Friday, July 21st, 2017
My debut novel, Mother of Darkness, was published last month. I’ve written the story of a lost soul, Matty Corani, living in Soho as it changes, and Matty’s corresponding transformation – it’s a tale of messianic delusion, drug abuse and loss described variously as sordid, squalid and revolting, or lyrical, wry and darkly comic.
It’s a bold book, but I’m not a bold person. I’m shy and hate public speaking. Writing encourages introversion – dreaming, thinking, researching and typing are all insular solo activities. A writer’s communication with their reader is a special, tacit thing. Talking about what’s written down can be like explaining a joke; the thing you could pin down in writing simply vanishes. Better a silent transfer of thought from my mind to yours. Things that cannot be said aloud can pass between us, and all their possibilities and offshoots from our respective experiences, ideas and pasts. This is an internal thing, a joint effort of two minds, and I can’t help but feel that this connection must be diminished by being filtered through the face and audible voice one presents to the world.
But writers must publicise their work. You can’t internally communicate to people the very existence of your writing. So how exactly do you buck up and do what needs to be done? What follows is as much advice to myself as to anyone. Some are things that friends have suggested, or that I’ve chanced upon myself by ruminating in fear of upcoming interviews and events. Additional ideas are extremely welcome.
- Publicity requires a second self. Grow a new part of your personality and send the thick-skinned beast into battle like a shield ahead of you. This is no time to cower and quail. Or you could recall a self you’d long ago put out to pasture. University was, for me, a time of rigorous tutorials and self presentation, meeting new people every day and going to parties every night. I’ve been trying to recall the bravery of that person.
- Expand that new part by exploring it. Say yes to any and all opportunities and trust that you will be able to deal with whatever they are by the time they come around.
Practise talking about your ideas in an unthreatening environment (my cat is a receptive audience) answering somehow impossible questions such as ‘What is your book about?’ whenever you can. Find a short answer and a way to expand on it if needed.
- Not all publicity requires extraversion. Written pieces about yourself and your ideas can be done in solitary confinement, and your self and your ideas will consequently be more familiar to you when you have to say them aloud. Understand that your friends may feel bombarded by your ceaseless self-advertising bombs. Hopefully they will understand the necessity of this. (Sorry, friends).
- Buddy up. There’s strength in numbers and bookshops like there to be two of you at an event. This might apply to the writing process as well; there are so many groups on and offline that can help you stay connected to society.
- Act as if: imitate the person you aspire to be and allow transformation to happen. Trust that it will.
Mother of Darkness by Venetia Welby is published by Quartet Books, 2017. Buy it at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mother-Darkness-Venetia-Welby/dp/0704374293 or follow www.facebook.com/NightIsOurMother/ for updates.