The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

Two years ago, if you told me that I would get a tattoo, I would have called you crazy. I’ve never wanted one. And with my track record of changing my mind, how could I commit to permanently decorating my skin? No, it wasn’t happening. Not Ever. Until…

Just over a year ago in a Soho wine bar, a group of friends (all writers), joked about the tattoos we would get once our works-in-progress were published. Would they match? Would they be symbols from our stories? Maybe we should get a custom design incorporating all of our novels? Or the autograph of the first of us to be published scrawled over the bodies of the rest of us?

The conversation faded into our collective hangover. But somewhere in my subconscious, it lurked. Then, on a recent Camden night out with my slightly crazy but very lovely friend Dan, it all came to the surface.

While I was writing Prime, Dan asked me to name a character after him. So I did. It’s a minor character and I’ve misspelled his name simply because poor Dan hates when his surname is misspelled. While we laughed over that (or rather, I laughed and Dan scowled), we came up with a plan. We should get thematic tattoos.

And so, Dan got my character’s shattered sword tattooed on his hip where he can carry it always. I got a quill to symbolise the pen that brought it to life.


I love them. And when I joke with him that the pen is mightier than the sword, Dan just nods and agrees. Even though we both know that’s not necessarily the case. He’s good like that.

The best thing about our tattoos? Well, obviously, it’s that my friend got a big-ass, permanent symbol from my book on his body before the book has ever seen the light of day. Never once has he doubted me. Never once has he entertained any thoughts that Prime could end up gathering dust on the shelves of ambivalent publishers, a file buried deep in an inbox of mediocrity. I suppose I have doubted myself enough for two… and the rest.


And so, bouyed by my friend’s unquestioning faith in me, I found a fresh vigour and a renewed determination to revisit the novel, to work harder on it and to drive it forward in a way I hadn’t really had the confidence for before. I made positive steps forward. Dan didn’t get a sword tattooed on his hip for the manuscript to sit, forgotten, on a dusty hard drive.

It seems a fitting story for a book about friendship.

And now, for the first time, this book is bigger than just me. And that feels pretty exciting.

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