“… yeah, well, not everyone is a professional writer like you…” His expression turned to horror as he realised what he had said. “Oh sh…” My son muttered a profanity under his breath, probably hoping I would not register his words. No chance.
“That is coming awfully close to being another compliment, you know.” He had already slipped up once that morning when I had shown him the new design for The Initiate. His analysis was all I could have hoped for… then he asked where we had bought the cover. He seemed surprised to hear that the design was our own.
It doesn’t seem all that long since I plonked my first paperback on the table to be told that it ‘almost looks like a proper book’. And it is only a few months since my younger son finally admitted to having read one of them and said, with an air of astonishment, that he had enjoyed it.
Like most writers, I gave up long ago expecting my work to be regarded as anything more than ‘Mum’s hobby’. It might have been different if I’d become the next J. K. Rowling, but as most of our books are slightly weird and do not fit neatly into any genre, that is hardly likely to happen. So praise from both my sons, albeit accidental, felt like the ultimate accolade.
Growing up with a writer for a mother, my own attitude was different. I read everything she wrote, hot off the typewriter and with the uncritical eyes of youth. She believed in herself as a writer, so I believed in her too. It was as simple as that and I still love the characters she created today.
With the advent of the internet, followed by the increasing literary ‘respectability’ of self-publishing, the writer’s world has changed. It is harder than ever to break into mainstream publishing. Wonderful contracts and substantial advances are, for most, a thing of the past and anyone can now share their stories online. Indie authors have fought long and hard to have their work accepted as equal in quality to mainstream publications and make up a huge percentage of the books now for sale via the online sellers. And, let us not forget that very many Indies do the whole kit and kaboodle themselves, from the writing, editing and proofing through to the internal design and cover, which requires a whole host of skills that were once outside of the writer’s remit.
The one thing that has not changed is the need to believe in your work. I look around the blogosphere and through the responses to the writephoto prompt and am in awe at the sheer variety and scope of the imagination displayed. It is a real gift to be able to create engaging fiction, bring characters to life, craft convoluted yet believable plots or compose poetry that touches the emotions. Anyone can string words together, but not everyone can write and yet I see many who are so diffident about a talent I admire that they would hesitate to call themselves writers. For a very long time, I felt that way too.
My mother’s belief in her work both inspired, and was bolstered by, the faith of those around her. It gave her the confidence to submit her work to any number of publishers, filing rejection letters with a philosophical shrug before parcelling up the manuscript to send on to the next one. It was a confidence that eventually led to her earning a regular living as a writer and seeing her work in print every month for many years.
For myself, there are now a goodly number of books with my name on their spine, both alone, with Stuart France and with G. Michael Vasey. It isn’t about reaching Rowling-esque sales or creating the buzz of a Dan Brown… the books are written because we believe in what we do.
And, if my son calls me a ‘professional writer’, I know I’ve hit the big time.