Meeting up with her and handing over the book (the first time that cash has actually been placed into my sweaty palm in return for a copy), I felt good and just a tiny, teeny little bit proud of the work that I'd put into the thing.
Then she said: "What's it about?"
I hesitated - not because I didn't know what it's about (I bloody well should know by now), but because the question surprised me. It made me reflect, very quickly. Clearly, this nice person was buying the book simply because I'd written it, not because she knew anything about it. She was, in effect, doing me a friendly favour.
I have to admit to feeling a little sad about that - even though I recognized, and was appreciative of, the generous gesture. It made me think about my motives. Was I hoping that people would like ME or that they would like the book? So often in life - and I don't believe that I'm on my own feeling this way - I have done things which, upon reflection, have been an effort to make people like or even love me. Trying to be amusing is a part of that, and I can trace that habit back to being one of the smallest kids in school, and using humour to make friends rather than become the target of bullies.
I've tried to write a book that is amusing - actually, you know what, that's not strictly correct. I've tried to allow my self to be unleashed in the book; tried to be as honest as I can be on the written page. The book is motivated by a wish to tell some of my story and illustrate some of the things that have shaped who I have become (leaving aside the thousands of burgers and fish 'n chips which have shaped me in other, more obvious ways). It just seems to have come out with a humourous flavour (as the ice cream salesman said to the clown).
Reflecting upon this has given me another surprise. I haven't written a book in the unconscious hope that people will like me - and that's a surprise for me. I've just written something as me, for better or worse. That seems to be a development...and a positive one.
My fervent hope is that people will like the book for what it is and spread the word; that people will enjoy it, and it might provoke that happiest of sounds (laughter) and that happiest of facial expressions (take a guess), as well as prompting some thoughts and reflections among the readership.
It occurs to me that, almost without me noticing, I seem to be worrying less about what people think of me. It's about bloody time, to be honest. However, I do still hope that people like my work, although I'm discovering (not least through this blog) that it can be a lonely life waiting for feedback...