John Hancock

Recently I have blog swapped with the talented writer Jan Carson. But if you haven’t seen my article on her website http://jancarsonwrites.wordpress.com/, here it is for you to have  a gander at…

john hancock

For me, one of the more troublesome outcomes of the publication of my novel A Model Partner is the action of signing it for readers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not something which has been keeping me awake at night. And it’s not the result of any anti-social traits I may have or an inexplicable fear of handwriting (I swear) but I’ve been thinking about it and I suppose the root of the problem could be traced back to my early affiliations with libraries. I frequented them a lot as a kid. And by a lot I really mean A LOT.

A seasoned user, brimming with library knowledge, I was the kind of kid who knew where the new books were held before they hit the shelves, the kind of kid who didn’t need colour-coded stickers to know which books best suited their reading abilities. There was even an unsaid agreement whereby I could use the grown-up section of the library if needed.

A little nod to the librarian on duty.

‘Mrs H.’

A flash of the library card.

‘Oh, you’re back again Daniel.’

And BOOM – unrestricted access to the reference section.

My expertise also meant I knew the library rules inside out, the No Singing rule, No shoutingNo Tomfoolery, Shenanigans or Hijinks. I knew that any movement beyond the pace of ambling was not permitted. But above all I knew the most important rule…

DO NOT WRITE ON THE BOOKS!!

And I guess, even though it’s my own novel, it’s difficult to rid myself of the idea that signing a book also equates to defacing a book.

My childhood fear of getting extradited from the library has stayed with me. I can see it now, playing out just like those cop movies my father was obsessed with when I was young. It begins with a request to visit an office at the back of the library and then a balding man with a sweaty shirt will confront me about the ink on the book.

‘Damn it Seery, you know the deal about defacing library books. Hand over your Dewey-decimal-related bookmark and your library card. You’re off the case…permanently!’

Another theory I have relates to the message that you feel obliged to add to the signature. Years of writing have instilled the need to avoid repeating the same sentence or phrase and no matter how skilled you are as a writer there’s only so many ways you can say ‘best wishes’. At the book launch I even asked a few people if they would like anything in particular written on the book. For most, they don’t want a message at all.

“I didn’t come here for your life story Mister. I just want your name so I can try to sell the bloody thing on eBay when I’m finished reading it.”

Then I was thinking, perhaps I have an irrational fear that people will learn to forge my signature and use it for dastardly deeds, like filling out Tesco club card applications and retrieving money back on their cash purchases. People can’t just go around getting discounts under false pretensions. It’ll mean the collapse of society as we know it.

Or perhaps it has nothing to do with any of the above. For years I’ve been chasing the dream of getting my debut novel published, countless hours learning the craft, dealing with rejections, the frustration, the feedback and the hope. And now that it’s happened I still can’t shake the notion that I have gate-crashed the party. Justified or not, some writers often feel they are the outsiders and believe that it’s their angled slant of the world which gives their writing freshness. So, perhaps it’s best that I do find the aspect of signatures a bit awkward. Because, maybe, the day I’m comfortable signing my name on a book will be the day I have nothing left to say.

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