The few weeks since the end of the Kickstarter have been a whirlwind of tweaks, layouts and design decisions. And now it’s all done. The book cover design is finalised, the manuscript is typeset and print ready, and the e-book versions are complete. All that’s left is to send everything to the printer and wait for the book to arrive. The real-life, proper book.
Remember how it felt as a child on Christmas Eve, waiting for Santa, body tingled, eyes screwed shut, sleep elusive, willing time to go faster? That’s a fraction of the excitement simmering inside me. My Heart’s Content was a labour of love; an exorcism. It wasn’t my planned first book, nor even my preferred genre. It’s the one I couldn’t not write (double negative intentional and necessary). The end was a long breath out.
The prospect of writing memoir fascinated me – not so much deciding what to include but rather how to present it. When I arrived at the format of a day per chapter (I know, not exactly ground-breaking and yet it took months to get there), it freed me to be more creative with the content. With little experience of biographical writing, I began by reading other memoirs, across many subjects. For several weeks I inhabited the genre: from brain tumours to birds of prey. What struck me was the stylistic crossover between biography and fiction. The weaving of a story around a moment in time. None of the dry, factual text I had imagined but instead a journey into another life, a glimpse of a different world. A revelation.
There is another side of writing a memoir for which I wasn’t prepared. The emotional toll. Not the writing, which was almost cathartic, not even the reading of the story over and over, although there were moments where triggered memories were almost too much to bear. What I hadn’t expected was the underlying fear of those unknown readers. People with whom I have no connection, who don’t know my story, who have no vested interest in me and don’t need to be careful with their comments. What if these people don’t like it? Or actively dislike it? If it were fiction, it would still hurt but it wouldn’t be my story. I knew releasing a book into the wild would be tough but this extra dimension …
Whatever the readers think, I’m proud of my book. I’m proud of Paul and my friends and family who helped me through my experience. I’m proud of our NHS and the care and dedication of the staff in the transplant unit of the Golden Jubilee Hospital. I’m proud of the team of professionals who proofed, edited, typeset, designed, primped and preened my book ready for its prom night.
My book’s all grown up. Time to make its own way in the world. All I can do now is let it go.
* My Heart’s Content is launched on Thursday 22 October. Backers from the Kickstarter campaign will receive their copies as soon as they are ready.