It doesn't seem so long ago that, when asked what I did for a living, I would say, "I'm taking a break from teaching for a bit to work on my writing." It took me quite some time, and a lot of encouragement from my wife, before I began to answer simply, "I'm an author". Just to put this in context: during this period my first book had been in the shops for months, my second was being readied for publication, and I was offered a contract for the third and fourth. Yet somehow I still didn't quite feel 'proper' enough.
Everyone's experience is probably different, but for me there was never one defining moment when I actually began to feel 'proper'. The process of going from teacher who occasionally sent off hopeful manuscripts, to full(ish)-time writer of books for children, appears - as I look back - to have been a long and winding path with no clearly-marked boundaries or borders.
This is on my mind this morning because yesterday was the day of my publisher's annual Christmas party, and I was interested to realise how much I felt a part of things, in a way that I haven't quite in previous years. At my first party, five years ago, I shuffled in feeling slightly fraudulent - my first book wasn't even in print yet, for goodness sake! - and, not knowing anyone except my editor and the director of fiction, had to be shepherded round by patient press officers and junior editors to be introduced to people. This year, by the time I'd left my coat in the cloakroom I'd greeted half a dozen people - fellow authors, Random House members of staff, librarians and so on - like old friends. There was none of this standing around wondering who to talk to next; in fact, there were a number of people with whom I didn't get to exchange more than a couple of sentences, when I'd have loved the chance of a bit more of a proper natter. I'm not sure when I became so much and so comfortably a part of this world, but it was a nice feeling.
And now, being a proper author, I suppose I ought to go and do a bit of proper work...