I haven't been writing much recently. Which makes me feel somewhat ashamed. I finished my new book - absolutely, utterly, completely... unless I decide to add another story, which I absolutely, utterly mustn't - about a week and a half ago. And part of me is celebrating, because I'm proud of the book, and even prouder that the work's done. But the part of my brain that kept me slogging away with the exercise book is now prodding me to stop being lazy, even though I've nothing specifically to write at the moment. Bloody brain with its fierce work ethic, and its lack of an off switch. It's spoiling my ability to laze in front of afternoon television watching bargain hunt programmes.
But there hasn't been much time for writing either. Because I'm dashing about all over the place, giving interviews and readings, doing panels and things. I'm not used to it. Two days ago I was in Bath, as part of the Children's Literature Festival. I was (almost literally) a last minute replacement for Paul Magrs, whose new Doctor Who book has just been released. (Paul's influenza was my gain.) It was a funny event. I sat on stage with Mark Morris and Simon Messingham, two sterling chaps who have also been writing those hardback novels that seem to sell so well in Waterstone's and Borders. And we were asked questions by a packed house of children of ten years of age. I'm frankly rather scared of children. Adults mostly feel a social obligation not to make it obvious when they find you boring or pompous - kids haven't mastered that particular facial expression yet (which in my case looks a bit like I'm withholding a fart - I know, I checked in the mirror to see), and look away when you answer their question, or start playing with the zip on their jacket, or get up from their chair and walk away. Thank God I didn't get too much of that. Flanking me on stage was a big BBC owned Dalek, which looked distinctly less threatening than the audience. And after the panel was over, the three Doctor Who writers sat together and autographed books for a couple of hours. Mark and Simon could sign theirs; my 'Story of Martha' thing isn't in the shops yet, so I kept on signing Paul Magrs' book instead. For a while I wrote in: 'I didn't write this - Rob Shearman', until the BBC told me I was disappointing the kids - so I added a note of ambiguity to the signature with 'I haven't written this yet, but will probably fob it off as my own work later - Rob Shearman'. Then the BBC told me off for making the queue wait too long, so I just resorted to scribbling in a few 'exterminates'. That always works. That's the safe fallback.
We were all rather surprised that our event was sold out, as we were scheduled directly opposite, in a room just up the stairs, an 'Audience with Sarah Jane'. You could hear all the kids' excitement as they got to meet Lis Sladen, and thrill to her sonic lipstick. The children we were talking to about the Joys of Writing looked very much like they'd got the booby prize in comparison. Sometimes you could hear the faint echo of childish merriment above us, and all the kids stuck listening to my justification of Dalek timelines sighed mournfully. It was great to see Lis again. I'm still somewhat overawed by her, because she's *Sarah Jane Smith*, for God's sake. She was Doctor Who's best friend when I was *three*. I told her that. She seemed very put out. I can't think why. I sat with her over dinner, and because it was BBC paid for, I allowed myself a dessert. I'm very fond of Lis, and think that her new Sarah Jane Adventures are rather lovely, but I still refused to let her have a forkful of my chocolate fudge cake. There has to be limits.
A few days before, in extreme contrast, I'd been at the British FantasyCon in Nottingham, reading from my book, being on screenwriting panels, and meeting lots of new writer friends in the bar. All rather lovely. I'm not very good at the networking thing, but enough people seemed keen to network with *me*, so I could respond without embarrassment. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. So:
On Wednesday I'm being interviewed on the BBC Radio 3 arts programme 'The Verb', about my short story writing and my forthcoming book. There'll be a reading of one of the new stories too - although not by me, which is a considerable relief. I'm very excited by this, as it makes me sound Properly Authorial. (I'm even listed in this week's Radio Times!) At the moment I'm walking around the house a lot, trying to sound very clever, giving supposedly witty answers of great insight to imaginary questions, and pretending that I'm the subject of The South Bank Show. I've even found a South Bank Show voice, which is a *bit* like mine, but somewhat deeper, a bit more drawled, and clearly rather pleased with itself. I know that once I'm in the studio I'll be my bag of nerves self, my voice will rise an octave in its eagerness to please, and I'll say 'absolutely' a lot and make silly jokes that get cut before broadcast. If anyone wants to hear the interview, it's going out at 9.15 pm on Friday October 3rd, and is available on the BBC website for a week afterwards with their 'listen again' facility.
The week after that I'm a guest at the University of Chichester. I'll be reading a story, and talking to MA students as part of their 'Metaphor and the Imagination' module. I'm looking forward to that a lot, if only so I can resurrect the South Bank Show voice - it'll be lying broken and bleeding after the radio interview, and this might perk it up a bit. And then I'm off to Liverpool on the 16th October, reading and talking at the Bluecoat Arts Centre as part of their Chapter and Verse Festival. (Anyone in the area, please do come along. There's a ticket fee to get in, but I'll buy you a pint afterwards. Possibly.) I get my breath back, then fly to Calgary on the 30th, to attend the World Fantasy Convention. The reason I'm going, naturally enough, is that I have a couple of nominations for the World Fantasy Awards - but it's also a chance to do more readings, more drinkings, more eating of fudge cake, and more of the terrifying networkings. I'm already receiving invitations in the post asking me to attend various book launches and parties and things - there's a whole stack of things I need to RSVP to.
It's fun. It's not leaving a lot of time for *writing*. But, you know, it's fun. Close my eyes and I can even start to believe that all this paraphernalia is more important, and that the writing will magically do itself. In October I have two meetings set up now with Rather Big Publishers about the prospect of forthcoming novels. Even a few months ago I'd never have considered the possibility of writing novels. They're just so many *words*, aren't they? Now, with all this attention, it'd seem rude not to write one or three. It's bizarre. I can feel my career changing around me, and I rather love it.
And I'm beginning to forget what my wife looks like. She's the short, blonde one, that everyone calls Mouse? Oh yes! She's fab. Just checking.