A body of work – I have one of those. But no publisher, not yet. I have tried, but not enough. So today I am asking the question, why do we write? I have always written because I love it, and because I want to be published! But what use is desire, what use is a cupboard full of notebooks, a pile of manuscripts, a hoard of electronic files in which lurk my wonderful words? There is no use. Anyone can write. Publishing is another matter.
But in this climate, publishing is not about how good the story is, not any more. It’s not even about finding a really good read. It’s about selling books. I know, it’s always been about selling books, but it seems to me that nowadays unless you are already famous, or have slept with someone famous, then you haven’t really got a chance. Unless you’ve slept with an editor, or an agent, or your dad is a politician, or someone somewhere spots you and decides arbitrarily that you’re the next best thing. Because the irony is, you may not be the next best thing, but if they decide you will be, they will MAKE you the next best thing. It’s all about the hype.
So I hold my hands up. I admit it, one of the reasons I wanted to write THIS BOOK in particular, was because someone might say, yes, this is the next best thing. We can hype this up. It’s got sex, and violence, and Muslim culture, and hijab, and fear, abuse, murder. And it’s got faith, and hope, and love, and the beauty and power of Islam as it gives this woman’s life meaning. What more can you ask for. If anything is going to have even a ghost of a chance of getting published, in the light of the predigested pap that currently dominates the market, this is, because it ticks the right boxes.
It’s not a misery memoir, this book. It’s not a celebrity biography. It’s supposed to make you feel something. But it might get marketed as a misery memoir, a sensationalist supermarket paperback. It might get chewed up and spewed back up in a more ‘accessible’ format. Someone might make a truly awful film out of it. I can’t worry about that. It’s fiction, and it’s trying to be literary fiction. But at the same time, like many authors, I’ve got one eye on the page and one eye on the market.
I might get lucky…
Meanwhile, I’m still struggling to write about living half a mile from a patriot battery while Saddam is bombing Saudi Arabia. Difficult. I’ve done civil war re-enacting, and I remember the noise and boom of the canon, and the smell. Don’t think it’s the same somehow. I need to lock myself in a tiny room with some really loud, horrible, tuneless heavy metal music on, and imagine I’m waiting for a bomb to hit the house.
It’s fun being a writer.