I've had my best review yet for Caligula. "It's brilliant. It draws you in and keeps you turning the pages. I can't believe how you pulled it all together. It deserves to be a best-seller." And this from a man who's read thousands of books in his lifetime, who knows what he likes and who wouldn't necessarily have been drawn to a book about Rome. I gave my mum and dad a bookproof last weekend when Simon sent me a couple more copies. I honestly didn't know whether dad would fancy reading it, and if he did whether he'd like it. To get his seal of approval feels like winning over the literary editor of one of the big broadsheets.
As a writer, you always live in hope, but, conversely, don't want to build your hopes up too high, but there's a momentum growing about the book that is giving me a real buzz. So far half a dozen people have read it and the reactions have all been incredibly positive. Simon liked it enough to gamble on a complete unknown. Edward who runs Youwriteon.com has one of the bookproofs and echoes my dad's view: " I think this book deserves to be a bestseller. It's really engrossing and wonderfully written." My mate Rob read the first 100 pages in two hours when he was up for the rugby and told me I should give up the day job and go for it -I haven't taken his advice yet, but it was a great endorsement.
Can a first novel become a bestseller? Realistically, the chances are pretty minimal. Again I think it's all about momentum, there has to come a point when it's not just another book, it's THE book. But the funny thing about Caligula is that there's always been that little bit of good fortune that has helped it to make that next crucial step. All it takes is for it to fall into the right set of hands at the right time and it could change everything. Only another fourteen weeks or so to to go.
That was an interesting piece by Guy Dammann about Youwriteon on the Guardian website, and it generated a lot of feedback. He was a little bit disengenuous with his digs about English Arts Council funding, but overall it was pretty positive. I think he slightly missed the point about the raison d'etre of the site, though. Youwriteon is all about encouraging people to be involved in writing and to evolve their writing once they're in. The very fact that so many people from all over the world have signed up and are taking part is surely evidence enough of the site's success so far. The possibility of getting published is the carrot which draws people in, but if someone like me is fortunate enough to find a publisher it's a by-product of what Youwriteon is all about not the reason it exists.