From the author: It's all about finding the right agent, and the perfect number of toilets.
I’d seen lots of shows and movies about writers and their agents. So I’d engaged one. The problem was he was a real estate agent. At the time I didn’t understand the difference, just walked in, all bravado, and gave my pitch. He was a professional so he went with it.
‘How many bathrooms does this new novel have?’
I shrugged. He studied the manuscript heaped on his desk - I’d dropped it awkwardly there when I came in. He gave it what I could only describe as a look of sharp reflection, and grimaced. ‘I’m getting the feeling there aren’t too many.’
‘I’m not a bathroom kind of writer.’
‘You should be. Everything hinges on bathrooms.’
‘You haven’t even looked at the first page.’
‘I don’t read. I sell.’
“I suppose I could add a few bathrooms.”
He smiled, and shook my hand. “Very good. I’ll take you on.”
My beta-readers seemed to enjoy the novel. There were the usual sorts of suggestions (don’t kill the dog, maybe change the names so they weren’t all my friends, at the very least their surnames) but I felt like I was on a good thing with this book.
However, Steven, my oldest friend, and usually most enthusiastic reader, took me aside.
“I want to talk to you about this book.”
I felt a pit in my stomach. “Something wrong with it?”
“Not, exactly. It’s just, well, don’t you think it’s a bit, um scatalogical?”
“What? Well, no.”
“It’s not, salacious, I don’t mean that, Trevor. It’s just, there’s an awful lot of references to toilets.”
“I’m sure your agent knows what he’s talking about. I see his photo all the time. He seems like a big wheel in real estate, but… look there’s five references to toilets on page thirty six alone.”
When I wasn’t writing I’d drive around all day with my agent, stopping at houses he was trying to sell. I put out the signs, and baked biscuits in the various kitchens to give the places a homely smell. I’d never baked biscuits before but I soon got very good at it. Kind of ambitious, really, there wasn’t a place that we went to that didn’t smell like a high class patisserie when I was done.
He didn’t sell a lot of places, though I could tell from all the trophies in his offices that he used to. “Nowhere has enough bathrooms anymore,” he said, one day, as I was packing away the biscuits, sausage rolls, and a cinnamon log that I’d whipped up from scratch.
“Well, this one has three.”
“You won’t sell a house this size without at least nine.”
I looked around. “It only has two bedrooms.”
“Let me paint you a picture, Trevor,” he said. “Better yet, let me show you this Powerpoint presentation.”
I was a novelist, I had nothing better to do.
It went on for nearly an hour, there were a lot of spreadsheets, several Venn diagrams, and those animations that make transitions so entertaining. By the end I was sold.
“I’ve started shopping your novel around,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of interest. But-”
“I’m getting a lot of energy from the big publishers, but they’re still hesitant. They want more toilets.”
I sighed. “You think they’ll bite?”
“Just a few more,” he said, though I could tell by few he meant a lot.
“I believe in you,” he said.
So that’s what I did. I put a toilet on every second paragraph. It was a lot of work, a lot; it took me nearly an hour.
Steve took another read of the book, and by the end he was shaking his head.
“I was so wrong,” he said. “Your agent is a genius. The book needed more toilets not less! You’re the Steinbeck of our generation.”
When I got the call from my agent I was expecting another update, but he shouted down the phone.
“Seven figure deal! Movie rights! Producer credit! Your book’s going to America! I’m parked out the front, there’s a contract for you to look over.”
It was great! Everything I had ever wanted.
“You’re hitting the big time now,” he said.
“We both are,” I said.
He took me to his house to celebrate. We drank a bottle of champagne.
“Where’s the toilet?” I asked.
He opened a door onto a hallway, there was door after door after door.
“Take your pick,” he said.
“A lot of toilets,” I said.
“I’ve never counted them all,” he said. “I was raised in a family of eight, we only had one toilet, and I was the youngest. It was terrible. But look at me now. Look at me now!”
“Yeah,” I said, punching the air. “Yeah.”
Then I went to the loo.
Afterwards, I must have taken a wrong turn. I was pretty drunk.
I’ve been walking for hours now, past bathroom after bathroom, and I can’t find a way out. Sometimes I hear a distant flushing, and it’s only that sound that keeps me going. That and a book deal. My agent may be crazy, but seven figures, man.
I’ll walk to the end of time.