As I write this, it's the close of a surprising day. I hadn’t opened a copy of Stan’s book in such a long time but today I signed one to send off as a thank you. I like giving my books away. It somehow feels right. I wish I could do it all the time and that I could earn money a different way, perhaps by donations or simple osmosis. It always seemed wrong that money got in the way of people enjoy what I’d written. I wrote spoof letter as Stan because I simply wanted to make strangers laugh and cheer up their dull days. When it turned into a book, I was as surprised as anybody. I’d long since given up hoping that I’d ever be published. That book broke my duck so I can now feel that I’ll never be published again… Such a shame. Stan Volume 2 was so much funnier than the first…
So I signed my book and biked to the Post Office and thought no more about it. Then tonight: a total coincidence. I had an email from out of the blue. Somebody had found me via the ‘Damn United’ website I wrote briefly. More remarkable was that they had read ‘Second Class Male’ from ‘cover to cover and really enjoyed it’.
Oh, isn’t that what people say when they want to get on your good side? Well, perhaps it is but I’m allowing myself a moment to wallow in that praise because that is only the second time a reader has written to me about that book. In fact, before tonight, my entire ‘artistic’ career can be summed up like this: I’ve only ever had one fan but I made two enemies.
The one fan was called ‘George’ and he sent me a Christmas card after my book was published. I replied, sending him a funny letter and a handmade ‘Stan & Sandra’ Christmas card. I never heard from him again. I often wonder who George was, what kind of life he led and why he felt possessed to send Stan a Christmas card.
My two enemies are as memorable as George was mysterious. I always consider Simon Hoggart at The Guardian to be the first enemy of my project. He was definitely the first, rudest and least funny person to reply. He simply returned my letter with a scribbled message: 'not another book of spoof letters'. I should have replied 'not another book of round robin letters' but I felt better than that. My bigger enemy went by the name ‘the Welsh Rottweiler’. He wrote possibly the vilest review in the history of vile Amazon book reviews. It was vicious, snarling, and utterly hateful. It’s as though he’d found a book which offended every particle of his DNA and he’d made it his mission in life to destroy me. He hoped that my book would fail and promised that it would be pulped by January. There was more to it (lots more) but I don’t want to remember it. I don’t know why he did what he did but the review was so painful that it made me numb. If you like horror stories, go click the cover of my book in the sidebar and read the Rottweiler’s review under my book on Amazon. It’s one of the reviews that give me one star. I never did read another review after that and deep down I’m not sure that I’ve ever really recovered. The Rottweiler was the kind of guy that makes you lose faith in humanity.
The thing is: I never understood why this stranger hated me as much as he did. My book wasn’t one of those exploitative pieces of crap written in order to exploit a momentary fad. Perhaps it might have done better if it was. That Christmas I was competing with (and losing to) the Merecat book. Beaten by Martin Amis is one thing but a bloody rat? And I’d worked so hard on my book, trying to make everything in it raise a chuckle from the first page right down the fake photo accreditation on the back. Most writers will tell you their biggest expenditure is ink and paper. Mine was stamps. Hundreds of pounds spent on second class stamps and that was long before I knew I’d get a book advance out of it.
So, this might sound mawkish of me but tonight's email cheered me up when I’ve been feeling particularly down. I’ve been worrying because I fear that my blogging, writing, and cartooning will soon come to an end. It probably will but for one night I can at least feel like a real writer and, really, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.