THE END came a little less than a year ago. It was my first book. I had written it while I was supposed to be filling out spreadsheets and answering the phone at my job, mainly as a way of escaping the terrible, terrible tedium of doing those things, but also as a way of scratching a brain itch that had been bothering me for while. It was like playing with a kind of mental scab till it bled onto a page. It hurt a bit, but I liked it. I liked going there, to the place in the book, a place where I was in charge of everything. I liked thinking like Zoe, making her a flawed human and perfect monster, and I liked playing out fantasies of global annihilation and trying to make awful things beautiful. It felt nice, like it was cleaning me out. I suppose you could say it was therapeutic, if you'll allow me the cliché. Then one day it ended. I wrote the last few words and it was all out of me. Done. Finished. I printed it off and looked at it sat there existing as a pile of paper and words, newly born into the real world and thought, "What now?"
I hadn't really considered what I'd do when it was done. I wrote it for me and for the sake of writing it and never anticipated anyone would ever read it, but now here it was, outside of me, all over the table.
Obviously there was some pride involved. I read what I wrote and I liked it. I'm not a particularly proud person so this was unusual for me, uncomfortable even, but yes, I liked it, and I had the strangest feeling that it needed to be read, otherwise it would die. Like reading it was oxygen, not for me, but for it.
I know, it sounds pretentious; I suppose it is pretentious, but once a book exists if it isn't read, then isn't it effectively dead? If I had stopped writing mid way through, if it had never fully left my head then fine, terminate it, let it die, but I didn't stop, I saw it through and now it was here it didn't feel like mine to kill anymore. So I did what I was soon to discover hundreds of thousands of other people in the same situation had done before and published it on Amazon. It's ridiculously easy. A few clicks and there it is, surrounded by orange and white, your name stuck all over it, like it IS you, representing a part of your life, exposing your hopes and fears for all the world to see (should you get your keywords right and market the shit out of it). At the time it went out no one else had ever read it. No one. I had edited it myself (rookie mistake, it was full of errors) and so I had literally no idea if it was any good. Of course I liked it, and I knew I wanted people to read it, but I had no expectation whatsoever. Sales were.....ok. Great for a day, then non existent for a month. There were free promos of hundreds, then thousands and amongst all this the feedback started. Reviews and retweets, comments and stars, a dizzying, addictive feedback loop that can make your year, then ruin it in the blink of an eye. I was so naive. I had no idea how all that would feel. It's at once gratifying and invasive. It's pretty intense. And when it's good it's very very good, but when it's bad, well, you know. I'm not complaining. I'm grateful anytime someone reads it, whether they love it or hate it, I'm just happy to know that it's being read, that Zoe is chewing her way through brains all around the world, but what I could never have understood before hand is how those words and stars get under your skin, for better, and for worse.
Anyway, then came the paperback, and then the audiobook, and I carried on writing. THE END made Matt at Obsessive Book Nerd's top five of 2014. ANGELA came out. Life carried on.
The feedback began again, some good, some bad, and the world didn't end.
No more than I wanted it to anyway.