Tuesday, 31 January 2012
The book arrives
To be honest, it took me by surprise. The publisher had told me to expect a launch by the third weekend in February. It was only ten days or so since I signed off the final version of the artwork, and just a month since I checked the laid-out proofs. When the delivery van reversed into our drive in the middle of the day I thought, not expecting anything, that the beggar was using it to save himself a three-point turn. But a knock on the door, and soon I was cutting through the tape to reveal my author copies of the latest novel Mr Stephenson's Regret.
I know 'new baby' is a hackneyed expression, but it's only the birth of the breathing offspring (three for me) that tops the feeling of seeing and handling your new book for the first time. I guess that for mothers the delight may be proportionate to the pain of labour, and that holds good for authors too. This one took me nearly three years all told, research included, and it was relieving as it was gratifying to witness its fruition. And to touch it, smell it, riffle through the fresh new pages close and cool against my face.
Relieving too, having now read it cover to cover in its Sunday best, to find no missed typos or printer errors - the baby's fit and healthy. To the midwife publisher, well done.
From here, from now, the metaphor breaks down, or rather is transmuted. We send it out not as a baby (can have no expectation of charmed indulgence for the new-born) but as a fully-fledged, fully-developed product that must make its way in the world by its own lights. It's had all its raising, and learned to mind its ps and qs, right there in the womb. There's no more chance or hope of improvement now - it is what it is.
I hope you'll find it smart, companionable, engaging, and altogether worth knowing.