I’m sure it’s normal, a matter of days before a piece of me goes on sale in bookshops, to fall prey to the jitters.
So far, those who have read “petite” all said complimentary things. Admittedly these were people who were supposed to be on my side – agent, publisher, friends, family – but I’m also beginning to hear feedback from interviewers/reviewers and people in the book trade who’ve seen an advance copy. It’s surreal when they say they liked it. I’m never sure how to respond. I suppose I should say ‘thank you?’, although my first impulse is to say ‘really? Are you sure? Why?’
I think I’ve had to read and re-read my own manuscript so many times in the course of the publication process that objectivity went out of the window long ago.
However my jitters have nothing to do with Joe Public reading “petite”. My nervousness is centred on what one particular person will think of it. Of my work. Of me.
You probably think it’s odd that The Boy, of all people, hasn’t yet read it yet. To be fair, it’s not out of indifference on his part, it’s due to a combination of me not wanting him to read it until it was fully finished/copy edited/proofed/corrected and him saying he preferred to wait until it was printed in its final form, with its cover on. I suspect both of us were putting off the inevitable. But now that I have a whole carton full of hardbacks sitting on the floor at the foot of my bed the inevitable can be put off no more.
‘Nice paper,’ he said when he got home from work and I handed him a copy. ‘And look, they’ve embossed the writing, it stands out more than it did on that proof copy you showed me before…’ He paused, looked at me intently. ‘So, I’m allowed to read it now, am I? Finally?’
‘Yes,’ I said, chewing my lip. ‘But, um, not when I’m actually here. I mean, I couldn’t stand it if you were reading it next to me, giving me sidelong glances. It would be excruciating.’
Since we’ve spent every evening together since, and he works all day, he hasn’t had chance to open it yet. (The métro to work is exclusively reserved for the ritual of Libération.)
Why am I so nervous? Well, frankly I doubt the book I’ve written is really his cup of tea. His favourite authors are people like Álvaro Mutis and Borges, at opposite end of the lowbrow/highbrow spectrum. Then there is the language barrier, which means he will understand the gist of the story, but he’s the first to admit that he’s unlikely to fully appreciate my style or voice, and nuances of meaning will be lost on him.
Top of my worry list, however, is the ‘Too Much Information’ factor. Which is why one of my favourite masochistic pastimes, at the moment, is imagining The Boy’s internal dialogue as he turns the pages.
‘Ah yes, she can be annoying like that,’ he thinks to himself, a lightbulb flickering on above his head. ‘So it’s not just with me, then…’
‘Oh, she used that line on me once!’
‘Ew, that bit was corny…’
I decided to ask him to read it when I’m a safe distance away, in England in early March, busy with promotion and too distracted to think about Him Reading My Book. This means, of course, that I’m deferring the inevitable for another whole month.
And when the deed is done, if he doesn’t like it, what then? Would I prefer him to be honest, and explain why? Or should he lie through his teeth if he wants to continue sharing my bed?