Am very excited. Wife in the North came out in Germany last Wednesday (courtesy of a brilliant translator called Cornelia Holfelder-von der Tann) under the title Stadt, Land - Schluss and is about to hit number 15 in their bestseller charts. (Bearing in mind it sank like a stone in the US and we speak the same language - what's German for "hooray!"?) Even better my publishers have tweaked the book trailer so I now know how to say "There are no bears" in German.
What's happening in Germany is a real pick-me-up because the thing about getting a book published is you want another published after that, and then another, and chances are that might not happen. Me and my nose are writing away on Book No. 2 without a contract, which means without money, which means shedloads of guilt for not earning anything, and the acute suspicion that I'm playing at being a writer and really I should snap out of it and do something useful with my life. Of course, if I finish it and someone buys it, me and my nose are vindicated. But the last real writer I spoke to told me that the first novel she wrote never made it out of the drawer and went down as a "learning experience". I hate "learning experiences". Generally speaking they are unspeakably horrid and misery-making and give other people the chance to say things like "I don't think so" and "I'm afraid you're just not good enough."
The other night I went for supper at a friend's and before she'd allow us to eat we all had to troop out to the dusking lawn to play croquet. Croquet brings me out in a cold sweat. I'm a working class girl from Leeds. I wasn't brought up playing croquet. I don't even know how to hold the racket and I've never liked jumping through hoops. I'm short but even for me, it's difficult. I associate it with being a teenager and having lunch with the family of my then boyfriend. I could be wrong (these are only memories after all and what are memories made of?) but I have always laboured under the opinion his mother disliked me. In my memory then, the sun blazed, and I opted out of the game of croquet in the garden to sit in the shade. Later that afternoon, rowing in a boat along the river, the sun still shining, a girl (staying with the family on some sort of exchange) told me that my sweetheart's mother had asked her what she thought of me; and a victory of sorts - she said she liked me very much. I have always wondered how a grown woman could ask one child what she thought of another. The realisation that not everybody likes you - a learning experience.