Guest Post by R.N. Morris: The unbearable weirdness of being published

Great writer and thoroughly good chap, R.N. Morris’ latest Porfiry Petrovich novel, A Razor Wrapped in Silk, is published on Thursday, and he’s here to talk about it.

Also, courtesy of those good people at Faber and Faber, we have 5, yes FIVE, SIGNED copies to give away. All you have to do is leave a ‘pick me’ comment and at the end of the week I’ll put the names into a hat (or something similar) and pull out five winners – the only restriction is that you have to live within Europe.
So, without further ado, I give you R.N. Morris…

The unbearable weirdness of being published
I’ve got a book coming out on Thursday. My fourth published novel. You’d think by now I’d be used to the experience. But I’m not. I get incredibly apprehensive ahead of the publication date. My overriding instinct is to run and hide. I find the mental image of myself with a blanket over my head strangely comforting. And yet, at the same time, I feel as though I should be doing everything I can to tell people about the event. So every now and then I scribble notes under the blanket and pass them out to whoever happens to be passing (thanks, Nik). Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I veer between being worried that newspapers will ignore it and I won’t get a single review, and terrified that it will be universally and humiliatingly panned. It never occurs to me to hope that people might like it. Amazon exercises a terrible fascination over me. I carefully monitor the ranking ahead of publication, to see if any pre-orders have generated an upsurge in that dread number. But I’m desperate to cure myself of the habit because, to be frank, that way madness lies. Not to mention heartache and despair. So if anyone knows where I can buy some kind of gadget that administers an electric shock whenever I even think about going to Amazon, I would be very grateful to hear from you.

But what truly characterises my feelings about the fact of publication, the thing that I really can’t get over, is sheer incredulity that this is happening at all.

The reason for this, I think, is that publication came relatively late for me. I always tell writers who comment enviously on what they insist on seeing as my “success” (their word, not mine), that I spent longer as an unpublished writer than I have as a published one. In fact, my first published novel, Taking Comfort, came out in 2006, when I was 46. I’m now fifty, as my fourth book, A Razor Wrapped in Silk, hits the shelves. So that’s five years as a published author and over twenty as an unpublished one (counting inclusively, just in case you’re checking my maths!).

I realise that there are writers who have waited longer for publication, but that’s not my point. I’ve been writing all my life, and desperately trying to get published for over half of it. What this means is that I have been living with rejection for years. And years. And years. You know, when you spend so long living with something, you get used to it being around. When it’s gone, you kind of miss it, even though all it ever did was block out the light like a mental and emotional eyesore.

The unpublished writers among you may find all this hard to believe. But I promise you it’s true. I spent so long in rejection’s company, under its dark shadow, that my relationship with it, abusive though it was, became one of the things that shaped and defined me. I was, in my own mind and others’ too I felt sure, a failure. Certainly a failed writer. I still have residues of the massive clump of misery that permanently inhabited me for decades clinging on to my spirit, sapping my confidence and stunting my hope. For that reason, I can’t quite bring myself to believe that the tide has finally turned. And I certainly don’t trust that my new-found good fortune will last.

You may say I protest too much. And perhaps I do. Perhaps I’m also trying to justify my obsessive amazon-checking and auto-googling (in my defence, what I google are my titles rather than my name). What all this activity is about, I would argue, is proving to myself that this is really happening, that I really do have a book coming out. A book published by Faber and Faber, no less. With my name on the cover.
Of course, there’s nothing that proves the reality of publication like walking into a bookshop and seeing your books, ideally on a nice 3 for 2 table at the front of Waterstones. So, yes, I do wander into bookshops and casually look for copies of my own books. Guilty as charged. Strangely, when I see the books I feel even more alienated from the process of publication than I did before. How did they get here? I wonder. Surely there must be some mistake? Or, more often, I must be dreaming.

Sometimes I think that I’m hooked up to a Matrix-like machine that is feeding me the delusion of being a published author (a dream I cherished for so many years and actually came close to giving up on) and almost convincing me of its reality. I must say, if it is a delusion, it’s not quite as great a fantasy as it might be. There are huge tranches of frustration and imperfection – of general crappiness you might say – in my life. So either there are some technical glitches with the Matrix, or it is all real after all: I do have a book coming out on Thursday. Though I for one find it hard to believe.

Roger Morris is the author of four published novels. His latest, written as R.N. Morris, is A Razor Wrapped in Silk, which will be published, or so he’s led to believe, by Faber and Faber on April 1, 2010. The significance of the date has not escaped him. It follows A Gentle Axe and A Vengeful Longing in a series of crime novels featuring Porfiry Petrovich, the investigating magistrate from Dostoevsky’s great novel Crime and Punishment. Roger’s first novel was the contemporary urban thriller Taking Comfort. He has collaborated with the composer Ed Hughes on an opera called Cocteau in the Underworld, an extract of which will be performed at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on April 14 and April 16.
You can see an earlier interview with Roger here.

52 Comments on “Guest Post by R.N. Morris: The unbearable weirdness of being published

  1.  by  Nik Perring

    Excellent!Rhoda, Katherine, Sophie, Asha and Helen, you're all into the tin. (It looks like I'll be using a tin.)

  2.  by  Annette

    I'm sure the publishing date is not an omen! Please pick me, looks very interesting :-)@mesafish

  3.  by  Tania Hershman

    Roger, thank you for being so candid, it's not something authors often talk about, everyone assumes that a book means you're jumping up and down all the time in eternal ecstasy! Well, you've made me want to bump up your Amazon rankings… unless, of course, Nik picks me out of the hat for a freebie.

  4.  by  Marisa Birns

    I've read your excellent post and the only thing that comes to mind right away is to chide you for one thing.You were not a "failed" writer for all those years. You were just an unpublished one.Don't worry about obsessively checking Amazon ranking. Just enjoy all your success.Congrats on your new book!

  5.  by  Asha

    Sorry, Nik, but you'll have to take me out as I don't live in Europe! Best of luck to the rest 🙂

  6.  by  Nik Perring

    Ha ha Skippy! I know those feelings.Can't enter you into the comp (sorry!) cos you're not in UK or Europe (think it's a postage thing). Sorry!Nik

  7.  by  simon walker

    i know the feeling to do somthing you are passionate about and the nerves that creep in when you produce it heres to your dreams pick me please!

  8.  by  Emily

    I'm a huge (and European…) fan of Roger's books but sadly not currently residing in Europe, so just came on to say "good luck" with this one, Roger, and I look forward to seeing it in bookshops round my way (…and now stomping off in most European manner at Faber's postage restrictions).

  9.  by  jamiemason

    I'm also a fan of Roger's, but I live way over here in the US. Great piece here, and I hope someday to be able to identify with this particular shade of oddness.Until then, of course, I'm very happy to live vicariously through Roger's generous commentary on the writing life (and his terrific vids of Molly)and simply enjoy his books.Keep on keepin' on, Roger. Congratulations and best of luck!-Jamie

  10.  by  Nik Perring

    Jamie – welcome to the blog and thank you for such lovely and kind comments; I'm sure Roger will appreciate them a great deal.Nik

  11.  by  Kate Brown

    Thank you for being so open, Roger. I have this image of a writer in a bookshop, wrapped in a blanket.If it's not to late to put my name in the hat, I'd love a copy of the book.

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