Writing historical novels is very different to calling yourself a writer. I’ve not been online for a few days. In the other part of my life, I manage an Irish dance school called Manx Trinity Academy of Irish Dance which happened to me by accident rather as one trips over a step. It sounds very impressive. To tell you the truth the kids are very impressive although we’re still a small school. I don’t teach dance, having two left feet, I just manage the business side of things and enjoy being involved. I have two amazing young teachers and the kids have made great progress. This past weekend we’ve had a workshop running with a visiting teacher from Dublin so I’ve been administering first aid and saying soothing words to a bunch of dancers who have been pushed to their limits.
It was supposed to be a four day workshop, but the arrival of storm Doris put paid to that and poor Michael ended up having to cram four days worth of work into two days. The fact that he managed it is a credit to him and the fact that they could still smile at the end of it is a credit to my teachers and my students. In the middle of all this my infant writing career was rather left to it’s own devices.
I reassure myself with the knowledge that at this point it really doesn’t matter since only a few friends actually know of the birth at all. I have barely put a toe out of the closet although I intend to get braver as the weeks go by. But today, while working on an author Facebook page, I ran up against an attack of the heebie jeebies over whether or not I am allowed, with only one e-book to my name officially, to call myself a writer of historical novels.
It’s always a challenge for me, laying claim to being able to call myself anything. I do all right with ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ since they’re fairly standard and besides, other people call me those as well (although if he calls me Wifey one more time we might have a different problem on our hands). I managed librarian during my early career and then counsellor, but I’d done training and held fairly impressive qualifications in both of those. I’ve struggled a lot more with the word ‘manager’ in more recent jobs. Telling people I managed an art gallery, despite the fact that manager was clearly what I was doing, was hard for me. Often I would mumble something incomprehensible about ‘helping out’ at the gallery which probably gave the impression that I did a couple of hours gentle dusting a week instead of the long hours plus work at home and one memorable occasion writing a funding proposal while sitting by a swimming pool in Tenerife trying to pretend to my husband that I wasn’t working but was actually reading light fiction.
I checked out the dictionary definition, with my usual compulsiveness, and it appears that if I’ve written something longer than a postcard, I am entitled to call myself an author regardless of how many books I have sold so far. Emboldened by this permission from the Oxford English, I have decided to come clean and admit that I am an author. Admitting you have a problem is the first step so I will practice in the mirror for a while, repeating the words in order to get used to them. “What do you do?” “I manage an Irish Dance school and I am a writer of historical novels.” There you see, I can do this thing. It can’t be as hard as saying, “I am a counsellor and I work for Relate”. Believe me, that kicks off conversations at parties that you wish you’d never had.
The next thing I need to get brave about is telling people what I write. It’s historical romance. I think. The trouble is, I’m not sure myself. I mean it’s set in the past, which makes it history. And there are often real people involved in it, although so far the main characters are all fictional. It’s not too deep but it isn’t all fluffy bunnies either. One or two of my characters have had a fairly tough time, which often happened in days when the rules weren’t really the same as they are now, although that needs to be a subject for a whole different post.
I wonder sometimes if I would be more comfortable about it if I were writing something challenging and difficult to read and possibly in line for a prize that somebody has heard of. Writing books which are intended to entertain people while maintaining a degree of historical credibility and not winding up too many special interest groups along the way is the sum of my aims in life. Mostly, I realise, I want to write books that people are going to want to read.
So what’s in a name? I suppose calling myself an author is a step in the right direction and after a time I’ll be just as comfortable with it as I am with some of the other roles and titles I’ve had. In the meantime I’ll just have to pretend.