The secret terror of selling myself
By Lorna Gray
As a published author, I am frequently asked to describe myself by journalists, by bloggers, by strangers … Some people, the lucky ones, must find this easy. I don’t at all. An image immediately springs into my mind of the sort of person the questioner is expecting me to be – an image which bears a very strong resemblance to this notable passage in Pride and Prejudice:
“Must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages … must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions […] and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
Well, I can speak French. And I do love reading.
Image weighs heavily when it comes to issuing photographs as well. In the Shadow of Winter is a historical mystery set in the winter of 1947 and, oh how I wish that I could borrow some of the classic style of the 1940s film star who shares my name. Unfortunately, I have to work with very ordinary cheekbones and a smile that somehow warps from what I presume is normally warm and friendly into something quite strange in photographs. It’s taken a scary amount of practice to conceal my panic behind make-up and stare the camera straight in the eye.
You might spot this photograph (the real one, not the photoshopped one!) featuring fearsomely in a full page spread accompanying an article about me in May’s Cotswold Life magazine. Like most new authors, I haven’t done anything before that required me to talk to journalists. I have never been in court (so haven’t practiced scuttling past with head bowed, muttering ‘no comment, no comment’), and have done very few interviews about my professional life. There was the one when I was fourteen and had won the Art Shop painting competition in Bedford, but I’m not sure that really counts …
When I’m not being an author, if I have to describe my life at all, it would be that I live in the Cotswolds with my partner, a dog, a cat, two horses, four chickens and four goats. But, as it turns out, journalists can’t make much mileage out of hearing that I keep goats and that the biggest one is called Cracker. They certainly don’t want a face-to-face introduction. I can’t imagine why.
So I also tell them that I began my working life as an archaeological illustrator examining historic maps and that I use the same skills today to apply historical accuracy to my research into post-war Britain. I confess that I have pestered anyone I’ve ever met who was old enough to remember into sharing their memories of the winter of 1947. I mention that I took my inspiration from standing alone in the cold isolation of a Cotswold field under snow. And above all, I talk about my love of writing a romantic mystery that sees the heroine Eleanor Phillips pluck former sweetheart Matthew Croft from the teeth of a blizzard and defy the police manhunt that follows him to her door.
I find the pressure of selling myself daunting. But although I am one of those people who find it difficult to ‘recommend myself to strangers’, I can at least take heart from the fact that I am taking sound literary advice, and practicing.
In the Shadow of Winter is available now from Harper Impulse on Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-Winter-Lorna-Gray-ebook/dp/B00O7CP4XU/
And released in paperback on May 21st.
A huge thank you to Lorna for this fabulous guest post.