Thursday 22 August 2013

Out of my comfort zone

I've never been much of a traveller, unlike my husband who recently went trekking in the jungle. "If I don't do it now," he pointed out, "when will I do it?" In his mid-sixties, it sounded like a reasonable question, on the face of it.... although you can probably guess my answer!
He touched on the crux of the travel bug. People who visit far flung places are often exploring their own limits. Where some of us occasionally take a tentative step outside our 'comfort zones', others take huge leaps, just to see what happens. Most of the time, it works out fine. There are occasional horror stories, but statistically we are at greater risk of accidents in our own homes, more likely to crash in a car than an aeroplane.
A friend of mine travelled half way round the world to see an Eastern guru, consulted by millions of devotees. The guru asked my friend, "What do you expect to find here that you can't find at home?" Wise words, but perhaps they miss the point. Physical travel can be a means of testing ourselves, challenging our ability to cope in new situations.
My husband is constantly bemused by my phobia of getting lost. He's right, of course. English speaking adults are never so lost in a maze of London streets that they never reappear. (I remind myself of this whenever I'm going somewhere new in London, alone, so please don't contradict me!)
Perhaps we all have our own ways of 'finding ourselves.' For many people, it can be a profound or spiritual journey, but for some of us it's just a little more prosaic, and often closer to home. Most people would be slightly nervous about their first filmed interview. I was so relieved to find the place, the interview barely entered my mind beforehand. After downloading a map, and asking directions at the station, I still needed step by step  telephone directions from my marketing manager (who ended up running down the street, arms waving, to 'find' me).
My bag is packed, ready to fly off to Skyros. Everyone keeps telling me it will be fabulous, and I know they're right. It's a beautiful place. I'll be teaching at The Guardian's Number 1 writing holiday. My course is fully booked. But I'm anxious about reaching my destination... and then I have to get back home again... Still, if I don't go now, when will I go?

Thursday 8 August 2013

Being Number 1

A while ago I wrote an article entitled 'Who moved the goal posts?' In it I discussed climbing the ladder of success as an author, arguing that aspirations move on, forever out of reach. So what happens when you reach the top? Last week the latest title in my Geraldine Steel series, Stop Dead, was Number 1 on kindle. Not number 1 in crime, or thrillers, (I've been there before) but Number 1 on kindle. Unbelievably more popular than The Bible, Dan Brown, 50 Shades, JK Rowling... Here I am, living the dream. But has anything changed? Not really. It's an ego boost being 'Number 1'. My publisher sent me a fabulous bouquet of flowers. I have drunk rather more Champagne than is good for me. And... that's it. There's a royalty cheque to look forward to in about 6 months' time, and... no, that really is it. 'You've made it!' a friend enthused. Well, yes, for today. But tomorrow the book might slip down to Number 10 or - oh horror! Number 20... And there's the rub. A year ago I would have been thrilled to see one of my titles in the top 50. Now, nothing below Number 1 seems good enough. And an author with a small independent publisher isn't likely to top the bestsellers list even once, let alone twice. So is reaching Number 1 a two edged sword? Am I destined to a life of disappointment from now on? What can I say but pass the Champagne and let me enjoy my moment.