It’s 4.38 am, in the early hours of Thursday, 14th September. I’m wide awake, staring into the darkness of my room (well, mainly darkness. I live next to a train line so there is the occasional flashing light!). I have to be up for work in less than three hours, but even though I know I’ll be tired in the morning, I can’t sleep. My book is being published today. It’s a moment I have been waiting for for 27 years, and nervous doesn’t even begin to cover it.
In the morning, it honestly feels a bit like my birthday. My boyfriend gives me a present, I immediately check where The Doll House is on Amazon and whether it has any reviews yet (yes, one good one, thank god) and then I force myself to go through the motions of showering (by torchlight because the bathroom light is broken), cleaning my teeth and finding something to wear. The strange half-light does not really help my nerves.
‘What shall I wear on publication day?’ I ask, suddenly regretting the spontaneous decision to declutter my wardrobe the week before, and I’m seized by panic, which is sort of about what dress to choose but mainly about the fact that my little book is suddenly out in the world, and what if it doesn’t sell and what if no-one likes it and what if this is all a huge mistake and what if what if what if.
I choose a red and blue dress. We go to work.
At work, everyone is absolutely lovely and supportive and I feel very lucky. My agent meets me at 3.30 in the afternoon and we sit together over coffee and cake, talking about her kids and my flat and of course, the book. She gives me a beautiful white orchid to go on my desk (this is good – it’s quite hard to kill an orchid even though I have a bad track record with plants) and we discuss next steps and Amazon rankings and check where the book is sitting in the charts three times in an hour and a half. She gives me a hug goodbye at the tube station and I remember the first time I emailed her, almost three years ago, crossing my fingers and closing my eyes and then nearly fainting when her name appeared back in my inbox 24 hours later, telling me that she wanted to read more. I was 24 then; my book was fairly rubbish and I was pretty naive. The last three years have been a lot of work, but in that moment at the tube station, every single second of it feels worth it. The late nights. The tears of frustration. The rejections. I clutch my orchid and make my way home.
That night we go out for dinner but I am so exhausted that I can only manage one glass of wine. All I really want is to go to bed and watch Strike on TV, so that’s what we do. (To give myself credit, I did have a celebration the night before which makes me only slightly less boring). I don’t concentrate much on Strike though because my phone is a bit mental; all day I have had messages, tweets, Facebook and Instagram comments, emails, from people saying lovely things, and telling me they’re reading the book, and I am so grateful for every single one of those messages. I don’t want to miss any of them, so I try to reply to them all, which means at the end of the episode I have to have the whole thing explained to me and in all honesty, I should probably just go watch it again from the start.
It’s a wonderful day – really, really lovely. But it is also strange. I have moments throughout it where I have to remind myself to take deep breaths, and not worry too much about what the reviews say or what the sales figures are or whether I’m being too annoying on social media. Before I got published, I thought that if I got to this day, I would never really worry about anything again because I would have done it – achieved my own personal dream, put something creative out into the world. But the thing is, I will always worry. That’s who I am. There is always a next step, a new goal, another set of obstacles that rise up to wave at you, just when you think it’s all over. And speaking to other friends who have been in this situation too, I think the key is to be thankful, thankful that at least the first part of the goal has been realised, that all the hard work of writing a book has not been wasted (not that it ever really is, but that’s how I personally felt before) and that from now onwards, I can call myself not only a worrier, but an author as well. And three days later, the orchid is still alive!
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