It has been another unsettling year, full of uncertainty and unwanted isolation. I grew weary of most of what had been done face to face being transferred to zoom, from yoga classes to writing groups to the chamber choir I’m in. Thankfully, the choir began to meet for real in a local church and I intermittently began to attend my favourite yoga class again, in a large, draughty room.
The publication of my fourth book by small, fast-growing independent Hobeck Books hobeck.net and the incredible response from readers has been the highlight of my 2021, I’m not ashamed to admit. (The others were performing Brahms’ German Requiem – difficult music which I grew to love – and swimming in a mountain-top lake in south-west France. There was also a significant birthday, which came with predictable angst. To celebrate, I flung myself across a vast canyon at high speed, attached by a harness to a wire above me – 18 times. I emerged onto solid ground trembling, dry mouthed and overjoyed to be alive.)
Since its publication last month, my crime thriller Silenced (http://viewbook.at/silenced) has been included in a spate of best books of 2021 lists. They include those of author/bloggers Liz Mistry (The Crime Warp) and Linda Huber, and book reviewer/interviewer/bloggers Samantha Brownley (UK Crime Book Club on Facebook), Donna Morfett (Donna’s Interviews and Reviews), Lynda Checkley (Lynda’s Book Reviews on Instagram and Facebook), Deb Day (Deb’s Book Reviews), Joe Singleton and Linda Hill (Linda’s Book Bag). I am hugely grateful to all of them.
It is wonderful to know that this novel, which I’ve worked so hard on for so long, is having an impact on readers. All three of my previous books (Blind Side, The Girl in His Eyes and Not Having It All) have had a pleasing number of smile-creating/table-leaping five-star reviews. But the initial response to Silenced has taken me by surprise. (One reader told me the book had brought her emotions to such a pitch, she needed a long lie down to recover.)
Many authors will know the joy at knowing that one’s words have touched a reader, or jolted them into seeing the world slightly differently. A strong reader response gives a sense of validation, especially when you are starting out. I won’t forget the burst of gratitude and overwhelmedness which brought a lump to my throat while reading certain reviews of Silenced. Once I’ve completed my 2020-21 tax return, replied to long-ago-sent emails, bought up half of Holloway Road Waitrose – it is my turn to go shopping, Mr E has reminded me – and completed all the tasks I’ve neglected for months due to The Book, I will print out one or two reviews to view during the difficult times which no doubt will come, when I struggle to find words or coherent thoughts and what I’ve written is fit only for the recycle bin.
It’s a dull, damp day here in London. With Omicron infections rising daily and a surge in the numbers of people in hospital with Covid-related illness, many people I know are being careful again and avoiding seeing others except for their immediate family or via Zoom. I’m doing the same. I had planned to go shopping for the first time in ages, to spend a gift voucher and to see the West End Christmas lights. But the thought of those busy shops and packed tube trains… Going into crowded spaces might mean catching the virus and infecting a vulnerable friend or elderly relative, not to mention contributing to the increasing strain on our health system.
This seems like a good time to start becoming a hermit again. Very shortly I’ll be back sitting at my desk every day, carrying on with the half-finished first draft of book five.
Wishing you a 2022 with much laughter, many moments of happiness and some times to remember – for the right reasons!