Saturday, 27 March 2010

And questioning the answers

It’s all about publicising the book, of course. And I’m grateful for any attention it gets. I feel somehow more protective of Besotted, perhaps because it had a slightly more difficult birth. So I’m happy to tell the Glasgow Sunday Herald anything they want to know (see my previous posting on answering questions).
Some of the questions are easy – first book I remember being read to me as a child, for example. The answer is both true (I checked with one brother and one sister and they both came up with the same book) and interesting. Not Winnie the Pooh or The Wind in the Willows, but these peculiar stories about Catholic converts and unrepentant pagans in an African village and the struggles of one particular guardian angel to protect her young charge from naughtiness and bad men. How weird is that?
But what books are by my bedside at the moment? I find myself thinking of those photographic features on “where I work” – the desk artlessly cluttered with books and research materials and intriguing objets. Even if I tell the truth, it feels somehow fake, like someone working hard at just being themselves.
And overrated books? The Da Vinci Code obviously. And I did sort of read it – listened to it on tape, actually, while stuck in traffic in LA. But doesn’t everybody know that already?
Underrated books are harder to come up with. There must be thousands of them – decent books that sink without trace, probably before I got to hear of them, my sources of information being the same as everyone else’s. I enjoyed all Peter Benson’s books and learnt a lot from them, but he’s just one example of a good writer whose books go out of print to make way for other books that just happen to be newer.
I’m not actually complaining about the questions. I think they’re good questions. And at least they’re about books, which makes sense, books being what I write. It’s probably just that I don’t like committing myself, which is why I write fiction. It allows me to avoid making unambiguous assertions unless they’re spoken by made-up characters, some of whom are decidedly odd and none of whom are me.

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