On Writing On
The other day, as part of an Interview-Your-Own-Parents project at school, my daughter, aged ten, asked me when I wrote my first book. I thought I'd managed to blank out that early novel, but unfortunately her question jogged my memory: it was about Rudolph Valentino – for Christ's sake - and I wrote it when I was 18. Then I recalled my second novel – until then also blissfully forgotten – which I completed when I was 22, and considered just about good enough to send to a couple of publishers, who didn't think it was nearly good enough to publish. As I was explaining this to my daughter, suddenly my entire writing life – all 40 years of it - flashed before my eyes: the relentless rejection slips blu-tacked to my door; the spasmodic sinking feelings when I feared I would never, ever get published; the happily well-received readings with the Basement Writers in London's Cable Street; the switch from (for me) clunky British English to (for me) malleable Catalan; the first subsequent, eked out publications (a six page story in 1990, a 28 page one in 1993, and finally a 202 page novel in 1996); the sweet smell of commercial success with a fast-written road book in 2000 (a sweetness which turned sour when this book started to overshadow all later ones, no matter how much better they were and how much more work had gone into them); the blows to the mental equivalent of the solar plexus delivered by certain negative reviews; the natural temptation to hit the bottle to ward off the slings and arrows of outrageous publishing decisions; and the return to English – a language which by then had become (for me) as malleable as Catalan - that resulted in the latest novel, which is currently bobbing about on Amazon waiting for a mainstream publisher to cast a welcoming net.
Psychologically, all this – and it is nothing exceptional for those who indulge in writing – can be wearisome at times, which makes my daughter's second question highly pertinent: Why do you write? To which I can only give the pat but inevitable answer: because by writing I can say things that I can't say any other way (and if I didn't say them, I'd end up in a state a lot worse than my current one). In short: when you're standing on the tracks, so the saying goes, you can see the train coming – your literary fate, in this case - and like so many writers, I stepped onto the sleepers in my teens and have been simply standing my ground for decades, waiting for the rails to sing. End of story.
Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, novembre de 2013