I have just heard that The Haunting Of Nathaniel Wolfe has been shortlisted for the Calderdale Children’s Book Of The Year Award, 2009. As you can imagine, I’m very pleased.
I don’t suppose any author writes in order to win awards. Most of us, I think, just do it because we’re driven to. We don’t have any choice in the matter. No doubt some people are more calculating than others. (That sounds like a criticism but it’s not meant to be. All art involves some element of calculation, after all.) But speaking personally, I never make up my mind to write a particular kind of book in advance, I just respond to whatever is obsessing me at the moment. It’s like scratching an itch.
Does that sound ridiculous, or pretentious? I hope not. The fact is that my books are all about myself – even if the hero of the story is a fourteen year old girl, even if it’s set in an imaginary word. It’s all been extrapolated from my own experience then encrytpted on my own personal Enigma Machine.
Nevertheless, it cheers one up enormously to hear that a book has been placed on the shortlist for an award. Because it means that I’ve found an area of experience that has meaning and resonance for other people. It’s like wandering about in a dark cave underground and then suddenly hearing voices.
Writing can be a very solitary business. During my working day I’m on my own for ten hours at a stretch.I’m not expecting anyone to feel sorry for me. I arranged it like that because I don’t really believe there’s any alternative.
What about writing groups, you may ask? Well, it’s true that they offer a degree of mutual support but they also present an enormous distraction. The process of writing requires that you download the contents of your mind onto a blank page, then arrange and rearrange the elements of that download to create the best and most satisfying order. I believe that’s best done in solitude.
But the intensity of that solitude makes it all the nicer when you come in from the cold every now and again, and stand there blinking in the unaccustomed light as people shake you by the hand and say, ‘Well done! Good piece of work.’