In the two years since I gave up work to write full-time, I’ve made quite a few writerly friends; many more than I’d imagined I would, if I’m honest. I always pictured writers as solitary creatures, shunning daylight and society while drinking themselves into an early grave on cheap whisky, despairing over gnarly metaphors (like this one).
But that isn’t the case. Social media, in particular Twitter, has enabled those of us who sit around on our own making stuff up and pretending to be tortured to have at least a facsimile of a social life. And one of the nicest things about that has been watching fellow authors get that most rare of joys: the feeling of being nominated for an award.
British writers in particular respond to this in a lovely way, an embarrassed delight which shows just how welcome this kind of recognition is. It’s so pure and so concentrated, to be told by people who are paid to have a view on these matters that the thing you’ve made is worthwhile. A great review is one thing. A healthy sales report is another. But there’s something about being recognised by the industry as having created something special which is quite, quite unique.
And I’ll admit to having experienced the odd moment of envy, seeing those friends receive that recognition and spark with pride over it. I didn’t set out to write a book that would attract that kind of critical attention; I just set out to write a book (though I’m not sure anyone really does try to write an award-winning book – they write the book they want to write). And The English Monster is quite a Marmite undertaking: not quite historical fiction, not quite horror, not quite crime. I once found it in three separate sections in Waterstones Piccadilly.
All of which is preamble to the inevitable ‘me me me’ explosion, because yesterday I had my first and only taste of that delicious tingle. Because, yes, The English Monster has been nominated for a prize! It’s the Author’s Club’s Best First Novel Award, and the other eleven books on the list are so impressive that they can only deepen my sense of pride and wonder at being nominated at all. Absolution. The Marlowe Papers. Alys, Always. A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar. Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. I mean these are – well, they’re proper books.
Next week, this original list of 12 goes down to six, and given the other titles on the list I have no expectation of making the cut (this isn’t false modesty – as of the day before yesterday I had no expectation of ever being nominated for any prize, ever). Right now I’m basking in a warm glow of pride, and I’m going to sip away at that for the rest of the week and into the weekend. It is, right enough, an absolutely lovely feeling.