I went to see Neil Gaiman read from the upcoming book he’s written in collaboration with musician Amanda Palmer today in Chapters bookshop on Parnell Street. I love going to readings and signings. I’m a total groupie when it comes to watching and listen to writers I respect and especially ones who’ve inspired me as a writer myself. There aren’t half enough of these kind of events in Dublin so it was a real occasion.
Today’s event was absolutely packed. Around 500 people had shown up. Even when I arrived at around 3.30, an hour and a half before the reading was due to start, there were droves of people clustered around the display of Gaiman books stacked in enticing view of the door. Wandering around the shop there were people ensconced in every cranny, taking up their positions and preparing for a long wait.
By around 4 o’clock there was an almost carnival atmosphere. Around the black swagged corner where the reading was due to take place there were drifts of people, mainly young, all clutching their books for signing.
As I’ve written here before I’ve signed books myself for Devil. Not for 500 people of course. In fact not even for people. My form of signing involves the Customer Service desk and some usually stressed staff. I’d love to do the other kind of signing …if I’m very lucky maybe one day I’ll get the chance.
Writing is something I do, something I’ve always done, but now I want something more. I want to be an author. OK technically I already am, I have a card saying I’m one and I can walk into book shops and see a book with my name on the cover but what I want one day is different.
What I write at the moment is True Crime. It’s an extension of the day job, a longer form of journalism. But when I’m writing for pleasure, the kind of writing I spent hours at when I was growing up, it’s another thing entirely. Left to my own devices I write fantasy. Not full blown fantasy, in fact several friends who are more avid readers of the genre than me have informed me that what I write isn’t even really fantasy. When I’m talking to them I tend to refer to it as satirical fantasy.
When I write that it flows unlike anything that hangs on the facts. I can write passionately about the stories I see unfolding in court but it’s always going to be a case of setting down the facts in order. You can’t change dialogue that didn’t quite flow in real life, however much it may jar. People look the way they look and the facts are totally immovable.
When the fiction’s flowing it can feel as if you are simply rreplaying scenesthat are taking place somewhere but at the back of it all there’s the knowledge that what you are creating something rather than simply recounting it. But even then there’s more to it than that.
When I write journalism I expect the reader to be interested, diverted, maybe even moved if the subject’s strong enough but fiction can be loved. Over the years I’ve met many writers as a journalist. A lot of them were people I respected and I would have had more than a little bit of hero worship but it’s the novelists I was always most eager to meet.
These are the people who’ve actually created the worlds that lived in my imagination. That’s something completely different from being someone who uncovers truths. I’m not explaining myself particularly well here but there is a difference.
My first love is writing fiction. I’m not saying I’m up there with Mr Gaiman, I’m still learning and I’ve got a long way to go but one day if just one person comes up to me and says that a world I’ve created caught their imagination that’s what I want as a writer. My words, my stories, firing imaginations and maybe even making people want to write. That would be the achievement.
Maybe one day…and in the meantime Devil has it’s own path to wander for a while yet. In that regard I may have some news soon. But tonight I’m finished for now, and off to read my newly signed copy of Coraline!