So many people say to me; I'd love to be a writer. It's such a wonderful and romantic way of life - isn't it?
Well... yes and no.
Let me make clear at the start that I delight in writing. It's a joy and also a privilege, and I'm very grateful to be a part of it.
When I began, I never expected to get published, let alone repeatedly. And all that I've learnt, the places I've been, the people I've met... it's been an exhilarating experience.
On the subject of which, let me share a quick photo, as I like to do. I was invited to open the Exeter Real Ales Festival over the weekend, and had a splendid time (not least because of the excellent beers on offer.)
(Important note for aspiring writers - it's still almost obligatory for authors to give speeches with drink in hand, even in these modern politically correct days.)
But aside from the joy of writing, there is a downside that readers don't get to see.
First of all, it can be darned hard work. I've just spent months working on a new book, with totally fresh characters, plot and settings, and it's taken ages. I'm not saying it's physically hard, just that it can be demanding and taxing.
And there's something else that readers don't get to see - the days when the ideas and words are not coming, no matter how hard you try to force them out, and you end up despairing and getting very low.
And even after you've actually and finally got the plan in place, you then have to write the thing. A hundred thousand words or so takes some application to stick down on the paper.
And then there are the re-writes, and yet more re-writes, and editing, and all that dull stuff...
So yes, it's true that writing is a delight and a joy and a romantic industry. But behind the smiles of the book launches and literary lunches, there's a fair deal of hard work, too.
I suppose it's like just about every profession. When you're not a part of it, from the outside it can look unendingly glamorous and attractive. But on the inside...
Well, as we say in the writing industry - that's another story.