In seven days my book will be published. That's never been the case before. I'm nervous, and emotional in ways I hadn't expected.
A few evenings ago I met the author Clint Greagen, of Reservoir Dad fame, who will launch my book on September 10, and wrote a wonderful blurb on its cover. I drove to his house – in Reservoir, of course – listening to an audiobook version of Wuthering Heights, trying not to think about how nervous I was, wishing I was Emily Bronte and my book was being listened to by soon-to-be-authors 168 years after publication.
I worried Clint wouldn't like me and that, in meeting me, he might reassess his views on my book. Nothing he said or did suggested that would be the case. We drank some red wine in his kitchen while another guest watched Inception loudly on the sofa.
As is my way, I was keen to spend more time talking about his book and the positive reception it received than mine and my fears no-one would ever read it. In the immediate run-up to and aftermath of Reservoir Dad's publication last year, Clint received what sounded like an overwhelming number of requests for interviews, whether in print, for TV, or radio. I envied him, and tried not to. I also really liked him. And his book. Those feelings might seem contradictory. They are, but they co-exist.
With seven days to go, I've received no such requests. Barring a short future interview for Etihad in-flight magazine, suggested by a good friend who works for that publication, I have nothing lined up whatsoever. But, hey, Nicole Kidman is that airline's ambassador, is she not? She might read the interview, buy the book, secure the film rights. She might even play my wife, James McAvoy might play me – it'll be a huge success. Graeme Simsion, eat your heart out.
In the last few weeks, I've been sending at least four emails a week to my publisher, in various shades of passive aggressive, "just to check" on the progress of the publicity campaign I'm sure they're secretly planning to make sure my book's a global sensation.
Not just for me, you understand, but for them. The fact they haven't yet disowned me or told me to go fuck myself says more about them than me, and virtually guarantees I'll still thank them when I pick up a major prize for non-fiction. I couldn't have done it without them. I love them. Do they still love me?
As a journalist, I tend to think my publisher should be generating publicity the way I sometimes have to generate stories, which goes something like this: MAKE IT HAPPEN AND MAKE IT HAPPEN RIGHT NOW OR YOU WILL DIE AND SO WILL YOUR FAMILY SO JUST FUCKING DO IT HURRY UP IS IT DONE YET NO NO NO WELL HURRY UP!
I have journo contacts – not many, but some. And some who even work in book reviews and literary criticism. With one, I was sure she would have someone look at my book, and have tried as many overtures as I could to make that happen. I found out today it's not going to. I felt like crying – as well as other emotions I'd rather not divulge. Writing about them might make me feel less upset, and I'm not ready for that yet.
The closest feeling, or range of feelings, I've experienced with regards to my book relates to my children, when I've been with them at childcare, kinder or early-years school events. I want them to be liked, to be popular. Anything that suggests otherwise makes me despondent and I have to balance that sadness with the need to keep my chin up.
I recently spent half an hour outside a school disco my six-year-old didn't want to go into, trying to get him to stop crying, trying to stop myself and him getting depressed about his fear of going in, trying to make us both laugh.
How are such balancing acts achieved? By lying, mostly – primarily to myself.
In the shower, more times than I care to admit, I've rehearsed exactly what I'll say to invisible interviewers, all of whom will be keen to delve into the themes covered in my book and will find me a stellar interviewee. Working shampoo into my hair, I imagine myself chatting to Michael Cathcart with radio earphones on, laughing when he laughs, saying, "Oh Michael, that's very kind of you," when he heaps yet more effusive praise on my book. "Seriously, Michael, it's just a book, you're embarrassing me. Surely there are other books out there as good as mine? No? Well ... thanks ... I'm flabbergasted."
I'm realising, in a not-wholly-gratifying way, that I'm deeply insecure. Even more so than I thought. The events in my book are taken from my life, which goes no way to alleviating the anxiety. I tell myself – because it's true – it's well-written, that it will be seen that way, that my writing, on the whole, is of a standard. But even that can be hard.
A few months ago I entered a competition with what seemed like a straightforward brief: write 500 words on the subject of grief. It was a good one for me, tailor-made. I was still moping in the shadow of my mum's death, and wrote about not going to her funeral. I thought it stood up. And then I received this message:
Thank you again for your submission to the Grieve writing competition. 104 writers have now been informed that their work has been selected for publication in the printed hard copy of the Grieve 2015 anthology. If you did not receive a separate email to this one you have not been selected for the printed book.
I checked my email. Checked it again. I hadn't received another email. I read the message again. One hundred and four writers had been informed. I wasn't one of them. At least 105 people wrote 500 words about grief, and mine didn't make the cut.
Grief is the subject of a second manuscript I'm 80,000 words into which – in many ways – is a follow-up to the book that'll hit shops in seven days. No-one will touch Book Two with a barge-pole if Book One isn't a success, which it won't be, no, it will be, no, it won't be, yes, it will ...
Did I mention I was nervous?