Them: Hi, lovely to meet you. So what is it you do for a living?
Me: Well, amongst other things, I'm a writer.
Them: Really? What do you write?
Me: Pretty much anything.
I've been practicing you see. I've been standing in front of my mirror and saying "I am a writer." I write for a living. I do marketing on the side (after all, eating regularly and paying bills before they go red, is a good thing).
There have been a few issues along the way.
Firstly, I have four writing projects on my desk, in various stages. When I say various stages, I mean, various stages of planning and several versions of Chapter One.
Secondly, the paying the bills job is demanding. As is running a household. As is trying to hang out with Boy before he flies the nest. As is having a relationship with Lawrence, who keeps coming up with really fun things to do. As is having friends who insist on seeing me more than once a year. As is...
Yeah, you get the picture.
Thirdly, when I say writing, there are two things that happen. They ask what kind of writing? I write genre and literary fiction. And then they sniff. Because I said genre fiction.
I did a creative writing degree at the Norwich School of Art and Design. I did a BA. In Literary Fiction Reality, they start sniffing. What? No MA at UEA? It's worse when you answer those questions talking to someone on the MA. The snobbery that exists on the scene is breathtaking.
For the author who wrote a tome only 5 people could bear to spend the time and the £5.99 and read it cover to cover, who felated the right people at the right time and who has a significant other with a regular income - they sniff the loudest. If you make a living selling copy, writing romance/crime/thrillers/erotica, they want to scrape their shoes on your achievements. Popularist whore.
Don't get me wrong, I've done my fair share of sniffing. I'm sorry, but I don't care if Dan Brown touched a nerve and sold a shed load of books and bought Hawaii - as a writer, he sucks arse. His writing is eye-bleedingly awful. I know, I've read 2 of his books. I'd rather read the instructions on my tax return.
I've done my share of apologising for the genre books that litter my house.
The thing is, I became an avid reader of Mills and Boon when I was 13. I could teach a History of Romance Publishing in the 80s-90s, because I read them all: Loveswept, Harlequin, M&B. I read the rise and rise of Kay Hooper and Nora Roberts. In second-hand books shops, I sweep up any Violet Winspear I can find.
I have two copies of several David Gemmell books. You see the first copy of Legend, I bought in 1988, is beginning to fall apart. I re-read it. Marion Zimmer Bradley taught me that girls make awesome adventurers in 1982 with her Sword and Sorceress anthologies. I read Terry Pratchett before he was cool.
When I was16, I stayed up all night huddled under the covers, reading IT. I could not put it down. Then I found Dean Koontz in the early 90s. I wrote an essay on Midnight, to secure my place on a rural Access course that got me to university to study Development Studies.
I found Chick Lit going to a 10 credit, Introduction to Popular Fiction course. The first chick lit book was Guilty Creatures by Sue Welfare. I was hooked. On my shelves are Jill Mansell, Marian Keyes, Carmen Reid, Carole Matthews. These women wrote stories where the price of happily ever after is high. They worked for it! If you think Rachel's Holiday is easy reading, think again. It's got nothing to do with white sandy beaches. It's got everything to do with drug addiction and the 'easy option' of rehab.
I studied To Kill a Mockingbird at school. I had to buy another copy. One without lines and annotations. When I need to be reminded of beautiful writing, I read that again. The glorious simplicity and elegance of Harper Lee's storytelling, continues to inspire me.
The different types of books in this house vary. But the overwhelming majority are genre. Yes, they are formulaic. The girl gets the guy. The bad guy gets his comeuppance. They live happily ever after. In some cases, the vampire gets his dinner (though I was always taught not to play with my food, it's all consenting adult territory).
As a writer, I want to explore all these possibilities. I have a literary novel in me. But that's going to be a long-term thing. I can only write it a bit at a time. It's emotionally gruelling (for all kinds of reasons) and when I look at my bank account, I am realistic in the fact that I won't ever become rich on the back of it. So, for kicks and dosh I am writing other things: romance, urban fantasy and erotica.
Unfortunately, from a marketing POV, I'm a bit of a nightmare. It means I shall have to create several different alter-egos. I'm going to have to be crafty about who I admit my writing habits to. The great thing about being a writer is that most of my past-times, I can put under tax-deductible and/or research. I had a slow day yesterday and cried my way through 3 Mills and Boons. I've been playing Skyrim on the Xbox, it's been great for re-inforcing the necessity of attention to detail in the creation of worlds. Going out and about, is for the stimulation of ideas. Blogging, obviously is about marketing and Facebook and twitter are all about networking, fan and brand creation.
Now, if only I could get something ready to submit to a publisher....