‘Quick one,’ he’ll say, opening our phonecall.
‘Yes, Dad,’ I’ll say, knowing full well what comes next.
‘What’s happening on Amazon?’
‘With what, Dad?’ I’ll reply, as though there was a possibility he might have been talking about Beverley Callard’s Unbroken or Season One of Glee.
‘Well this morning the book was at 4,357.’
‘And now it’s at 639.’
‘Well that’s brilliant, isn’t it?’
‘Well yes, but don’t get excited. I’m sure it only accounts for, like, 10 books or something.’
‘Oh,’ he’ll say, dejected. ‘But what about the price?’
‘Well this morning it went up from £5.99 to £7.99.’
‘And now it’s back down to £4.99. What’s all that about?’
‘The thing is, Dad, Amazon are pretty much a law unto themselves.’
‘But what does it mean, Lis?’
‘I DON’T KNOW, DAD!’ I’ll snap. ‘I’m trying not to think about it!’
‘Just wondered,’ he’ll chirp, as I cringe beneath the guilt of my short temper.
See, I always expected that my releasing a book would have a strange effect on those dearest to me. Hell, most of them are characters in The C-Word, ferfuckssake, which is a weird enough reality in itself, even aside from all the daughter/sister/friend/wife-as-cancer-patient shizzle. But never could I have imagined that the release of my tome could have the potential to turn my old man into a clone of my Grandad. And not even Grandad as in his Dad, but Grandad as in his father-in-law.
My Grandad was, it’s fair to say, a card. Actually, I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn by saying that he was a bit of a legend round our way, known across Derbyshire not only for his successful stint as a county-cricket secretary, but also for his short temper (what can I say, it’s hereditary) and resolute cantankerousness in his role as a local umpire (AKA The Grumpire). But while those were the things for which my Grandad was mostly famed, I remember him for altogether different reasons. Most notably, his enthusiasm for each tiny thing that me or Jamie ever did. (The same goes for my Nan, of course, but until Dad starts baking ginger biscuits and blushing in the presence of handsome young men, I can’t really make that comparison.)
When Grandad was into something, he was REALLY into something. Every April, he’d dig out his slide rule, graph paper and pencil to calculate exactly how many points Derby County (plus every team within 12 points of them) needed to guarantee safety. Whenever I danced in the local pantomime as a kid – yes, ha ha, I was in pantomimes as a kid (oh no I wasn’t!) – he’d pull out his typewriter to script gloriously biased reviews to send in to the regional paper. And every Sunday morning, come thunderstorm or howling blizzard, he’d be on the sidelines of Jamie’s football games, screeching tactical advice to clueless 11-year-olds and loudly chastising referees for wrongful offsides. Grandad was nothing if not fanatical – but never more than when it came to his grandkids.
And so lately, given The Book Stuff, I’ve spent even more time than usual thinking about my Nan and Grandad (who – thoroughly deservedly – The C-Word is dedicated to). Because, with a grandchild-worshipping history like that, can you imagine what levels of adoration they could have reached with the help of Google, a loose grasp of social networking or a curiosity for Amazon sales ranks? Well yeah, actually, I can – because my old man has demonstrably taken on the mantle. (Again – the same, of course, goes for Mum – ginger biscuits, blushing and all.)
Naturally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. And, blimey, I’d be a cold-hearted ruiner of a daughter if I didn’t allow my parents to bask in my good fortune after such a long period of Bullshit-induced shitness. But my occasional clipped tone when met with their enthusiasm can’t be helped. It’s just the sheer weirdness of all of this. My folks might have got their heads around it, but I definitely haven’t. Shit, I’m still getting my head around The Bullshit itself, let alone the book based on The Bullshit.
I’d like to preface this by saying that I am (as anyone following me on Twitter will be shoot-themselves-in-the-head aware) SO FUCKING EXCITED ABOUT HAVING WRITTEN A BOOK THAT I WANT TO BE SICK. But I’ve got to admit that a part of me is still c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y f-r-e-a-k-e-d o-u-t by the reason I’ve been published in the first place. Because, however hard I try to be 100% proud of the book I’ve written, every time I look at that lovely cakey cover, there remains a tiny percentage of niggling association that reminds me of the reality: I have had breast cancer. And that’s not all. I’m also nervous that, by writing a story with a happy ending, I’ve foolishly tempted fate prior to my MRI scan next week. So not only am I petrified about that, I’m utterly pissed off at myself for allowing that terror to tarnish a time when I’ve got so bloody much to grin about.
But if there’s one thing I can do better than most, it’s turn pissed-offness (see – born writer) into kick-ass. I may not have any cancer in my body to fight right now (at least I bloody hope I haven’t) but that doesn’t make this any less of a competition. Because, present as that niggling association of cancer-reality may be, I’ve worked really sodding hard to turn The Bullshit to my advantage – and tomorrow marks the occasion on which I’ve finally cracked it; when I can finally say that despite the shit-bucket I fell into, I’ve come up smelling of roses. And by ’eck, that’s something I want to celebrate – with ten times the enthusiasm of my old man. So if beating The Bullshit one more time is what I have to do to keep it from pissing on the chips of my first book’s release, then that’s a fight I’m willing to take on. And I don’t think you’ll need my Grandad’s slide rule and graph paper to work out who’s more likely to triumph.