I’ll never forget the evening before publication of Just In Case, when the lovely Tracy Chevalier (Girl With A Pearl Earring) told me that every book I wrote after The Big Book would sell at least 15% less than the previous one.
I was horrified and appalled.
How little I knew. Nowadays, the thought of selling just 15% less than How I Live Now would be cause for celebration.
The thing about The Big Book is that it tends to overshadow everything else you do. Even if the books you write after are far more interesting, subtle, complex, moving, intellectually satisfying (oh, and they are, they are) — they’re not The Big Book, and The Big Book just had Something. Some incredibly fortuitous combination of being the right book at the right time with the right characters and the right arc and all the planets just…lining….up….right.
It’s a bit like having one beautiful sociable even-tempered child who gets perfect grades in school and is invited to every party. Do you lie awake nights worrying about that one?
Of course you don’t. You lie awake worrying that no one will appreciate the one with sticky-out ears and the world’s kindest heart. Or the one who memorises faraway galaxies instead of Spanish verbs.
I heard last week that 20,000 copies of How I Live Now will be given away free on World Book Night — along with other glamorpuss friends like Remains of the Day, Pride and Prejudice, Notes From a Small Island, A Tale of Two Cities and The Book Thief.
WOW! YAY! How thrilling! How amazing!!!!
The other kids and I will stay home that night and watch our superstar on the red carpet. And boy will we be proud.