Well, today marks one month exactly until Inshallah, my first published novel is released. Today the publishers told me they are pushing the button to start the print run – making my longest held dream a reality. I can’t wait to hold my novel in my hands and finally accept that this is real. Only a month to go – a month of preparing for book launch events, workshops, and marketing activities, a month when I find out what the hardest slog of being a writer is – selling yourself in a multimedia, socially-networked. world. I’m ready for this but it is a whole new challenge to get up and actually BE an author after so many years of trying. There was no huge launch event for the textbook I co-authored, so this is an entirely new experience. I am happy to find myself in a very good mood about it, ready for the challenge rather than dreading even more things that I need to do. I am really looking forward to engaging with the reading public. Of course, I am nervous – mostly about having bad reviews! Still, I can’t wait to get feedback. If people hate it – fair enough. But my greatest hope is that they will be moved by Amanda’s story, maybe even inspired. I set out to write a strong book about a woman who finds her strength. I wanted to challenge some assumptions about things such as religion, culture and family. And I wanted to challenge myself in that process. So far I am still being challenged and I don’t think it will stop.
I love writing. I love the process itself – from getting an idea I just HAVE to write down, have to keep on writing to capture in its entirety – to drafting, to rewriting. I love feeling characters come alive. I love it when the plot suddenly reveals itself. And I love it when, once in a while, I create a piece of prose that makes me ache. It does happen from time to time. There is one such piece in Inshallah, and it is likely to be the piece that I read out at my book events most often, because it is my absolute favourite moment in the book. When I read it, I feel like an author.
I think this process of publication is also useful in another way. It keeps reminding me that I have permission to write fiction. It’s easy for me to lose my momentum under the press of daily life – a life I love, work I love and find stimulating – to just push writing ‘the novel’ to the back end of the day, a time which frequently never comes. I need this publication process because it motivates me, and gives me the discipline to sit down and get on with the next book. It is a learning experience, and I am glad now of social media because there are other authors (Honno authors, for example) who post their experiences and write about them, helping me to assimilate different dimensions of this new role, this new identity. This is who I wanted to be, for so long.
It’s not all rosy. I visited my father today, and he and my stepmother had no idea what I was talking about when I reminded them it was one month until publication. Obviously the two previous times when I informed them of my first novel being published didn’t signify for them. They showed little reaction to this news. It’s a shame, really. My mother, had she lived, would have been shouting from the rooftops, I know. She would have been delighted for me and would have been organising parties and signings and launches, talking to the press, getting it into local libraries, you name it. That’s the kind of woman she was. But my sister is in my corner, utterly thrilled, as she has held the same ambition for a long time, and seeing it happen to someone close fuels her belief in her own potential. I have supportive work colleagues who are positive about it, even though they don’t understand my love of fiction writing. And most importantly, I have a loving, supportive, enthusiastic and proud partner who has been with me every step of the way. These are all things to be glad about.
So, the countdown continues, and I need to keep up my momentum. With a bit of luck, book number two won’t be too much longer in the making.