Launching a new book is a bit like giving birth to a fully-grown man.
All right, you can stop wincing now, and crossing your legs and making all those faces, obviously it's not exactly like giving birth to a full grown man, otherwise we'd only ever produce the one and then have to go for a long lie down and wonder where we went wrong and why he never phones. But. It is a bit like it.
I realise that now I have to explain myself, otherwise you are all going to spend the day shaking your heads slowly and muttering about 'poor Jane' and how it all went to her head and how she's obviously only moments away from running down the road with a pencil up her nose, shouting 'wibble!' So, here I go.
When you write a book you spend many months gestating. Not only during the actual writing process (which is more like being pregnant than I care to remember - you spend a lot of time sitting down and getting fat and everyone keeps asking you when it's coming out), but thinking up names for your book and being persuaded by people that 'Ethelred' probably won't stand it in good stead. You worry about how it's going to get on on those big-bad shelves, where it will get bullied by Nora Roberts and Marian Keyes. And you worry about its appearance - will it be glossy and poised and classy? Or will it have odd eyes and be the novel equivalent of ginger? (Apologies there to my auburn friends, who all know that I have nothing personally against those of the red-haired persuasion, and all remember that embarrassing time with the man who came to fix the fume cupboard..ahem).
And when it comes to appearance, you can't even do the pregnancy equivalent of finding the best looking man you can in order to ensure a reasonable looking progeny. You have to trust in a cover-art person whom you never meet! Who might have three thumbs and a squint!
And then it's all too late to worry, and it's coming out and there's nothing you can do about it but brace yourself and try to find something firm to bite on. Because labour is nothing to actually getting a book out there. To launch a novel involves more pushing than launching a boat. You shove and you force yourself onto people who also push on your behalf and before you know it there's a whole team of people all heaving in an unseemly way and hopefully getting sweaty and grubby. And then, with one huge POP (in my case that huge pop will take place on 01 February), the book is there, blinking in the bright lights and taking its first liberties with the readers' affections. But, unlike a child, which you get to nurture and encourage and drop on its head a bit, this Ethelred is standing on its own already! Wandering around and shoving its hand up the skirts of the ill-prepared!
It no longer needs you. And, after all that effort, all that is left is to make sure it pulls up its socks and takes the world by storm. And, while it still retains that place in your heart that is peculiar to your firstborn, you must let it go, and work on the literary coy looks and low-cut blouses that are necessary in order to fertilise the next idea and grow yourself a new novel.
And you'll never get yourself a Booker like that. Although I'm off to give it a shot...