Added on Wednesday 4 Apr 2012
How did I become a published author?
The answer may surprise you, but you can see it above. We've become a muddle-headed society of mugwumps, and (as a librarian) I found that the more I tried to satisfy a middle-management culture of misanthropes meretriciously wedded to myopic, insular and deranged analysis of endless reports, initiatives, consultations and similar rubbish, the more I failed to get anywhere, either in writing, in librarianship or in life.
I couldn't get my words laid down in print, I wasn't able to lay my weary head down behind a library counter, and I hardly ever got lucky with girls.
In short, and in the words of the not-so-late but very much laid Mick Jagger, I couldn't get no satisfaction.
So how did I get from that unhappy state to my current and surreal situation? To a place where my inbox regularly glows with happiness when emails from my favourite Hollywood star alight within it, to a locale where a publishing contract can be found inside the straight-laced files of my desk drawer, to that sunlit city on the hill where my book sells on Amazon and a cute and cuddly vampire sort of shares my flat?
How did I do it?
How, you may wish to know, could you do it?
Essentially, I stopped trying to satisfy society and started satisfying myself. I began to say how I felt and not what others wished to hear. In brief, I became a library rebel. I'd spent years grinding my teeth as I sat at interview in front of gormless old gerbils, trying to convince them that with a first degree, postgraduate qualification, library Chartership, law library experience, rare book cataloguing knowledge and so forth, I might actually, finally, be qualified enough to be a library assistant; and one Saturday morning, something finally snapped.
I sat down and wrote a long article entitled The Gordian Knot, which I genuinely considered to be self-penned career suicide, and I wrote it with relish. Librarianship can occasionally be fun, but this was better than sex.
It may sound funny now. It may even sound immature and silly, but it did not feel that way then. At the time, and battling a learning disability which meant that my "career" options were drastically limited (I really would have given my back teeth for a part-time library assistant's post at Hillhead library), it genuinely did feel like I was deliberately and with premeditation destroying one of the few chances I had of fitting into society. I was quite nervous about it, and well aware of the gravity of what I was doing.
It turned out to be the making of me, I've never regretted doing it for a moment, and if I had not done so, I would now be heading towards an unfulfilled old age, with nothing to look forward to except decline, isolation and death. Like Bridget Jones in her darker days, I had been half-expecting to be found three weeks after I expired in my leaky garret, half-eaten by Alsations.
However, a gentleman by the name of Tim Coates let me put The Gordian Knot on his Good Library Blog in 2006, and with that I found my literary voice. It had to be an honest one, and irreverence was a bonus. I started off trying to get myself beaten up by a rampaging mob of middle-aged librarians, and ended up thrashing the library profession on a fortnightly basis for the following five years.
On one occasion, I did indeed suggest that senior library management should be shot out of the USS Enterprise's shuttlebay doors in their underpants and I recently said that the current Culture Minister Ed Vaizey is as suitable for his job as Jabba the Hut would be to run the Triathlon.
Ridicule and irreverence can be, in their way, sharper than serpents' teeth in their ability to prick pomposity and deflate egos.
Of course, I never swore, checked my facts, and tried to look at both sides of the argument; but I stopped holding back for fear it might damage my career and found that it truly did not profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul.
I never regretted a word I wrote. I only wish I'd done it sooner.
Then came the date with fate and the dalliance with a vamp called Drusilla. I came back from America, where I'd written of how it felt to (metaphorically speaking) steal the Enterprise for a Helen of Troy, and with the help of the National Autistic Society Scotland, tried to publish the tale of the trip in order to inspire people with autism.
Have no doubt, getting a book published is one of the hardest things in the world to do, and at first we failed.
After some months of failure, I decided that I'd better put the first draft of Dear Miss Landau on paper, for fear there was a real danger that I would begin to forget too much of the fine detail and raw passion which had led me to the meeting on Sunset Boulevard that day.
I completed the first handwritten draft of Dear Miss Landau late on Friday 11th March 2011 and then, almost casually, I posted a question on the Good Library Blog, just once:
Anyone know a publisher?
I then spent a weekend of unutterable depression, quite convinced that my race was run and I would indeed be found dead many years later, half-eaten by Alsations.
On the Monday morning, maybe about nine-thirty, I received an expression of verbal interest in my manuscript from Chaplin Books.
I had had no idea that Amanda Field, founder of Chaplin Books, had also been contributing to the Good Library Blog, and she'd been reading my unexpurgated, rude, irreverent and pithy comments for about 18 months...
If I had played the game, been cautious, and failed to suggest that senior library managers should indeed sometimes be shoved through the Enterprise's shuttlebay doors in their underpants, I would not now be a published author.
More importantly, I would not even have my self-respect.
Retain your own self-respect, ladies and gentlemen. Mug a librarian.