It crosses my mind that I haven’t talked very much about pedigree. Unless you happen to know already, some of you won’t realise that the Mslexia competition wasn’t my first foray into the written word.
I think that’s probably true for many of the shortlisted novelists for the prize. The last eleven included at least three performance poets, and almost everyone either has or is working towards a creative writing qualification.
Most of my work has been behind the scenes. I spent several years editing and proofreading, and, of course, I’ve been running the husband’s office for a very long time. He’s the writer in our house, but I’ve always been his first reader and editor, and after forty novels, I have a pretty good idea how this all works.
We’ve always been a partnership, and I’ve enjoyed picking up the slack when he’s been overworked, which is virtually all of the time. I’ve put together skeletons for him, done research, and, of course, edited his work. I’ve written everything from short stories to children’s comic books, from adverts to how-to manuals, and I’ve even taken co-credits on some of the tie-in fiction.
When I’m out and about with the husband, I’m known, variously as Mrs Dan, or, more regularly, Nik Vincent.
There are a great many reasons why I didn’t step out of the shadows to write something for myself with my name on it sooner. It’s easy to say that I was too busy doing other things, and, to some extent that’s true, but I think, in the end, I needed that apprenticeship. I needed to see how it could be done, that it’s possible to be a professional, hardworking writer rather than a flake in an attic somewhere. I’ve also had an opportunity to hone my skills. I’m a better writer than I was twenty years ago, and I put it down to loving the work without being precious about it. I know, possibly better than anyone, that the first draft doesn’t have to be the best or the last.
I also needed some age. I wasn’t experienced enough, twenty years ago, to write “Naming Names”, in particular, and nor did I have the confidence to show the work to anyone who mattered. As a younger woman I would have struggled with the amount of rejection that most writers suffer unless or until they finally secure that agent and book deal.
It is thirty years this year since the husband and I first met, and, in that time, he’s built a career to be very proud of. I’m sure there are things that he still wants to write, goals that he has yet to fulfill, but his path is well-established. Now, it’s time for me to set about carving out a new path for myself, and, so far, it’s all going very nicely, thank you.