I write two books a year. I write one in my Çetin İkmen İstanbul series and one in my new London based Hakim and Arnold series. I have approximately six months to complete each novel but I start doing my research a couple of months before I start putting fingers to computer keyboard.
I have two different publishers, Quercus and Headline, and so I have to hit my deadlines as you can imagine. How bad would it look if I went to one of my publishers and said that I hadn’t finished my latest opus because I ran overtime with my last book for their competitor? Unacceptable to all concerned. But luckily, so far, that hasn’t happened.
But why you may very reasonably ask, do I do such a mad thing in the first place? Putting aside fiscal concerns (like the fact that I had to keep my family for 6 months last year – on my own) I do actually have that many stories in me. To be honest I am a bit manic much of the time and have a real need to express myself in the form of fiction most of the time. I even write short stories and essays to supplement the two books a year for God’s sake.
Is it good for me to do SO much work? Probably not, although I’ve suffered no ill effects thus far in spite of the cautionary tale about Muriel Spark who apparently began hallucinating when she wrote two books a year. A L Kennedy was recently interviewed in The Guardian about her recent brush with overwork (she writes one book every 11 months plus a column for The Guardian) which resulted in a raft of ills including labyrinthitis, panic attacks and a stomach ulcer. Now working to a more ‘reasonable’ schedule she is thankfully, much better. But she does admit that she remains driven. Like me, she sees work as validation and she is more than a little obsessive compulsive about it. But Kennedy has taken note of what her body has told her and her schedule these days is far less pressured.
Of course comparing myself to a very successful writer like Kennedy does have its pitfalls. Due, in part to the recession, the mid list author, like me, is dipping out on things like translation rights and is suffering from a reduced rate of Public Lending Right (PLR). I don’t want my income to drop and so I have to find ways around these things. But Kennedy is absolutely right when she says that writing per se is not to blame for such crazy ‘over’ working. You either over work or you don’t and when I used to work in psychiatric services and indeed in every job I’ve ever had, I never really knew when to go home.
But then, the odd bit of plot confusion aside, I am actually very happy when I’m working. I love seeing my friends and family as well as spending as much time as I can with my husband (another workoholic) but outside of that my life is quite grim at the moment. Working takes me away from where I am which, as far as I’m concerned, can only be a good thing right now.
But we’ll see. For the moment the two books a year thing is working out well for me and I’m very happy with it. I’m not planning to come down with some horrible lurgie and I remain as enthusiastic for the work as I’ve ever been. So just keep it coming guys and here’s to being happily more than fully employed.