I love it when authors share what they go through while awaiting feedback. In her recent autobiography, Claire Tomalin describes how she ‘tactfully left the room’ after giving her husband a chapter of her first manuscript – only to find him asleep with it in his hand when she crept back. Fortunately, ‘We were both able to laugh.’ Later, when she ‘nervously’ sent the whole thing to her editor, Tony Godwin, she says, ‘Silence fell. After four days the telephone rang, Tony on the line. He seemed stiff and odd, and I, embarrassed, thinking he must have hated the book, tried to chat about nothing much. Then he exploded: “What about my telegram?”’
Apparently, he had sent a ‘glorious message of enthusiasm and congratulation’ – to the wrong address.
This ending is pure wish-fulfilment – but for me the real interest lies in the description of Tomalin’s uncertainty beforehand.
Stephen King is still more endearing when it comes to self-disclosure. In his 2000 memoir On Writing he says he always writes with one ideal reader in mind – his wife – and that when something of his makes her laugh ‘out of control … I … adore it’. He recounts a drive during which she read the manuscript of his latest novella: ‘I kept peeking over at her to see if she was chuckling … On my eighth or ninth peek (I guess it could have been my fifteenth), she looked up and snapped: “Pay attention to your driving before you crack us up, will you? Stop being so goddam needy!”’
(In case you’re wondering: five minutes later he heard ‘a snort of laughter’.)
Of course, it has to be easier sharing moments like this when the outcome’s good but if you have any kind of ‘author waiting’ story I’d love to hear it.