Last month, I had a week of being made a fuss of. Flown halfway around the world. Media interviews. Sound and video recordings. Photographs. People regarding me as if I were important, asking questions and listening to what I had to say. The odd bit of flattery.
It was all in aid of selling a book.
Personally, I prefer the book to the author in most cases. This whole phenomenon of the author as public figure makes me uncomfortable, never more so than when I am that author.Never before, a publisher told me, has the persona of the writer been so important. These days people apparently want to know about the person behind the book.
Before heading off on this book tour, I was expressing these doubts to my 16-year-old daughter who understands the world a lot better than I do. She cut me short: “Listen! You’re there to sell your book. Not to talk about your vulnerabilities and be boring.”
Not being one to argue with the wisdom of a teenager, I took that as my mantra on my travels. Rather than kvetch about what I was doing, I was determined to enjoy it. And I did.
Writing is such a lonely business, with so few external rewards, that being patted on the back and seeing my book on a best-seller shelf was a thrill.
Good as it was, though, it wasn’t writing. That lonely business, the groping for words while staring at the page or screen, is its own reward. Some of us could not exist without it. Neither could the business of publishing and bookselling.