Sealed With A Click
‘So,’ says the very kind photographer. ‘I can use this lens to take soft-focus pictures, or this lens to make you look thinner.’
Urgh. The reality of this book-publicising business is hitting home. My novel, The Making of Her, will be published in April. My marketing efforts have resulted in a local magazine requesting a Q & A interview and a ‘good photograph’. The interview I can manage. The photograph, not. So a friend introduced me to another friend, and here I am with Jon Leavins, a delightful man who has courageously offered to commit my image to pixels. Little does he know that photographs generally feature me with a) eyes clamped shut and mouth wide open in a ghastly chasm or b) looking stern, angst-ridden and wistful (aka very, very old indeed).
I had a bit of a moment in the run-up to The Day Of The Photo. I found myself leaning desperately over my bathroom basin. Not throwing up - though that would be understandable - but hacking at my hair with rough scissors in an effort to look more presentable. I managed to divest myself of about three inches, though the back eluded me. I hope people will see it as a new fashion in coiffure.
Talking of fashion, the what-do-I-wear problem raised its ugly head. I resolutely ignored it until about ten minutes before the session and then threw on comfort clothes. Bad enough to be wearing make-up – I mean, mascara. This resulted in five minutes of panda eyes and weeping as my contact lenses screamed protest. And let me tell you, concealer doesn’t conceal. It merely highlights the bags.
‘Where would you like to pose?’ asks Jon, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
I dismiss my preferred answer (‘behind the nearest large building’) and while I’m thinking, he suggests that we try a beautiful old Georgian crescent nearby. Good idea, I reply. The readers will be fascinated by the ancient, crumbling structure – and the crescent looks interesting too.
My contribution to the shoot is to suggest that I pose propped against a large pillar-box, in the hope that I will go unnoticed beside all that glaring red.
‘I s’pose,’ says Jon diplomatically, ‘it gives you the air of a Lady of Letters.’
Suddenly, I’m learning something very important: writers are happiest when they’re indoors, clicking away at the keyboard. Authors, it seems, must pretend to look happy out in the street whilst being clicked at by a camera. Authors have to be visible.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m overjoyed at being able, after decades of rejection, to call myself an author. I’m so grateful, in fact, that I’m willing to subject myself to much, much more humiliation. Not from agents this time, but from the media. At least agents (eventually) reply, so you know where you are (rejected). But let me tell you, without Max Clifford batting for you, the majority of national newspapers and magazines simply ignore you. Then you have to decide whether to risk being labelled as a Literary Stalker by following up your request for a review, or just give up.
The photographic session is over. We are both looking somewhat bedraggled. Jon hurries off to his photo-shopping and airbrushing and what-not. But before he goes I have one very important question to ask.
‘Erm, this photo of me with the pillar box… Did you use the ‘make-you-look-thinner’ lens?’
He shakes his head. HE ACTUALLY SHAKES HIS HEAD.
I think we could call this a result.