The sub-title for this post is ‘The Kindness of Others’. I am naturally very excited about today’s publication of my first novel of psychological suspense, Out of Sight, but in a way almost more deeply touched by the delight other people are taking in it. And also a little bewildered: I have been writing for decades, and never experienced the same sense of celebration over a screenplay, a newspaper article or a non-fiction book – all forms of writing I have enjoyed and am equally proud of.
Why should a novel be so different? Why is a novel an endeavour that inspires such shared pride?
A novel is certainly a bigger, more densely sustained piece of imaginative work than, for example, a screenplay (though I doubt it’s my hard work that has provoked my friends’ pleasure).
I think it’s because the physical book bearing my name is much more than simply the story I set out to tell in the form of a novel. I’m too close to the coal-face of writing Out of Sight to stand back and see it from such a wide perspective, but my friends’ pleasure reminds me that any novel has the potential to be a cultural achievement: it may be a realisation of the self, the creation of some kind of defining personal narrative, a personal legacy, or even become part of a literature that reflects society or introduces immortal characters loved by generations of readers. The act of reading also takes place in a specially created personal space, making it a more intimate, companionable experience than watching TV.
My friends’ sense of shared pride in my publication day reflects something far beyond my book precisely because that something places it for a fleeting moment at the heart of all readers’ love of and respect for the adventure of fiction. And that is something to celebrate.