‘Nice review in the Sunday Times,’ somebody tweets me. My boyfriend and I are watching The Sinner on Netflix. We’re going out to dinner in an hour and I can’t settle to anything. I am still, four months on from being part time, sometimes not quite sure what to do with free time.
I angle the phone towards him. ‘Do you think this is true?’ I say.
He reaches for it and reads. ‘Really?’ he says, then shrugs. ‘I don’t know.’
The Sunday Times. I can’t stop my mind from imagining it. Proper writers are reviewed in broadsheets. Lee Child, Zadie Smith. Imagine reading a review of yourself in The actual Times, I have thought before. What would your life look like if your work was reviewed in the newspaper? I couldn’t imagine it.
‘Looks like it,’ my boyfriend says. He clicks on the link my Twitter follower has sent to me. There it is: recent thrillers. My name in the headline.
‘I’m going to buy it,’ I say. Just ten minutes before, I had been wondering what to do with myself. And now – this. It is so strange, sometimes, to be a published author. All those people reading a review of my book in the papers in bed today and I had no idea.
My boyfriend is used to these shenanigans and only sighs. ‘There’s money up there,’ he says, pointing to the bookcase.
I don’t take anything except a handful of change to the shop; not even my phone. The ground is frosty underfoot and the night air is completely crisp. The walk to our local corner shop is short – less than five minutes – but I feel as though I’ll remember it forever. The silent night, the change jangling in my pocket. The bright lights of the corner shop up ahead. The smell of the print and papers as I let myself in.
There’s a fat stack of copies left and I select one and carry it to the till, careful not to let the supplements fall out. I bought all of my press, back in March, when Everything But The Truth was reviewed. I have a drawerful at home; Glamour Magazine, Woman & Home, all kept pristine together in a tight bundle. But this is the first for my sophomore novel. The novel that says: here’s the next offering. After the debut. After my first.
I carry the paper home close to my chest, like a baby, and let myself in to our warm house. ‘The woman on Twitter says it’s on page 38,’ I say to my boyfriend. I pass it to him and he spreads it out on the kitchen counter. This has always been how we have done things – bad news, good news, he always breaks it to me, and we default to it without thinking. I take my shoes off and stand, sock-footed, waiting, leaning against the fridge.
After a few minutes, he says. ‘It’s there. It’s good.’
He passes it to me and boils the kettle. I sit on the stairs and read The Sunday Times on a Sunday night that – somehow, miraculously – contains a review of the novel that I wrote.