Long term relationships are hard work. I’ve known my husband now for 17 years. So I guess a bit of extra marital fun ought to be allowed. Don’t you agree? Just a bit of smiling and laughing and a twinkle in the eye. C’est tout. Nothing more.
He understands. It’s Peirene who’s kicking up a fuss.
On Thursday I went to a conference. Independent publishers meet head buyers of Waterstone’s, Amazon, Book Depository, Foyles, and the book wholesalers Bertrams and Gardeners. Most of these gentlemen – yes indeed, the buyers are all men – I’ve met before. At first Peirene was very happy with the afternoon. The gentlemen remembered us from the meetings at the London Bookfair in April. She concluded with satisfaction that we must have made an impression. It was only when I started to talk to Choc Lit that my nymph became concerned.
Choc Lit publishes chick lit. Their logo is a chocolate heart. When they send out pre-pub copies to booksellers they include a heart made of real chocolate. And their tag line, too, goes straight to the heart: “Choc Lit – Where heroes are like chocolate – irresistible.” Call me fickle but it all sounds like huge fun. But don’t judge too quickly – Choc lit is no light weight. She’s only a year older than Peirene but has already managed to get to the top – WHSmith stocks her books at airports and she has sold 10 000 copies of her first title alone. A figure Peirene doesn’t even dare dream of.
In short – Choc lit has got what Peirene just hasn’t – mass appeal. I was quite taken.
On my way home from the conference I indulged in wild phantasies. How about sending out chocolate Peirenes or plastic ones to impress not only WH Smith but Asda and Tesco, too. I even was wondering if I should abandon European lit all together and go for the more shallow stuff.
That night Peirene made a huge scene, beside herself with jealousy, accusing me of betrayal, even adultery. I consoled her and insisted that it was nothing really, just flirting. Of course I prefer her depth and artistry. “But” she wept, “given half a chance you hanker after superficial commercial success. How can you do that to me?”
My poor little darling, she’s still a bit young to understand that there’s nothing wrong with a little flirtatious encounter. I’d quickly tire of publishing books about sugar-sweet heroines and chocolate hunks. Although – frankly – such literature does pay the bills. And THAT is quite important in life.