It’s a fine feeling indeed, one of accomplishment and satisfaction, of having gone the distance, run the race. That feeling won’t last long, I know - this moment is the eye of the storm, the real-but-false period of calm. If previous experiences of finishing a book are anything to go by, soon enough the bliss will give way to exhaustion, the satisfaction to doubt, and I’ll go into a slump, a kind of cold turkey withdrawal. As soon as I send the book to the publisher - and by ‘as soon’ I mean within minutes - all my mind’s eye will be able to see is the mistakes, the gaffes, the missteps, and we’ll be back into the storm again. Still, at least we have the safety-net of the proofs to come, even if, right now, the very idea of reading a single line of it again is enough to turn my stomach.
The fact that the redraft coincided with receiving the proofs for DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS didn’t help matters much, but now they’re both done and dusted (if not yet polished), and it feels like I’ve lost about two stone in weight, most of it around the shoulders.
Anyway, that’s it. Stick a fork in my ass, I’m done. Done with writing for the foreseeable future. No more rising at 5am to snatch a couple of hours before the day begins. No more staring bleary-eyed at a screen at 11.30pm, proofing the precious / pathetic few words I managed to scratch out before dawn. No more feeling guilty for not writing, or feeling guilty for writing and stealing time away from my family. No more the corrosive decision, made every day, of whether to write (fiction) for love or (journalism) for money. No more doubts and second-guessing myself for six months at least, and a fortnight in Cyprus to come next month. Yea, verily, my cup runneth over …
So - is ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL any good? I honestly can’t say. I’m still too close to it, obviously, to have any kind of perspective; besides, it’s not typical of my previous books. It’s not a conventional story, it’s not typically a crime novel, or any other kind of novel either, so I really don’t have much to measure it against.
I did get a huge boost at the start of last week, which arrived at the perfect time, given that I was in the throes of self-doubt and comma-fiddling, when Melissa Hill got in touch. As with all the other big-ups for the book (scroll down, left), Melissa Hill is an author: she writes women’s fiction as Melissa Hill, and has recently published, with her husband, a crime novel under the pseudonym Casey Hill. The gist of her verdict ran thusly:
“Declan Burke has broken the mould with ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which is actually very cool indeed. Funny, inventive and hugely entertaining crime fiction - I guarantee you’ll love it.” - Melissa HillVery pleasant it was to receive, as you might appreciate, and very grateful I am too. I thank you kindly, ma’am.
Here’s the thing, though - the story, which is essentially about a hospital porter bent on blowing up the hospital where he works, is framed by a conversation between the book’s author and said porter, as they redraft the story into what they hope will be a commercial prospect that will see the character of the porter liberated from the limbo of non-publication.
In other words, it’s entirely possible that readers who are writers will like the book more than readers who aren’t writers. So there’s that to worry about.
But I’ll worry about it anon. Today is the writing equivalent of that lazy, yawny, stretchy time between sleep and waking on a Bank Holiday morning, when nothing seems real and everything seems possible. Hell, there’s even a rumour, courtesy of my publisher and his sojourn to the London Book Fair, that an American publisher - very well regarded, although it would be impolite to name names - is taking a long, hard look at AZC.
So there you have it. The book is done. Time to put myself to bed, tucked up tight beneath the blankets, to sleep, perchance to dream …