An author in search of an audience: N M Browne

 There is something about the turn of the year. It's a midpoint a moment that hangs between. This particular solstice has been  a particularly odd one in a year where the beginning was lost to lockdown and there is no certainty that the year's end might not deliver more of the same. It's a kind of limbo for all of us. We are caught between pessimism and optimism, between fear of the virus and a desperation to return to some kind of normality. This new world that is emerging isn't quite the same as the old one. Perhaps we have a greater sense of the fragility of things, the speed with which shops can empty and hospitals become overrun; the ease with which we can drop certain social contacts and the pain the loss

of others causes. Even if we have escaped personal loss, we have all lost quite a lot. Everything is ever so slightly out of joint and old certainties now seem contingent though on what I couldn't say. 

One thing that I have lost is certainty. In the 'before' times I always knew what I was doing, what I was writing and why. And now I am much less sure. I don't know if this is a function of my age, my stage of life, the political situation,  or if I can blame it on the pandemic:  the covid zeitgeist which seems to be of perpetual uncertainty and re evaluation. I don't think I am alone in finding myself in a kind of creative limbo. Shall I write a middle grade novel, a YA, or a picture book? Should I commit to the madness of poetry and eschew fiction altogether? 

I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but if I were to say that in the pandemic I have moved between being blonde, grey, lilac and now brunette, you would probably guess that my uncertainty extends to more than just my creative life. 

My YA novel is calling to me sotto voce, the characters whispering to each other. as they do when a story is alive. They are free range characters at the moment, plot-free but interesting. However, it turns out I am a writer who needs readers. I don't want to talk to myself. At least not in public (the swearing that goes on in private is of course is perfectly normal.)  Is there a market still for YA? The word on the street is 'no' or rather 'yes' for a limited number of writers in limited number of sub genres. 

It forces me to ask the question. Who do I write for and how many other people are necessary to constitute an audience? I suppose we all have to come to our own conclusion about that. In my head I believe it is a privilege to communicate a story to just one another. My heart craves so much more. 

 So, I thought I'd throw the question out there. How many people make an audience for you? How do you decide what to write next? Or are you too hanging in limbo and uncertain?


Jenny Alexander said…
Great post, Nicky - I've shared to my author fb page. I think that knowing who we're writing for is really important these days, when there are so many different ways and places to sell books. I find I really enjoy the feeling of developing a community of readers - Writing Magazine offers three of my self published books to new subscribers and I love getting the orders, packing them up and taking them across the road to the village post office, knowing the names and places each parcel is going to. It isn't the 'bulk sales' that big publishers require, but it satisfies the writer in me. I like being trad published too, of course - I guess it depends on the project. Flexibility in what I write and how I get my books to market - that's what works for me.
Nicky said…
I agree - finding readers is the magical part.
Peter Leyland said…
Hope you got my email response Nicky.
Peter Leyland said…
This is a vey thoughtful piece Nicky, philosophical in a way. For some reason I started thinking of T.S.Eliot's, 'Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare eat a peach?' You are asking a lot of questions about what's to come. My audience is diminished now as I'm doing so little teaching. I've just written a lengthy academic article about books but will it ever see the light of day?

I suppose if only one person reads something it's ok. I haven't read any AE for ages let alone commented. Yes, the madness of poetry might be just the thing. Liminal states are good for creativity. I'm sure something will turn up. Best of luck.
Nicky said…
Thanks, Peter. I am currently decidedly liminal. I hope your academic article finds a home.

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