Writer Sells House to Fund Book!
One of the judges of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction the other night spoke of her amazement that a long-listed writer had mortgaged her house to buy archival material.
Where's the judge been? Is there another world out there in which writers are paid handsomely for really decent books?
I sold my first house to buy time to write a novel, On Bended Knees. I sold an apartment in Glasgow to pay for the travel that went into my travel book, On Sacred Mountains: great travel, lovely book, not an atom of commercial sense in the whole project. I didn't have any more houses to sell so sold all my possessions to pay for the research trips that went in to my biography In Search of the Divine Mother. Who needs records and books and TVs and pots and pans in any case?
I got another mortgage five years ago. Last year wasn't a bad one for earning, though it meant running four teaching jobs and doing freelance writing.
Now I have to work more than full-time, into next year, so as to write and deliver my biography of J.S.Haldane. The advance did reach five figures. Well hooray for that. Enough to pop the cork on the Cava. The last drip comes with the paperback issue in 2008. I'd already spent much more than that whole advance on the six months' work getting the proposal together. I thought for a while about rejecting the offer and letting the book go. But then a book becomes a labour of love, and J.S.Haldane is such a dream subject for a biographer. I wanted someone worth giving a few years of my life too - the more I learn of Haldane, the more I come to appreciate him and life itself.
But since the advance was long spent on preparing the book, I have to keep myself alive somehow.
That's OK. I've got the house (pictured). I can trade in the mortgage for some writing time. I went to see the estate agent this morning. It's on the market.
That's what writers do, isn't it?