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.