That is the first question everyone asks me when they find out that my first book is being published in October. And it’s a perfectly legitimate question; of course people want to know what the book is about. It’s just that I hate answering this question because I never know what to say.
Sometimes I try to take the easy way out and say, ‘It’s about mothers and daughters.’ This satisfies people who were only trying to make conversation but it doesn’t satisfy people who really want to know. The other answer I sometimes give is, ‘It’s about a woman who runs away from her husband and baby.’ Trouble is, people then start throwing pitying glances at my husband and my baby. So then I have to make a lame joke like, ‘It’s wishful thinking,’ and we all laugh and they go away still none the wiser as to what my book is about.
The main thing that What is Left Over, After is about is a secret. If I tell you, it’ll spoil the reading of it. So that makes it hard for me to talk about the book in much detail. Of course, I’m going to have to come up with some snappy response pretty quickly because the book is being launched soon and I’m supposed to go to festivals etc and talk to people about the book. I’m not going to be able to get away with the kind of answers I’ve been giving so far.
I was interested to see what my publishers thought What is Left Over, After was about when they wrote the back cover blurb. Here it is:
In my defence I can only put forward this disclaimer: I don’t consider myself to be a promiscuous person. Promiscuity implies a degree of carelessness whereas I was always very particular about who I slept with. The boy, for instance, I chose because he was vulnerable, as boys are. All I had to do was stand by his side at the bar, turn my body towards his and pout at my empty glass.
When it comes to love, Gaelle is careful. But when it comes to friendship, her heart betrays her in unexpected ways.
Gaelle flees her life with little more than her clothes, her camera and her cosmetics. In a tiny seaside town, she meets thirteen year old Selena whose friendship, unlooked for and unwanted, will help Gaelle face the legacy of a vagabond childhood and a charismatic but unreliable mother.
Now it sounds like my book is about sex. Which, I imagine, is why the publishers chose that quote from the book for the blurb. Sex sells, right? So is that what my book is about? Partly, but it’s about a lot of other things as well. Maybe that’s why I’m not so good at summarising the plot; it’s about so many things I don’t know where to start.
Also, telling people what your book is about can make you sound a little weird. My next book, Bodies, is about, in part, organ donation. An unusual and possibly not all that enthralling topic. It’s also about a mother with a sick child. When I told my mother that, she said, ‘Why do you always have to write about such depressing things?’ The book is also about the ways in which a marriage and love can break down after the advent of children, and whether or not a couple can find their way back to one another. If I say that, my husband gets sent the pitying glances again. Because clearly I’m an abandoning, depressing woman in the middle of a marriage breakdown. No one cares if I say that it’s fiction. It’s so much more interesting for people to imagine that it might be true.
So, what is my book about? I don’t know. I look forward to hearing what everyone else thinks it is about when they’ve had a chance to read it. Now I’d best be off, I need some time to pack my bags and my baby so that I can run away from my husband …