So, it’s not shocking to me that I only got to Day 8 with my Daily Writes series. I had great intentions, but not a huge amount of time or headspace, given that I’m working a full-time job that’s all about writing, and writing a novel in my spare time. Writing about writing every day on top of that was too much, so I went in the other direction and put my blog out of my mind altogether, mostly so I could concentrate on what was turning out to be a very difficult third book to write. Not that any book is easy to write, but I was facing different challenges and fears with this one than I did with the previous two novels.
Essentially my big worry was story. Having written two novels that had strong concepts as the narrative driving force, I’m now writing a book that doesn’t have a concept and is essentially about a relationship between two people and how forces beyond them affect it. My big fear was (and is) that I won’t be able to get the reader to keep turning the pages. In my previous books, literally every 1,000 words, I posed some sort of question so the reader would want to see what happens next, and in writing this one I felt I didn’t have enough action for those questions to pop up.
I’m trying to let go of having to rely action – the desire for big things to happen and obstacles to propel my protagonist’s story forward. This is a quiet story, and I have to trust that my reader will be so invested in my characters that they will want to see what happens to them without being prodded along with the ‘what happens next?’ structure. I am two-thirds way through my first draft, and in the process am getting to know and deeply care about my characters, and I want to see what happens to them (at this point, I don’t know how this book is going to end). I’m hoping this will translate to my editor, and after a couple more drafts, to my readers.
I thought I knew a fair bit about the media industry. After all, I’ve been magazine editing for 13 years now, and I know a good story when I see one. Over those years I’ve often been asked to go on TV, radio and in print to talk about gay rights issues, and the one proviso I always gave was that I don’t talk about my personal life. The reason for this is I have a son, and I felt a responsibility to keep his life out of it, since he had no choice in the matter.
My son’s grown up now, and he lives abroad, plus he’s totally comfortable with me talking about him, so when The John Murray Show on RTE Radio One asked me to come on and talk about my new novel, Knowing Me Knowing You, and at the same time tell the nation what it’s like being a gay dad, how it all happened, and what my relationships with my son and his mother were like, I said yes. I was reluctant – my book is mainstream commercial fiction featuring heterosexual characters, and no gay dads, but i understand that personal stories are interesting to listeners, and I felt ready to tell my story.
The show was broadcast on Monday, and right after it the RTE press office contacted me to say The Daily Mirror were interested in running a story, based on the interview. Then The Irish Sun called me and said they’d like to run a story too. I said yes, although again with trepidation. There was little I could do about it – my interview was public property. I asked both the Mirror and The Sun to print a photo of my book cover with their pieces and left them to it.
The stories appeared yesterday. The copy stuck to the tone of my interview, which was an honest account of how I came to have a child, the process of coming out as gay, how my child’s mother took the news, and how we have managed to bring our son up together but apart, the very best we could.
But the headlines were a different story.
‘I TOLD HER I WAS GAY BUT WE HAD A BABY ANYWAY’ shouted The Mirror.
‘GAY DAD PACT HIS BAGS DAY SON TURNED 1’ said The Sun – http://tinyurl.com/c7c2kz8
I know a headline is there to make a reader read the story, but still I was shocked at the negative slant in the headlines about my own life. They don’t reflect the truth of the story at all, and there’s a kind of homophobia to them, a suggestion of irresponsibility coupled with the word ‘gay’ that, for all my knowledge of the tabloid papers and their sexually prurient slant, I was not expecting. I guess, when it’s your life, you can’t imagine it framed in any other way.
God only knows what it must be like to be famous and see this kind of stuff every day!
Anyway, my publishers are delighted. Both papers printed the book’s cover so it should help sales. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it, folks?