Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.

And then the demon caught up

By Emma on February 27, 2012

It’s been one of the most exciting fortnights of my writing life. So exciting in fact, that I haven’t blogged about it – I was too busy being in it. In short, the hardback of 20 Years Later has started popping up in Waterstones bookshops around the country and it suddenly all feels very real, and very, very cool.

A staggered book launch

Unlike the launch of From Dark Places, I haven’t organised events (yet) for 20 Years Later, mostly due to the logistical challenge of having an American publisher and therefore needing physical stock to make its way through the international book distribution system. Now that copies are making it through to UK bookshops reliably, it feels like the right time to get some launch signings organised, which I’m working on at the moment. I already have one booked at the Bristol Galleries branch of Waterstones on April 21st 11am-3pm.

It looks like there’s going to be one at the High Wycombe branch in late March too, I’ll keep you posted of course. I’m planning to have events in Manchester and London too.

An amazing feeling

It’s strange, this staggered launch, as there have been little (some huge) milestones over the last couple of months, such as seeing it in the marvellous Mr B’s in Bath and then hearing from people who’ve bought it, read it, loved it enough to come and find me and let me know. Even though my job is to put difficult things into words, I’m finding it hard to express just how wonderful that feels. Seeing it on a table display in Waterstones hundreds of miles away, with no part played by me, was like some incredible arcane arts had been worked in my favour. Somehow, the book I wrote five years ago, polished and polished, the final manuscript of which was submitted two years ago, somehow got made into beautiful hardbacks on the other side of the world, shipped over, stored in unknown warehouses and made it into a bookshop – a real bookshop – ordered in by someone who hasn’t known me personally or followed me online and is already being sold to the public.


On Facebook I’ve got a photo album called 20 Years Later in the Wild and have been sharing the excitement over there. My friends and family are thrilled and delighted for me, and it’s all been rather splendid really.

When the pictures came in, I contacted Waterstones and put things into motion for the signings. I didn’t stop to think about it, I just did it as quick as possible so I could get back to writing my current book. Alongside this, all kinds of exciting things have been happening regarding events I’ll be appearing at as a panellist, readings and things that merit a blog post all of their own.

But then this weekend I started to feel anxious. Nothing in specific came to mind, it was more a purely physical manifestation in the form of too much adrenalin. My body is acting like I’m in a house alone at night with a knife-wielding maniac downstairs. Totally out of proportion, considering I’m alone in the daytime in a quiet town in Somerset and the only thing that’s scary in this house is the ironing pile.

Enter anxiety demon, stage left

I know this is the old demon again. I’ve written about it before, and am writing about it again, especially now, because I made a conscious decision a long time ago to be open and honest about what it’s like to live with an anxiety disorder. It’s relatively mild for me, and I can just about manage it after many years of surviving recurring bouts. I guess the reason I wanted to share this part of my life is to demonstrate that anxiety can persist even when wonderful things are happening that you’ve wanted so badly, for so long.

I have the feeling that the demon (I hasten to add, if you’re new here, that I don’t really think it’s a demon in the biblical sense of the word, I just find it a handy way to think of it and something to call it) has suddenly realised that I’ve been very brave over the last two weeks whilst it was asleep. It’s woken up to find that not only have I ventured outside of my comfort zone, I’ve gone so far away from it that I’m a little speck on the horizon.

And it’s angry. “How can I protect you if you go and do stupid things like contacting event organisers and winding up on panels?” I can imagine it shouting. “It’s scary in the real world, how can I keep you safe if you wilfully put yourself out there?”

All of my anxiety stems from self-protection

I’m working hard to remind myself of this, as I write this, as I struggle through the day feeling like a piano is going to land on my head any second. I know this anxiety wants to keep me quietly typing away in my safe little office, in my safe little house, far away from circumstances where I might be in danger of… of what? That’s where it unravels you see. When I start to really ask this demon what it’s afraid of happening it all gets very silly. For example, I’d like to think that it’s very unlikely I’ll be openly abused, shouted-at, physically attacked, eaten by crocodiles, suffer spontaneous human combustion or any other terrible fate equating to the level of fear I feel.

I’m trying to find a way to negotiate with a part of myself that thinks making me feel like I have to run away from a horde of Danny Boyle’s zombies is the best way to keep me from harm. If I was in a zombie scenario, I’d welcome its input. But, seeing as I am only going to be meeting people, signing books (hopefully!) and expressing my thoughts on stuff I know about in public places, I don’t feel zombie survival instincts are called for. A nice cup of tea, yes. Running away screaming from people who might want to meet me, no.

So there you go, another report from the trenches. It is possible to achieve dreams when living with an anxiety disorder, but some days are really, really hard.

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{ 5 comments... read them below, or add one }

  1. Jo Hall says:

    Well done, you’ve got the demon all hot and bothered! That means you’re winning 🙂

  2. Wow, those are some wonderful things that are happening for you, Em! I am so happy for you, and I know that you’ll be awesome at those signings. I’m sorry about your anxiety though. Anxiety is no fun at all.

    *sends Em hot tea and a soft blanket* *and virtual puppies*

    Congratulations on all your awesomeness!

  3. John Wiswell says:

    For an American, landing like that at a Waterstones is inspiring. Good work, and congratulations on all you’re rising above!

  4. alberta ross says:

    well done on book and outrunning even if only for a little while silly demon – I have anxiety and it can be running battle of words:) you can do it – go girl go

  5. TNeal says:

    Em, congratulations on venturing out and also way to go on the Waterstones (I take it that’s a bookstore and I know seeing your book anywhere is a big deal). Blessings–Tom

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