The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Author Lynne Truss says avoid fame – it’s a terrible trap
Best-selling author Lynne Truss, 66, found fame in 2003 with Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which has sold more than three million copies worldwide. She lives near Brighton, East Sussex.
Two years before I wrote Eats, Shoots & Leaves, my sister Kay died of lung cancer at 52. Her death threw me off track. I ditched my newspaper contract as a sports writer and spent most of my time at home bursting into tears.
Kay was seven years older and had never set out to be a writer herself, but I was for ever playing down what I’d done so she wouldn’t feel jealous. She used to tell me off for being on the radio. ‘You’ve ruined Radio 4 for me,’ she’d say.
After I emerged from grief, I was asked to present a programme on punctuation and then to write a book about it. It felt reckless. I wasn’t an expert on grammar! Yet people embraced it, and very quickly we were selling tens of thousands of copies every week.
Lynne Truss, 66, (pictured) who lives near Brighton, East Sussex, admits she wasn’t ready for exposure when her book became a bestseller
I think if my sister had been alive, all of this would have been difficult to negotiate. She wouldn’t have been happy for me. I feel glad we didn’t have to go through that.
It became a bestseller in the U.S. and in the UK, and I wasn’t ready for that level of exposure. I went on America’s Today Show watched by 50 million people. Looking back, I think I still wasn’t in the best of shape, and my publishers expected a lot from me.
The money was weird. One day in New York, I went mad in a jeweller’s buying five necklaces costing about £7,000 just because I could. The success changed the speed of my life. But all through it I was thinking ‘When will it end?’, as it was so weird and scary.
I went to see a therapist to talk about developing a thicker skin to cope. But I realised there was nothing I could do. So I thought: ‘Just do things that don’t draw much attention to yourself.’
Today I’m writing my Constable Twitten novels, which have been a joy. I can report that penning comic crime novels set in Brighton in the 1950s is not a way to make a living. But it was totally the right decision for me. I didn’t like being famous. It felt like a terrible trap.
Murder By Milk Bottle by Lynne Truss is shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize (comedywomen inprint.co.uk)