The past year has been one of antithetical emotions for me. My first book got published: a small novella that mixes elements of absurdity, horror and literary references, well liked by the publisher, Gallows Press, and well received by those that have read it for the most part. Well, the ones who haven’t kept quiet. The others who didn’t like it… well, let’s just hope they keep on being quiet. The novelist Kurt Newton was effusive in his Amazon review for it. A few other reviews popped up, a couple by people I don’t know, to boot, as well as a tidy little rave-review in the magazine, Shock Totem. Suffice to say a little voice started whispering in my ear… you’ve made it, son! After so long trying, it is somewhat overwhelming to have acceptance of your work. I was elated. Now, here comes the “but”… if you ever hear that voice, the self-congratulatory, sycophantic one, I only have one piece of advice. Ignore the bastard. It leads to sad and desperate places: checking Amazon sales rankings at 2am, obsessive Googling of the book’s title to see if anyone is saying anything about it, becoming greedy for good word. For a week or two, I became the Gollum, sibilantly cooing over my precious and wishing the world would coo too.
So what’s the antidote? Well, it turns out, it was easy. Write. Write some more stuff. Try to assist with publicising the work that’s out there, sure, but don’t rest on, admittedly, quite small laurels. Get on with the next story and make it better than the last one, and whatever you do, don’t press alt shift and flick to Internet Explorer to check your Amazon sales rank. So that’s the mission for me now. To cultivate a body of work that people enjoy and keep on improving as a writer.
Luckily, I have a good relationship with my publisher, and we’ve exchanged contracts on two more pieces of work, this time full-length novels. One of the pieces due out soon is very important to me. A hefty, 120k horror novel that draws on quite a lot of my experiences growing up in my hometown in Pendle, Lancashire (alienation, prejudice, societal oppression, demonic pig ghosts – you know, the usual). It’s also the first of a trilogy. The novel is due out any time now (I’m assured) and I’m very excited about it. The sequel has already been written and is with the same publisher, and I’m slamming my way through the final draft of the third and final instalment. And now it’s dawning on me. What if people don’t like the first one? Will the publishers sever their ties? What if people see me for the talented hack that I am? I evaluate my own work and I am either a genius or I am a writer of schlock. I write worthy subtext or I am pretentious. That sentence works well or that chapter needs to go. Aww, what a nice review, I’m not worthy. What? The characters were flat and the plot uninteresting? Go fuck yourself.
I tell you, being published, being a writer, it’s a damn curse! You swiftly become the sort of needy person that in any other walk of life, you’d probably try to avoid at all costs. Realising this is the first step. Hi, my name is Liam Davies, and I have an addiction - I am addicted to being validated in the eyes of others!
And so here it is. After a year of initial headway… the skin has thickened. To everyone else who is at the baby-steps moment of their writing careers: Ignore everyone and enjoy the praise, but do so only in passing… and most of all, ignore yourself! You’ll only end up considering creating a Wikipedia page about yourself. Instead, just write another damn story. Just write tighter sentences. Experiment. Work out how to utilise syntactical chiasmus and grammatical dislocation and hypophora and semantic incrementum, all those fizzing, stylistic tools out there, and then deploy them like bombs. LIKE BOMBS DAMNIT!
Here's Liam's amazon page, check out his work.