Yesterday the Ulster Hall postman, (who usually brings me artist contracts and the occasional stationary catalogue), delivered a very important package. I had been anticipating this package for the better part of five years so, though it was no surprise to see it finally sitting, well-enveloped, on my office desk, it was still something of an occasion. As most of you will now know, (seeing as I’ve been incapable of keeping the news to myself and have even told a check out girl in Tesco and two strangers in the green room at Radio Ulster last night), it contained the very first, hot off the press, copy of Malcolm Orange Disappears.Of course I was in love with the blessed thing at first sight. Emily encouraged the hysteria. She’s pretty good at stirring up a spot of localised enthusiasm. There was great excitement in the office, some excessive photo taking and the hugging of various staff members whom I would not normally embrace and later regretted embracing, just in case it set a new and slightly weird status quo for our relationship.
The process of receiving the first copy of my book was not dissimilar to how I imagine it must feel to meet your child for the first time. Whilst I did not give birth to this book in the literal sense, I have been carrying it around for 5 years, (I think, from memory this is comparable to the gestation period of a sperm whale),and I’d become quite attached to having it all to myself. Meeting Malcolm in real, paper-bound life was an incredibly exciting, but also slightly intimidating prospect. I found myself instantly checking for vital signs to prove that it actually was a real and functional book: barcode, chapter index, page of indecipherable dates and legal jargon inside the front cover. I found myself saying things like, “Look how many pages it has” (363 in total which is more than an average Ian McEwan and less than the Bible), and demonstrating this fact to people who clearly weren’t really interested. I also decided straight away that my favourite part of the book was the spine, (Karen has designed the spine with a little mini-Malcolm, peaking out at potential readers from whatever shelf it ends up on). It is epic. I spent at least fifteen minutes last night slotting it into various positions on my bookshelf so I could see how Malcolm looked hanging out beside some of my literary heroes.
I should now be carting my book around Belfast, ready to show it to anyone who asks. Instead, having carried it home inside, not one, but two separate bags, overcome as I was with the fear that it might rain before I could make the safety of my car, it is now sitting on the table at the end of my bed, with a scarf wrapped round it and Raymond Carver’s Cathedral standing solitary guard. I think I might be one of those parents who cocoon their children in cotton wool and don’t allow them to leave the house. Now he’s finally here, I’m a little afraid of what the world might make of Malcolm.