My Seventy Fifth Week as a Budding Author
As a young lad I had a whole series of dreams and aspirations. A few of them shall remain undocumented as they involve Clare Grogan, but I don’t mind admitting that I often lay on my bed listening to scratchy old records and wondering what it must be like to be famous and receive fan mail. As I grew older, I took a few tentative steps towards this objective by picking up a guitar and attempting to mimic my musical heroes. A slightly problematic approach as Alien Sex Fiend are probably missing from any sensible musical curriculum given that their songs contained about three notes.
Like my cycling, my musical career has been defined by an inordinate imbalance of enthusiasm verses ability. As you can guess, I have a house full of guitars, all of which I am unable to play very well at all. Thirty one years after first picking up the guitar I can still make mistakes on the intro to “Smoke on the Water” and still cannot play “Every Breath She Takes” without being asked to stop by anyone within audible range. But this clear lack of talent has never been a barrier and I’ve even stood on stage making mistakes publicly. The highlight of which was being informed by an unfortunate punter that whilst I was “the worst guitar player they have ever seen technically”, they, “quite enjoyed the unusual sounds I’d managed to make and were intrigued as to how I had managed it?”.
Guitar playing was clearly the wrong path to fan mail. Thirty six years, three bands and absolutely no letters. Well, apart from the warning we received from Brighton Borough Council in our student house, in hindsight, Simon and I were a bit unsociable jamming Subhumans songs in my bedroom at 2am on a Tuesday.
Acting proved equally futile. Despite many appearances upon the hallowed stage of Wootton Bassett Comprehensive assembly hall my prodigious childhood talent remained undiscovered. I blame this on Mr Cook our music teacher who made me sing a solo during a school production of Sweeny Todd just as my voice had finally decided to break. The audience got the full operatic range in a single song and the talent scouts sodded off to Sean Bean’s school instead.
In my tender youth I’d never considered writing as a path to fan mail. Let’s be honest, teenagers don’t often have posters of great literary masters upon their walls. I had Toyah, Beki Bondage and Clare Grogan, George Orwell, John Steinbeck and Sven Hassel were notable in their absence. However, teenagers are usually wrong about everything, I proved to be no exception as I’m now receiving a trickle of email after publishing a book. The problem is that the majority of it comes from men in their late forties with a penchant for wearing lycra.
I’ve clearly got my dreams and aspirations strategy wrong. If I had thought it through I would have spent the last year working on a project that nubile young ladies would clearly relate to. I would not have written a long rambling introduction about getting fat and subsequently battering my arse on a bike for many years hence. This is going to put them right off from the start and will only encourage middle-agers like me to continue reading.
However, it’s too late now and if I’m honest it’s gratifying to know that there’s others like me who have been in a similar boat. The mail I am currently getting conforms to a fairly standard template:-
Just finished reading Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder
Managed to ignore the typos (YES I KNOW I SPELT PELOTON WRONG)
Like you, picked up cycling again after [getting fat/losing fitness/realising that if an idiot like you can then so can I/being told to by the Mrs]
Can I have a copy of [your LEJOG route/a properly edited copy/your wife’s therapist’s phone number]
Interestingly I am [over the age of 80/using you as an excuse to buy more bikes/attempting LEJOG/C2C/RAAM and blaming you if it goes wrong]
I shouldn’t take the piss though as it is proving to be a huge motivator. Every single email has offered a little lift when my head has started to drop as the daunting task of book number two completion marches on. In fact, I’ve been devious and used a number of the emailers to offer feedback upon some sample chapters and most of what they said is good. My absolute favourite was:-
“there are a few patches which didn't feel quite as polished in 'Daveness'”
Which is a perfect analogy for my saddle.
Then last month out of the blue I received an email from a chap named “Simon”. His intro labelled him as a “voice artist”, which I had a short giggle at wondering if voice artistry had traversed similar periods to physical art. The Renaissance, where voices went back to grunts instead of all of this new fangled modern word rubbish, Romanticism, where all words were dramatically emphasised and emotionally charged and finally the abstract period where Birmingham accents came to the fore.
Anyway, Simon offered to create an audio version of my book and market it for me. All I had to do was say “yes” and agree to a royalty split. Given that Simon’s percentages were nearly half that of Amazon I was pretty damned interested and the sample text he provided was clear and well spoken, two words that have never been applied to my speech patterns.
So, I took him up on his offer and the poor man has spent a month reading my typo ridden text back into a microphone and pulling an audio version of the book together. It’s been interesting listening to his sample chapters as Simon doesn’t sound like me at all. At first I found this very odd, but speaking to others it appears that audio books should be read clearly with proper pronunciation, the last thing any listener wants is an audible typo.
In fact, I learnt something completely new. One of the chapters is entitled “The Tao of Singlespeeding”. Simon pronounced “Tao” as “DOW”, I thought he’d had a momentary bad cold and advised him of the mistake. Simon pointed me to the internet and, blow me, he was right. How many of us have been mispronouncing this word for so long?
Simon finished the book this week and I’ve recorded a brief intro in order that listeners can properly understand why I am not reading the rest of the book. My dreams and ambitions have come full circle as well, due to the fact that some royalty free music was required. In a massive fit of egotism I sent Simon an MP3 of some poor guitar composition/playing of my own. He has foolishly agreed to use it as bridging music between chapters of the audio book. I just know where this is going to lead:-
I very much enjoyed SIMON reading the audio version of your book Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder, but please can you edit out the desperately shit guitar player who pops up between chapters and the idiot at the front with a complete lack of accent.
Hopefully the audio book will be out before the end of the month. It will be very interesting to see what people make of it. I hope I do not end up being sued by drivers who’ve fallen asleep at the wheel with my book in their CD player.
Dave, 10th June 2012