Friday, April 17, 2009

The glamorous side of being an author

Current work: fiction (the end is sort of in sight – I’m layering in extra emotion to the earlier bits of the book as the end becomes clearer)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Liz Fielding, A Perfect Proposal (one of Liz’s trademark warm, witty books –and the ending was just beautiful. I had a lump in my throat. Brilliant stuff)

Most of the time, I’m this scruffy person holed up in a messy office who weaves happy endings on a computer screen. But sometimes I have moments of glamour. Awards ceremonies, lunch with my publisher, author parties… and interviews. Specifically, yesterday, it was Radio Four.

With my nonfic hat on, I used to be the interviewer rather than the interviewee, so I’m comfortable with journalists. And I love doing radio because it means no visuals and I don’t have to glam up: I’m just myself.

Live radio can be done in several ways – in the studio with the presenter (which is always good because it’s just like chatting to someone over coffee), in the NCA room (so it’s long-distance and you don’t get visual feedback, and I have to admit I find that harder because you often get an echo in the headphones), or on the phone (which is fine… unless the dog suddenly spots a sparrow).

This was pre-recorded, so it was again like having a chat, except there was a digital tape recorder and we could redo bits if we thought of a better way of getting the point across.

I was all prepared. DH and the kids helped tidy the house; and DH was a star and took the kids swimming so we could avoid squabbles being broadcast (we’re at the end of school holidays: mums of school-age children will know exactly what I mean). I thought it might be quite nice to do the interview in the (freshly tidied) conservatory among birdsong.

And then Chris arrived. I shut the door on the bear pit known as my office, opened the front door and ushered him towards the tidy part of the house while offering a cuppa. But where did he want to do the interview? Yup. In the bear pit. The one room of the house that’s hideously untidy and full of dust and will stay that way until after my deadline, when I will tidy it.

Other authors have posted pics of their lovely neat offices on their blogs/websites. (Or there’s… is it Will Self’s that has a wall full of post-it notes and looks scary?) Am not posting a pic of mine. But I will describe what it looks like when I’m on deadline and nearing the end of a book. Warning: it’s decidedly unglam. (And anyone out there who thinks, ‘Oooh, if I was a full time writer, I’d have a neat and tidy office’ – oh, no, you wouldn’t. Not for long. There’s this thing called a deadline that takes precedence over tidying, believe you me.)

Anyway, there are six bookcases behind my desk, each with six shelves, all crammed – they’re extra wide to make the most of storage space, i.e. everything is double-shelved, but there are also books laid horizontally on top of the vertical ones. The new bookcase (which will house copies of my published books plus translations) is built, but it’s staying outside my office until next week, when this book will be with my editor and I can reorganise everything properly. There’s a pile of books on the comfy chair in front of the window (this is to stop certain people walking in, settling down with the paper and RATTLING IT LOUDLY when I’m trying to think – I’m not that mean and territorial off deadline, but rattling paper stuffs my concentration and it’s unacceptable in the run-up to deadline).

My desk is covered in papers and books and jiffy bags I dare not open yet, because they’re research books I’ve ordered ready for the new book(s) and I’m weak-willed (i.e. I will dive into them and be distracted from the current book – a Pevsner is singing a siren song even as I type), as well as receipts that need filing, sticky notes that may or may not need action, two memory sticks (back-ups are important), a kitchen timer, a set of headphones, several blunt pencils, an empty Pandora bag, a coaster with a mug of coffee on top of it, and assorted supermarket school voucher thingies that need to go in youngest’s school bag to hand in on Monday. Oh, and did I mention the piles of papers and books?

There are boxes of books behind my chair, along with my guitar, my ‘research trip bag’ (containing both volumes of Pevsner for Norfolk, street atlases for Norfolk and Suffolk, a UK atlas, a volume on church architecture in Norfolk and a folder containing guidebooks from recent churchcrawling/ruins/stately home visits), my lecturing bag (containing OHP films, copies of my books and props for lectures), my library book bag (hmm, some of them might be overdue – note to self, check tonight and renew if need be to avoid fines) and the dog’s bed (which needs vacuuming).

I know, I know, I need taking in hand. Next week. I’ll be domesticated next week.

Anyway, I enjoyed the experience thoroughly. It was so refreshing not to have to defend the corner of romantic fiction. As romance is currently the biggest-selling area of fiction, and is also one of the few boom areas in the global recession, it’s pretty silly to dismiss it: but certain elements of the media – I don’t need to name the Daily Mail or the Guardian, do I? – can’t be bothered to do their research properly and persist in trumpeting out-of-date stereotypes. Am absolutely delighted that this wasn’t the case yesterday and we could have an intelligent discussion about publishing. I’m one of several authors taking part in the piece, so it’ll be like the ‘Language of Love’ piece I did with Maggie Secker. I’ll be really interested to hear what everyone else had to say about the internet and how it affects a writer’s working life.

How it affects mine: it’s a way of connecting with my readers, promoting my work, and it’s also a way of talking to people who live nowhere near me but share my interests. And blogging limbers me up and gets my head into work mode – thinking about it (duh, why didn’t I say this yesterday?), blogging is probably the equivalent of the office water cooler. Bit of rambling, bit of work, discussing music and books and films and gorgeous men…

Welcome to my water-cooler :)


Pat Posner said...

I enjoyed my drink of water, Kate.

Your office sounds like mine when mine is tidy!


Liz Fielding said...

The interview sounds as if it went very well, Kate. I know you'll do us proud.

And er ditto on the office!

Jan Jones said...

Interview sounds great. I HAVE posted pics of where-I-work before and it really, really isn't a pretty sight.

But I can usually find everything.

Anne McAllister said...

Are you sure you aren't working in my office, Kate? I might have set something on you and not noticed you there beneath the rubble, er, piles of books.

Good on you for the interview, though. I'm sure it was terrific. I love radio too.

Lacey Devlin said...

I'd love to have your office! I've had to catalogue my books lol so I can find them and (I only just realised this) I have only two bookshelves! Ah well if you really have to work to get to the book it means I'll only enjoy it more right? Or have a nervous breakdown...

Kate Hardy said...

Pat - no way could the bear pit be described in a sentence that involves the word "tidy"... *g*

Kate Hardy said...

Liz - thank you... for both!

Kate Hardy said...

Jan - I remember those pics and thinking how neat and ordered it was!

Kate Hardy said...

Anne - nope, I'm definitely this side of the Atlantic... :o)

Kate Hardy said...

Lacey - cataloguing's a brilliant idea. My vertical books are catalogued. The rest will be, later this week...

And yep, you enjoy things more when you have to work for them *g*