Sunday, 20 December 2009
Elvis and Me
My oldest friend is Elvis.
Well, not actually Elvis Presley himself, but the nearest you’ll come to him in the UK. Martyn and I grew up near-neighbours in Welwyn Garden City. I emulated his mum’s career and became a journalist. He built a successful career in office equipment. And now we’ve both reinvented ourselves.
He went first, building on part-time work as an entertainer to become Elvis Shmelvis. Now he’s regularly called the UK’s top Elvis impersonator. He’s appeared on TV and performed to huge crowds. He’s sung with the stars. He orders his stage outfits from the real Elvis’s tailor. Most importantly he loves every minute of it.
I’ve thought of Elvis…Martyn…quite a few times recently as I contemplate emerging from the cocoon of nearly-published to the world of debut authordom.
Being a debut author sounds young, and being a Young Adult author sounds even younger and thinking yourself into the head of a teenager feels even younger than that. Plus I’ve been working this year at a newspaper where I started out in journalism as an 18-year-old. So there’s a little bit of time-warp strangeness attached to this debut, a feeling of starting out that is startling when you’re actually as old as Whitney Houston (although younger than Madonna).
I can’t quite work out how much of a reinvention this is. Sometimes, when I’m contemplating school visits or signing books, it feels like a totally different career. At other times - when I’m researching ideas or reworking copy - it’s more of the same.
I do know the danger of confusing a starting point with a finishing line. The day I got my first byline on the front page of the Sunday Times. It was my 25th birthday. I remember feeling a mixture of elation - I’ve done it! - and dismay - but what do I do next? And the same feeling when I got a staff job at The Independent aged 27. I’d used up all my ambitions. What could I do next?
So I’m trying to forget about being a debut author and keep my mind firmly fixed on the next project. Trying to stop labelling myself as one thing or another, and embracing all the new experiences. Feeling inspired by the way life has changed for someone like Martyn. Looking at other friends who are contemplating new starts in middle age - whether through divorce, redundancy or burning ambition – and hoping we can all find our own way.
People are reading my book this week - review copies went out on Tuesday, and I’ve already heard from a few reviewers. The debut business is almost upon me. I’m hoping I can enjoy it as much as Martyn loves performing.