There was one day in 1988 when I sat at a plastic table in the student union building of the university where I worked and answered a lot of tough questions from the writer with whom I was in a relationship.
What kind of writer did I want to be?
What did I want to write?
Who, exactly, did I want to write for?
Was I after world domination? My books in every airport newsagent?
I fumbled mentally and verbally for an example that fit the not-altogether-well-thought-out thoughts I had on the issue. And what I eventually came up with was not the name of a role model writer at all, but a punk band from America.
The degree of fame and status/respect I would like to achieve through my writing, I told my friend, was akin to what I perceived The Cramps as having through their music. They could go anywhere in the world and play to adoring fans, even though no song of theirs would ever enter a Top Ten chart. They were famous to a certain strata of society, the cool people all knew of them but the masses didn’t need to. That was the type of success I’d be happy with for myself – childhood fantasies about Oscar speeches and interviews on Parkinson notwithstanding.
I’d almost forgotten about that conversation until something jogged my memory the other day. But yes. The Cramps. As a teenaged writer with only one publication under my belt and a future to look forward to, The Cramps were who I was looking to as a career yardstick.