Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The press, and my leaving party, and a thankyou

So, last week was bizarre. Clare sent me a message out of the blue late on Monday night - would I be happy to talk to a journalist the following day? Now, Tuesday happened to be the first of three consecutive days back in my 'old' job, and so I would be spending it locked in a room in central London analysing questionnaires (part of my job is as a sort of Ofsted type inspector, but for health services), and so I said I would be happy but not available. No problem, she said. I could do an interview over the phone in my lunch break.

So I did. It was a very odd experience. The journalist, Dalya, was very lovely, and asked me lots of interesting questions about me, and the book, and how I came to write it. You wouldn't think it would be too hard - after all I'm sort of in love with the book again (now it's finished and in someone else's hands) - and this blog is probably testament to the fact that I don't have any problem talking about me. But still it was weird. Trying to answer questions in an articulate yet unambiguous way, constantly aware that every sentence might end up between quotation marks in a newspaper - it was harder than you might think, particularly when coupled with the need to be vaguely entertaining or interesting or, ideally I suppose, both.

Then there were the photos. It hadn't crossed my mind they'd need a picture. 'You're a scientist,' said Dalya. 'Do you wear a white coat?' I told her I didn't and the disappointment was audible. It would have made a good picture, I suppose, but in the end we arranged to get a real, proper, professional photographer to take some pictures, and so I arranged to meet him outside the hospital in which I work at 8am the next day.

That was another first. Standing, posing, in the street while someone with very professional looking kit takes shot after shot. I sort of enjoyed it, after a while (even though I'm not keen on having my photo taken at the best of times, plus I was dreading my colleagues turning up for work and seeing me - I'd never live it down), my favourite thing being seeing busloads of people looking disappointed when they craned their necks to see who I was, only to find I was nobody important, interesting or famous.

And then, yesterday the story ran. It was in the Evening Standard (you can read it here). Another weird experience. I went out for a lovely lunch with Liza, the woman who is producing the film of Before I Go to Sleep, and on the way home was suddenly aware that I was on a tube train filled with people reading the Standard, which carried the story of my book next to a photograph. Suddenly paranoid that I might be recognised, I wondered briefly if this is how famous people feel all the time (of course the answer is no - they feel much worse because a) they really are recognisable and b) people really would hassle them if they were recognised. I mean, what was going to happen to me? Probably the worst thing was that someone might nudge their companion and say, 'Isn't that the bloke from the paper?'). Then of course I found that I needn't have worried - unlike the online version, the printed copy carried a HUGE photo of Kate Winslet (AN ACTRESS WHO MIGHT BE IN THE FILM!) and a tiny photo of me (some bloke who wrote a book). I have NO idea what made the people at the Standard think that people would rather look at a photograph of a glamorous star than one of a bald, bespectacled and ever-so-slightly overweight (the BMI is creeping up - writing a novel is not good for the waistline) author, but there you go.

Seeing the story in print was very odd, though. It made it all feel very real, somehow, yet in a weird way made it seem as if it had nothing to do with me. And then, last night, I had my leaving 'do' (I'm taking a bit of time off to write another novel). I arrived to find all my colleagues brandishing copies of the Standard, demanding I sign them (I think they were joking, but they made me do it nevertheless), after which they ribbed me mercilessly (shift work?! A lab??!) and demanded that I name some of the characters in Nine Lives after them ('Be careful what you wish for!' I replied...) But it was a lovely night, and I feel very fortunate that these colleagues and friends are so supportive of my writing and enthusiastic about my book.

If any of them are reading this - thank you.


John ToD said...

Go Steve!
The blog is a great idea.
Am boring friends, neighbours and relatives plugging the book.

S J Watson said...

Plug plug plug away! I'm not going to complain!