Monday, October 15, 2007

Unintended consequences

The law of unintended consequences kicked in on Friday when I unexpectedly sold the first copy of my novel A Half Life Of One.

I recognised the buyer immediately. It was my wife. To say I was stunned is an understatement. Somehow I never thought she would want to read the book but apparently the cover sold her. Or so she said. I suspect there was more to it than that. I could see she was a little nervous as she handed over the exact amount of cash. Not as nervous as I'm going to be waiting for her to pronounce judgement on the book though.

My anxiety is further exacerbated by the fact that she's basically a professional reviewer and a tough one at that. She spends half her life marking theses and exam papers. She also reads widely for relaxation. Jane Austen, Dickens, P D James and Ian Rankin are amongst her favourites. I'm not quite sure how I'll fare in such august company.

It doesn't help either that she's going to recognise bits of herself in the book. The wife of the central character is clearly based on her, in just the same way that I am the central character. That being the case, it doesn't help that it's not a particularly flattering portrait. The marriage, too, the catalyst for everything evil in the book, is not a happy one. In fact, it's anything but.


You may find it surprising that I almost never show her anything I've written, especially something as momentous as a novel. The fact is, like a lot of writers I suppose, I draw heavily on life and she's appeared thinly disguised in much of what I've written. Actually, that's not quite true. What I do is take a real-life character or situation and then twist it and turn it until it assumes a grotesque caricature of reality. As far as real life goes, only ghosts should survive. That's the theory anyway.

All the same, even I can see that there are faint, unpleasant echoes of the real world still lingering in the book. People and situations that will bring back unhappy memories. Truths that would normally be left unsaid. Perhaps the best I can hope for is that she finds the thing unreadable and gives up after the first few pages.

If she does I'll happily give her her money back. If she reads on, I have a sinking feeling that I'll end up still paying, one way or another.


  1. I hope you're wrong, Bill, but I fear you're not. I've had issues along these lines myself, and the only solution I found was constant reiteration of the differences, coupled with outright denial of the similarities. It won't work, but you have to do it.

    Just pray she doesn't start writing a book of her own. Mine did, though thankfully she never finished it. Not that I recognized that guy...

  2. Yes, John, what worries me is that she might be hurt by what she reads. I was aware of this possibility when I was writing the book and took some steps to alleviate this risk in my treatment of the characters.

    But at the end of the day I just decided to be bloody-minded and write exactly what I felt I had to write and damn the consequences.

    To tell the truth, it would be better if she didn't read the book but that hardly seems right either.

  3. Slightly off subject here, Pund, but ... er ... you haven't told any of us how we can go about buying the book.

    Do it quick - before she burns the lot (and you on top of the pyre).

  4. There is a bright, new shiny thing sitting on my desk. It has your name on it, so I guess.....

  5. Yeah, Minx, I only hope that it doesn't alienate you too.

    Debi, e-mail me your address and I'll send you a "promotional" copy, gratis.

    At this rate I soon won't have any friends left.

  6. I know some people whose husbands don't know they have a blog, and vice versa -- truly. Now I have to find out how your wife managed to buy it and put in my own order....

  7. Maxine8:10 pm

    PS Just read everyone else's comments-- I don't want a gratis copy I want to buy it, so tell me where to mail the cheque!

  8. Pundy, this would make a book in itself ... the man who writes a book and then ...
    I've always wondered about this situation ... how people would react if they spotted things about themselves in my characters. John is right. Deny it and deny it again. Difficult though when it's your wife. I also want to BUY the book, not a free copy, so let me know how I can do that. I mean, if your wife had to pay ...
    Can I get it on Amazon?

  9. I'll email my address but I still want to pay for it!