I finished my book.
The one I’m writing, not the one I’m reading. And not finished-finished. This is the first draft. Some of what will end up in the finished-finished book is on a post-it note I lost last week, and quite a lot of it is still in my head – but there’s a start, and an end, and words in between.
Airpunch! Cake! Gin! Round of self-congratulatory tweets!
I’m doing those too (apart from the gin, I don’t understand gin) – but mostly I’m having a bit of a cry.
Two reasons, I think.
One: this is the last Pea book. I just wrote the last scene of my first series, and I’ve lived with these characters for a long time and love them very much, and it all feels a bit Gauda Prime* all of a sudden. I want so much to end it right. I think I have. But it’s got an ending, now. It ends.
Two: I’m not just ending it for me. I’ve got readers. I don’t mean like JK Rowling has readers, like there’s a squad of avid Pea-nuts hammering down my door (charming as that idea is). I’ve got one reader in particular in mind: my smallest niece, R. I’ve got six nieces and nephews, and R’s the first who’s been the right age at the right time with the right sort of booklove to be super-excited that Auntie Susie does this sort of thing. She’s drawn me a cover for this book, this book I’ve just finished. I’ve read her some of Pea’s Book of Birthdays as a bedtime story; seen her face as she dashes in to tell me a shocking plot development she’s just read, eyes big. Her favourite number is eleven, because Pea is eleven. She’s writing a story called The Castle of Fright, because Pea writes one too.
I’m not her favourite, you understand: Arthur Ransome’s Nancy Blackett is her first love (and quite right too). Still, it’s basically amazing. But I’ve got responsibilities here. I always want to do my best, write my best; I’ve written about this before. Now my audience has a face, one I love to bits. And I have to not let it down – while not letting down all the other faces I don’t know at all.
And then there’s her little bro, my beloved nephew M, who is too little for the books, but quite big enough to know if he’s being left out. I don’t want to let him down either.
This is the first book I’ve written with that sort of awareness, and I’ve spent most of it wracked with fear that I can’t do it.
Two more things, now I’ve had my cry, and slept, and eaten a bacon sarnie:
One: I always have that fear. I always think I can’t do it, for whatever reason. Eight books in, you’d think I’d remember. I won’t next time, either.
Two: I cry over happy things too. I hung out with two of my big, grown-up nephews this past week. I got to chat about theatre, and TV, the stuff they’re up to. They (along with their sister, and brother) are among the loveliest, cheeringest people I know. One of my sisters pointed out how unusual that is; how most people don’t have that sort of cross-generational thing in their family. I was still enough of a kid when they were kids to be around, to hang out and play.
So if I don’t write R the perfect book, and I stop being one notch down from Father Christmas, I’ll be ordinary Auntie Susie instead. And that’ll be brilliant too.
* I mean this in terms of a sense of finality. Not plot. I don’t think my editor would like me going actual Gauda Prime in my kind funny series for 8+ – though who knows what the second draft may bring…
** This isn’t a footnote at all. I’m cheating. But I just wanted to issue a little gleeful squeak (down here, quietly) at Pea’s Book of Best Friends making the 7-11 longlist for the UKLA Book Award 2014, as voted for by teachers. Thank you, teachers. I’m beyond chuffed.