Saturday, 31 January 2009

Countdown to Claudius

Have come down with the annual post-New Year dose of the flu but decided to fight my way to the keyboard. What is it about this time of the year that brings these things on? Too much booze? Shoorly not - these days New Year is just another weekend. A cloud of Michael Crichton-type microbes that circles the earth waiting to strike just when you're supposed to be enjoying yourself? Or just the opposite, you're miserable in January anyway, so why not get it out of the way all at once?Answers on a postcard to ...

Today I completed the copy-edited manuscript of Claudius, which means that particular writing journey is coming to an end. The copy-editor was actually very gentle with me, but I've been fairly savage on myself, or at least on some of the writing. I think there's two reasons for that. The first is that, for me, the second novel is even more important than the first, or at least it's a more serious endeavour because there's none of the novelty of a debut. This is the one that has to build on whatever success the first has achieved, and the one that, hopefully leads to a third and possibly a fourth. The second is that Caligula went through about four times as many stages of development, and was gone over and over again until it was really tight. I wrote Claudius basically from scratch in about four months, and probably made the mistake of stepping back to see what other people thought, when I should have kept working on it. I think it was an understandable mistake to make, as a writer you have to have feedback, but not one I'll make again.

February 12 is D-day for the paperback of Caligula and a huge amount is riding on it. The strange thing is that, even 18 months into this, I still have doubts about my ability as a writer. You can tell yourself as often as you like that the only thing to do is get your head down and write the next book, but the fact is that you're always vulnerable to any sort of criticism, like the bloke who said 'I Claudius, it ain't ...' The other side of the coin is the boost you get from a review that says you could be the next David Gemmell and that is quickly followed by another one that tells you you're 'better than Iggulden'. They cheered me up no end, but I've lost that naivety that made me believe in my own publicity.

I'm doing a talk and probably a Q&A or a reading at Waterstones in Stirling on February 26. If you fancy coming along, just introduce yourself and I'll be pleased to meet you.

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