I am working three days a week at The Phoenix story comic. As (wait for it) CFO – the money man. The accountant.
How did that happen?
I was trying to explain this to two Lindas (Linda Sargent and Linda Newbery) at the launch party on Saturday. Ever since leaving the civil service, I have not only been writing but have also involved myself with a succession of small charities, usually doing civil-servant type things like the money or the minutes. A couple of years ago, with an eye on my wife’s possible redundancy and the uncertain returns from writing, I began to take a professional qualification. So when I went in to see my editor, David Fickling, about one of my books, the conversation started like this: ‘How are you?’ ‘Very well thanks – just heard I passed another set of accountancy exams.’ ‘Oh, you’re taking accountancy are you? Where might that lead?’ ‘Um, well, lots of possibilities. I could be someone’s finance director…’
It’s pretty much a rule now that when I go in to see David I get surprised by something. Sometimes it’s a plan of his. Or it’s a gorilla suit. Once it was a piano. This time it was the king-sized light bulb that went on over his head when I spoke. David knew The Phoenix was looking for a finance director.
(There was a bit more to it than that. Interviews and a little hard talk and waiting for other things to fall into place. But why spoil a good story?)
So that’s what I was doing at the Phoenix launch party on Saturday, a late-comer to the show, basking in reflected glory that was in my case largely undeserved, and trying to explain myself while two Lindas listened politely.
‘But…’ (the Lindas said.) How could an author also be an accountant? Weren’t the two entirely different?
We can all have an opinion on this. What, after all, does the word ‘account’ mean? It means ‘to tell a story’. And I’m not just being clever when I say that. Both roles mean you have to take a mass of material and turn it into a pattern that others will recognise. Both involve quite a lot of working by yourself – just you and the problem in front of you. Accountants certainly have to be painstaking and meticulous. Authors – well – not all authors are painstaking and meticulous (good God, no!) but you know there are times when it helps.
Numbers are not words. They have no rhythm. Or if they have, I haven’t found it yet. But just because you can do words it doesn’t mean you can’t do numbers too. I suspect that people who say they can’t do numbers are a bit like people who say they can’t sing. They can sing – or could, if they practised enough. Very few people are truly tone deaf. So I think very few can be truly number blind.
And why not have your accounts done by an author of fantasy fiction? More fantasy writers should be accountants on the side. After all, we seem to have got into our current economic mess largely because the money men wanted to write fantasy. Move over and let us have a go!
One day I shall write my great Accountancy Novel.