Claire King


Hope, Id and Climax.

Posted on: July 27th, 2016 by Claire - 12 Comments

It’s Wednesday night, 27th July 2016. My second novel comes out tomorrow. It’s a book that I have put a huge amount of thought, effort and love into. I have tried to be delicate, tried to create something that will touch people without hurting them. When I had a pre-launch signing last week, and I signed copies for people (THANK YOU PEOPLE) I felt I had to hand them back with two hands, carefully. For me this is not just a book, but a hope. My hopes are modest, but sincere.

The other thing of note is that the Booker Prize Longlist was announced today. Being long-listed is something I aspire to one day (yes really, because I want to write really amazing books), but I think it’s a few books down the line, if I’m lucky. I want Booker-listed books to truly blow me away. To challenge me and inspire me to be better. Two novels in to my writing career I think I would be disappointed if I hit this kind of aspirational standard. But I have been following some of the various predictions in advance of the announcement and to be honest I have felt uncomfortable for some of the authors touted as likely candidates. I think you must have to have a robust personality to manage someone planting that seed of hope in you, especially early on in your writing career before you have developed a thick skin of experience. A lot of the predictions and cheerleading for the longlist are, I feel, are fuelled by a buzz that feeds on itself. Or by an authentic desire to reward someone for a beautiful book you yourself loved. Or by a feeling that the author, somehow, personally deserves the honour. That it’s their time. But there are some 150 books put forward for the ManBooker, so it’s natural that most of us will not have read them all and will not be able to make an truly informed prediction. Still. Being on the receiving end of the cheerleading and hoping could be fun, right? Like sex without climax.


1993, The author reaches Climax

Authors are often fragile creatures, who take the risk of putting their hearts on show, to be loved or ridiculed. For most of us, that love comes very personally, from somebody who was touched by something you wrote, not in a tide of fandom. And yet something still compels us (me) to seek broader approval, even as we are also telling ourselves to run off and occupy ourselves with something else.

My friend, author Barry Walsh, quoted Virginia Woolf on twitter today: “I think the weeks when it [one’s novel] is first out are humiliating. People will talk about it, or they won’t talk about it. Which does one want? All that is miserable; and yet a necessity—one goes snuffing round after it.”

Same thing, right? But why? I blame my id. Freud used the analogy of the id as the horse, while the ego is the rider. I think we authors, no matter how skilled we are at riding, have pretty frisky horses.

Still with me? Bravo. In any case, all of this is to say that it’s a funny old feeling, launching a book out into the world. Particularly a hardback, which for most authors is a sort of prelude to the main act of a paperback. Book foreplay, if you will. It can be the kind of launch that can feel anticlimactic, if you’re not sure what’s going on or you’ve never done it before. This year I’m in the privileged position of doing it for the second time around, and based on my previous experience I plan to enjoy it, expectation-free, shape-wear free and wearing flat shoes.

In the publishing world, experience comes slowly. The process of writing and publishing a book takes years. It’s a long cycle. But if you are courageous as an author you can circumvent it. How? By actually talking honestly with other authors and learning from their experiences. This is not as easy as it may sound – we have a shiny image to project, right? Letting your guard down could be a risk. You won’t hear these kinds of conversations on twitter, unfortunately. But I think as authors we owe it to each other to have the conversation. Fortunately, in the last month I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of amazing ‘off the radar’ author chats. Honest chats, in confidence, where we have talked about some of the (frankly ridiculous) vagaries of publishing, about the Emperors New Clothes, about advances and agents and expectations and disappointments and all the other things that are usually not said on social media or at parties. Of course I can’t tell you what was said. But I can say that these chats have left me feeling positive, good humoured and happy to be part of a community of like-minded, kind, clever, individuals. Learning as we go, sometimes disillusioned, but still hopeful.

I said earlier that my hopes are modest, but sincere. They are. I hope you will choose to read my book. I hope it will find a place in your heart. And I hope, if I’m being honest, that it sells enough copies for me to be a good bet for book three.

12 Responses

  1. I am bring my id along tomorrow. Neither of us will be in shape-wear. Speaking as someone whose second novel is firmly but firmly under the bed, and speaking as someone who has read, loved reading, and also cried over “Everything Love Is” – I’l be proud to be at the launch. Very proud. x

  2. … or even Friday…

  3. TU says:

    I really wish I could get over to London, but will be there in spirit. As for expectation, I will be hunting for that Waterstones shelf pic of TWO King novels side by side, right there, for people to enjoy – that’s pretty special, no? Plus will be handing out copies in the far west (bare feet and jeans, come on down!).

  4. Annecdotist says:

    Lovely honest post, Claire. It’s tomorrow now, so congratulations and enjoy it.

    • Claire says:

      Thank you, Anne! Today I am going to not let my lovely kids drag me into bookshops to ‘see if they’ve got it’. Instead I am taking them to see Matilda 🙂

  5. Kate Brown says:

    Have a lovely, relaxed day today, Claire. So looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. I will take your book in my two hands and read it with the care with which it was written. xxx

  6. Dan Purdue says:

    Happy publication day, Claire. I hope it turns out to be exactly the sort of day you’d like it to be.

    So many writers seem slightly bewildered by the publishing industry’s insistence on the hardback-first model, pushing out a book that relatively few people will buy with the aim of getting reviews that will help the paperback sell, when it eventually comes out. It seems a very old-fashioned way of doing things. Still, I guess it must work, to some extent, but I can imagine that overall it might make the ‘big launch’ feel a bit anticlimactic.

    Either way, I wish you every success with the new book!

    • Claire says:

      Thanks, Dan. The business side of publishing is not my forte, and of course some hardbacks, even debuts, do hit the bestseller lists. But it’s true that a hardback launch for the rest of us can feel a bit up and down, as many people do decide to wait for the paperback (and thus the price of the ebook to come down). And if the marketing is relying on word of mouth then of course that will not really have started yet. I wonder if releasing a trade paperback in parallel, perhaps at least for independent bookshops, would help things along. In any case I’ve had a lovely couple of weeks out and about, meeting the loveliest of people, and now look forward to cracking on with the next book!

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