My first novel goes on sale today. After a fortnight's feverish publicity work I am now gearing up for the final (embarrassing) assault; a morning of radio interviews in which I will unleash my ill-formed opinions and nasal, vaguely West Country voice on the unsuspecting radio-listeners of the United Kingdom. My palms are sweaty; my eyes manic. I am finding it weird in the extreme that people might want to hear about me talk about my book.
Weirder still is the fact that I actually have a book to talk about, particularly given the circumstances in which I was 'discovered.' Said circumstances being, chiefly, that in 2009 I was blogging with a rather naive honesty about how I was basically a crazed stalker masquerading as an 'internet dater' - and would you believe it, in this unlovely state I caught the eye of a publisher. The fact that I had unquestionably the worst taste in online suitors apparently added to my charm as a potential author. "Hi Lucy, you're insane and therefore hilarious; you should write a book," was the general message.
There is something about being an out-but-not-necessarily-proud maddo that pretty much guarantees success in the blogosphere. My readers were delighted by my lack of judgement - and indeed my inability to keep it to myself. "Another disaster! How do you do it?" one reader commented cheerfully, after I reported back from a date so bad that I'd had to sprint on to a bus going to completely the wrong part of town to avoid the amorous advances of a dandruffy psycho. "You're mad!" commented another. But they stayed with me through it all with a loyalty that was really quite touching. "I'VE STAYED IN ON A SATURDAY NIGHT TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED ON YOUR DATE," shouted one comment. "WHERE ARE YOU? WHAT HAPPENED?"
I think those blogs proved so popular because we all have an inner stalker - although few are prepared to admit it; most prefer to act as if such behaviour is preposterous.
Early reviewers of my novel reacted with horror (affected or otherwise) to my main character who, after being dumped, goes to bed and lives like a feral animal for nearly three weeks, surfacing only to stalk a woman she suspects her ex to be involved with and risking her job in the process. "Who on earth would do something like this?" they raged. I confess to having laughed when I read this. Er, me, I thought. And probably most women I know, to a certain extent. Granted, I beefed it up for the sake of art but I think anyone who hasn't spent a least five minutes plotting various ridiculous schemes to stalk their ex's new love interest is probably lying.
Never one to make bold assertions without statistical evidence, I conducted a minor poll of just under-30 female friends. "Have you ever spent more than five minutes stalking your ex's new ladyfriend online?" I asked. 88% responded in the affirmative. "And plotted covert ways of meeting her?" Again: yes. I doubt any of them have actually gone through with it and I haven't either. But we've got it in us, I tell you! And we like to know we're not alone!
Look. We're all human: mad, irrational, silly, and we feel much better when we can giggle about this together rather than having to pretend that we're sensible and balanced and, y'know, cool. Aloof, man. The elation I feel at the thought of my book going on to the shelves this morning is indescribable and if the first link in this chain was for me to stick my head above the parapet and admit that I'm a bit mad than I have no regrets.
My name is Lucy Robinson and I'm pretty damned flawed. And quite happy to be that way.
Oh... And a little postscript. This blog may, I admit, appear to lay stalking claims largely at the door of womankind. But it ain't just women who shouldn't be trusted with a google page. Oh no, my friend!
"Don't you want to know my surname?" Dan asked. It was the day before our first date; we'd been emailing about a week.
"Oh yes! Yes I would!" I responded, in what I hoped seemed an enthusiastic manner. But inwardly, I despaired. What was Dan on? I'd been in possession of a) his Christian name b) his job title and c) his age for a week! Of course I'd worked out his bloody surname by now! I knew probably as much about Dan as his best friend did and I hadn't even put much effort into this 'research.'
He handed over his surname and asked for mine. Dan the journalist, I thought, could do with a few tips on journalism.
Fortunately though he redeemed himself after four glasses of wine. "Yeah of course, cos you worked on that programme about economics," he blurted out mid-conversation.
I smiled. That information came up probably on the third Google page if you looked me up. He hadn't let me down. He knew the drill.