So. There’s yet another book in the world. A month ago, more or less, my novella Fall On Me became a reality, as in it was all of a sudden made public, by the inimitable Robyn Archer, who said nice words about the book. I remember few of Robyn’s nice words, because I was standing beside her looking like a stunned mullet, according to He Who Is Allowed To Make Such Observations. However, I do remember Robyn describing Fall On Me as an emotional thriller, or perhaps it was psychological thriller, yes, let’s go with that, because that sounds better, better as in sexier, because being sexier is the name of the publishing game these days, isn’t it. I guess the point is this: on September 15 2011 there was a launch where Robyn Archer and my publisher, Blemish Books, and various attendees who’d kindly crowded into Electric Shadows Bookshop said nice things; some people even queued to have my scrappy, scratchy signature on the main title page of their copy.
Once the launch was done there’s been the excruciating wait for reviews. I’d like to say that I’m man enough to not worry about reviews, that I’m big enough (in every possible way) not to take any notice of what professional critics say about my work. But I do worry, I do take notice. Why? Because through a review someone – usually an articulate, erudite, respected someone – tells a lot of potential readers what they think about my work, about all that effort and heartache. Of course, we all know that the critic is critiquing the writing, not the writer, right? Wrong. Show me a writer – any type of creative person – who can separate their work from themselves and I’ll show you a dirty fraud. Thankfully, on balance, the reviews have been generous to Fall On Me. So far the novella has been described as ‘a well-crafted tale’ (Sydney Morning Herald), a book of ‘substance, seriousness and a fair dose of poignancy’ (The Canberra Times) and containing ‘easy characters to like and care about’ (Varuna News).
There’ll be more reviews, I think, if only because I believe there are one or two others in the pipeline, or the gun barrel. And then what? There is undoubtedly a ‘come down’ element to publication: after all the work and wait and hope, someone presses the magic button and a story is made public – it’s let loose on the world, and the world responds in countless ways, if it responds at all. On top of the reviews, I’ve received some lovely, warm emails from readers, or people have told me directly what they think of the story. One of the conversations I’ve liked the most was when a reader asked me what I reckon becomes of Luke Bard, the book’s provocative but lonely teenage protagonist. I said, ‘I’m fairly sure he moves to Melbourne to study medicine.’ And the reader replied, ‘But does he make any friends?’ I like how ink and paper can make people care.
But that question. Now what? Well, the answer is this: just keep going. Despite the absurdity of the fiction writer’s task – to lie, lie, and lie some more until people believe in it, and maybe some people are even moved by it – I do want to keep going, to see what happens next. To see what sort of story and book – if any – emerges now. In the meantime, Fall On Me is out there, on bookshop shelves, in libraries, on bedside tables in homes, perhaps even down the back of the couch. And as ludicrous as it sounds, I like to think that it’s doing good things, quietly, if not meekly (how good would it be if novellas inherited the earth!) telling us to take risks, to be brave, to love, and the rest will look after itself.