reputation for light humour. But liking it a lot anyway.