This is the advantage we have over authors from even only twenty-five years ago; we have technology on our side, or so we think. I read an interesting article in I think it was The Observer, a few weeks ago, which said that Dickens, if he had had the technology, would have been blogging and tweeting and building his networks on facebook if he'd had the chance, because he was the consummate marketeer, because he knew his audience to a tee.
Well, many of us don't know our audience, don't have the same degree of self-belief that Dickens might have had, maybe don't have the drive the man had, because we're novices at this game, because we're first-time authors, struggling authors, to use that old, garret-laden cliche. Although most of us don't have to burn our furniture like Apollinaire or Hoelderlin or Valery had to, or any other of those poets who really couldn't get enough money together to live, or Roth who, according to a recently-published biography, borrowed from "every relative, publisher and waiter" to finance his nomadic life-style, his numerous mistresses, and all those he wanted to share his life with. We may think "chance would be a fine thing", but we don't mean it, not at all. We couldn't live like that, we wouldn't have the backbone, having grown up in a modern society where we have more than we can reasonably cope with, more than we actually really need.
I have decided to use technology, beyond twitter and facebook, to try to get the word out about my debut novel, Dead Men, not because I'm up my own backside, not because I'm an arrogant twit who thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread, but because I believe I have finally, after thirty years of trying, written a good book, a book worth reading, a book that says something not just to those interested in polar exploration, but to those obsessed with human relationships and love.
How have I decided to use technology, then? I have made my mind up to do the promo for the book, not just the hard, Shanks's Pony, way (I start a UK-wide book tour on 19th March which will lead me from London to Portsmouth to Doncaster to Diss, and then up to Dundee - exact timings to be confirmed), but also the potentially more embarrassing way of pitching myself to well-respected blogs as a potential guest contributor. Now there's an easy way for my already low typical writer's self-esteem to get even more damaged, but who cares? These are good blogs, and if they go for my pitch, I'll be flattered, relieved, enhanced as a human being.
So, the blog tour starts tomorrow, on Vivienne Tufnell's distinctive Zen And the Art of Tightrope Walking. Viv has been happy enough to let me write (excessively, some might say) about my formative writing experiences, about how my father encouraged my early writing. One thing I don't mention in that long post is that I didn't find out, until a week after Dad died in 1992, that he had tried himself as a writer, too, though he only had a few articles published in a works magazine. For me, that was one of the discoveries of my life, and my book just reinforces my gratitude to him for letting me get on with my life, no matter how many doubts or questions he had about me as a man. I am very grateful to Viv for letting me vent in her web space.
Some time soon, too, Alexander McNabb, whom I first met on authonomy, whom I've never met in real life, but whom I feel a type of affinity with, will be interviewing me on his blog, Fake Plastic Souks. I've, virtually, known Alexander since 2008, and never tire of his, often controversial, views of the publishing world. If there was ever a man who embodied Brecht's Verfremdungseffekt, it's Alexander, because he writes with a degree of irony and wit and insight which far exceeds mine. He'll drag you into a story with a wry sense of humour, just to rip you out of it again with savage, cutting cruelty. This is what great writers do.
I am talking to other writers, great in their own right, to ask them, beg them, to let me appear on their blogs. We will see what that brings. And that's good for me. Because, ever since my local village magazine decided to feature me on this month's front cover, folks I meet in the village have been calling me "that famous writer." I'm nothing of the sort. I'm just a bloke who has written a good book, a book that's not even out yet (not until 15th March), and who's hoping that some people he doesn't know might actually listen to his voice.