‘Closer to Home’, my last novel, is set in a mining town in South Yorkshire very much like the one in which I grew up. In fact, much of Thorpe is based on Conisbrough although I don’t use the town’s most famous feature – the castle – as I thought that might be too much of a giveaway.
I recently decided that I’d ask if Conisbrough Library might like a copy of the book as a local ‘curiosity’ and contacted one of the library assistants. He was delighted to accept my donation. He also asked if I could send some biographical information and a picture as he’d decided to put up a display about me (after he’d taken the winter Olympics one down).
I must admit, I was a bit thrown. I was happy for my book to nestle, hidden, among the other Hs or in the crime section but I wasn’t sure about a display – it seemed a bit ‘showy offy’ and there was a strong chance that it might be seen by people I know (or knew). I’ve been interviewed for the local newspaper and I’ve been on Radio Cumbria talking about my books so why should this be any different? It just felt a bit strange – perhaps because I’d never see the display unless I drove the hundred odd miles down to South Yorkshire. And if I did that, what would I do when I got there? Point at the display and then at myself saying, ‘That’s me. I’m a writer don’t you know?’
Of course, I sent the information that the librarian requested as ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’. He put up the display and sent me some pictures. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know if anybody saw the display and remembered me as an awkward, introverted child but I hope that, if they did, they didn’t think I was being ‘showy offy’.
I’m trying to get over my natural shyness by forcing myself to do things that are outside my comfort zone. If I’m honest, my ‘comfort zone’ is a narrow margin of space extending about four feet in every direction from my house (unless I’m on the fells) so there’s a lot of scope to push myself. In March I attended a party in London for crime writers and readers. I went solo having never met anybody there. It was terrifying but I managed to talk to a few people, to find some common ground and to pass as reasonably sociable.
At the end of this week I’m on a panel at Newcastle Noir, a crime-writing festival. There’ll be an audience, I have to read from one of my books and I’ll be asked questions which I’m hoping to be able to answer coherently. I’ve never met the other panellists and I have no idea if the audience will be quite large or just a few people who’ve come in off the street to get warm for an hour.
My comfort zone will be a tiny dot in the distance.