Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ink Odyssey

No, I'm not going to suggest that Ancient Greece was the best time for a working-class girl to be a writer. (Sidebar: I can entertain being born in Ancient Greece but not being posh or male? What's that about?)

I'm down at the other end of the cultural universe with Mr Kubrick, because 2001 was when I became a professional writer and I think, in what might be a massive failure of imagination, that it was the best moment I could have chosen.

I'll see off earlier times first. The trouble with being a writer when Jane Austen, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf or Dorothy L Sayers were writers is I'd have to actually live then too. The problem with that is . . . dentistry and sanpro. I'd love to visit any of those times but oh how very briefly. (My favourite scene in the Lost in Austen time-travel caper is where Amanda finds herself back in modern London and heads straight for the Colgate).

As for the thirteen years since, they've been horribly interesting times. Recessions, mergers, shrinking markets, exponentially complex business practices. I'm sure someone somewhere knows what's going to be going on in publishing when the dust settles but it's not me or anyone I've ever spoken to. I know how lucky I am to have happened to catch the last uncomplicated publishing boom.

It's hard to believe how different it was from today. I sent a paper submission to an agent. She wrote me a letter back. Licked a stamp and everything. I sent a huge block of paper to London and it thudded onto editors' desks, one after the other, until someone bought it. They paid me a decent wedge for English rights, and I started writing the second one. I went out for lunch with my publisher, made scones for the newspaper arts correspondent who came round for tea to talk to me, and signed for the bouquet of flowers that arrived on release day.

No blog tour to double-book, no Skype dates to forget, no online bookmark print order to get wrong, no conventions to spend a ton of money attending, no Facebook to use up 12 hours, no Twitter to use up the other 12 hours, no Kindle daily deals to find out about a day too late to tell anyone, no pirate sites to monitor until your eyes cross.

Man, it was dull. I absolutely love blogging, Skyping and ordering online. Left Coast, Malice and Bouchercon are like Christmas, New Year and my birthday all over again. Facebook is home. Twitter is my weekend cottage in the country. Kindle daily deals are like little gifts from a stranger and I get to fight pirates!

But sometimes I feel like one of the old countries spouting on about free trade and conveniently forgetting that they made their stack when it was anything but (coughempirecough). When I see a first-time writer beginning to fray at the edges under the sheer tonnage of stuff writers do now that's not writing, I just want to give her/him a hug and a huge cocktail.

So, if you see me at Left Coast Crime next week, debut authors, and you can summon a half-decent eye-twitch or neck blotch, the drinks are on me.


Paul D. Marks said...

Lots of interesting points, Catriona. I particularly like what you say about being a writer in the time of Jane Austen, et al. It all seems very romantic through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia. But it is nice to have running water in the house and electricity to power all of our goodies.

Susan C Shea said...

Your description of today's cyber universe - both positive and negative - is so true. After embracing it for years, I am feeling it's all a bit thin and so ephemeral. If I stopped Liking your FB posts, would you even notice, or would I simply vanish into the ether, know what I mean? Maybe I need that drink!

Robin Spano said...

Awww, how sweet. (Final comments to new writers.) Great points, too. This week's question has brought out some interesting answers.

Kathy Reel said...

Well, I for one am thrilled that you enjoy Bouchercon, as that's where I got to meet you. Every time I saw you there, you were full of energy and generosity towards your fans. And, of course, I could listen to that wonderful Scottish accent all day long. I won't be at the next Bouchercon, but I will be there in 2015 in Raleigh. Now I know how to get a free drink, so I must work on my crime writer attire.

Fall for the Book said...

Great post! And wishing I were going to Left Coast Crime myself (and not just for the free drinks). :-)

Art Taylor said...

Oops! Was signed in on a work account with that last note. Either way, sending good word your way. :-)