This week, the first finished copies of The Book of Lost Things were delivered to my door. Well, I say 'delivered', but I was out at the time so the delivery man heaped all of the boxes into my dustbin and rolled it up to my front door. Everyone's a critic these days.
It's always slightly anticlimactic to receive the finished book. I sometimes feel that I should be doing something to celebrate the arrival of a new novel, but instead I just put a copy on the shelf in my office and, well, that's it. I didn't even open this one for fear that an error would leap out and slap me in the face. The new book was simply added to the line of old books, and thereby became an old book itself. As I've said in the past, I tend to feel slightly disengaged from the finished, ready-to-sell book, and anyway my attention, at the moment, is focused on trying to finish the next book. There really isn't time for self-congratulation.
I'm also aware, though, that the next stage of the process is about to begin. Already, I'm juggling tour schedules, blanking out days in my diary for press, fielding requests for signings, and generally accommodating myself to the fact that the next few months will be spent traveling and talking, with all of the pleasures, frustrations, minor triumphs, and slightly less minor disappointments that come with promotion.
I find myself preparing for interviews in my head at odd times of the day, asking myself the questions that I'm likely to be asked by journalists and trying to come up with sensible answers. It's a form of madness, one step away from talking to oneself, but there is no point in going into interviews cold and unprepared. I need to be able to explain myself and the book that I have written, and that requires putting some thought and effort into what I'm going to say.
Similarly, I try not to repeat myself when I talk in bookstores, so I have to prepare fresh material for each book. I'll juggle thoughts, anecdotes and bits of research in my spare time, seeing how they fit together and, gradually, knitting them into a routine that bears some semblance of coherence. The first test of this is likely to be at the Edinburgh Festival next Saturday. The last time I was at the festival I read a short story instead of speaking which, in retrospect, wasn't a good idea. I don't think I was quite as confident about speaking then, and I was a little overwhelmed by the festival's reputation and prestige. I hope to do better this time.
While all of this preparation is going on - fielding phone calls, making final decisions on scheduling, writing articles for newspapers to promote the novel - I'm still making the final adjustments to The Unquiet. It's now on its fifth draft, with another to go before my editors see it. It has almost come together, which is fortunate because its delivery date is looming.
And then the whole process will begin again . . .
This week John read
On Being Born and Other Difficulties by F. Gonzalez-Crussi
and listened to
Officium by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble
Hotel Vietnam by Blue Asia