On Tuesday 12th April, I went down to London Book Fair. I’d been invited by Orion to meet up with those of my foreign publishers who were in town for the Fair, and they’d very generously thrown in a hotel for the night, so how could I possibly refuse? I’ve never been to the Book Fair, and I wanted to go and see what it was all about.
Plus I quite like travelling on the train. EastCoast actually make a reasonable cup of tea, and the shortbread fingers aren’t half bad.
I was also hoping to catch up with a writer friend of mine, Judith Kinghorn, who’d just recently been signed by Headline and was due to be at the Fair at the same time as me. We’d first met on the writers’ site Authonomy, and here we were, almost three years later, both with publishing contracts, both marvelling at our good fortune.
Anyway, I arrived at Kings Cross feeling virtuous because I’d managed to do some work on the way down. After freshening up and abandoning the Huge Blue Holdall of Doom at my hotel, I made my way over to Earls Court.
It’s quite an impressive building, if you’ve not seen it before, with the arc of steps leading up to the numerous glass doors that wink at you rather like teeth in a wide, grinning mouth. You get a little holder for your badge in the foyer, then a chap waves a barcode scanner over your left bosom (or wherever you happen to have pinned said badge) and it’s on into the exhibition space itself.
It’s big. Givvus-a-bag-of-crisps big (if that reference is lost on you, scroll down). Brightly lit, and full of people, and there’s books everywhere. All sorts of books. Cookbooks, kids’ books, thrillers, lad lit, women’s fiction, science fiction, you name it. Book porn, as far as the eye can see.
So I got my bearings, and headed for the Hachette UK stand on Aisle H. Head for HarperCollins’ less-than-subtle signage, visible above the heads of the other stands, and it’s just opposite.
And guess what was the first thing I saw? This.
So I’m standing there, grinning like a loon, wishing I’d brought the camera instead of my crappy old mobile, and it hit me. That’s my book. This is really happening.
Continuing to gawk like a country mouse on her first trip to the Big City, I took a turn around the very smart stand and admired the manor-house-drawing-room styling. Round the far side I found the meeting area, and there was my editor, Gillian Redfearn, who found me a seat and a cup of tea. Over the course of the afternoon I met pretty much the whole rights team, said hello to some old acquaintances, and played text message tag with Judith until she escaped from her various appointments and we were able to meet at last (she’s lovely, and she writes beautifully atmospheric historical fiction).
Sadly, my Dutch publisher was unable to join us for drinks, but we chatted for a while as Day 2 of the Fair wound down, before we collected Stephane and Alain from Bragelonne (my French publishers) and headed off to the pub, where we were joined by Sacha from Heyne and José from Planeta (Germany and Spain respectively). We then ate well, drank well, and laughed much. I seem to remember discussing some sort of pan-European book tour/road trip/pub crawl, but that could have been the beer talking . . .
José also brought me this beautiful boxed proof of the Spanish edition of my book, which is how Planeta are sending them out to the trade. It’s utterly gorgeous: the statue and the ivy are varnished so they shine out from the matt box. You expect to find expensive chocolates inside, or something equally precious. I’ve certainly never seen anything like it before. The photos don’t do it justice.
On Wednesday I had lunch with my old acquiring editor, Jo Fletcher, pretty much the grande dame of UK genre publishing, who brought me to Gollancz in the first place. It was wonderful to catch up with her; just a real shame we both had to dash off before we got to the bottom of the bottle of wine, her back to the Fair and me to Kings Cross to catch my train home.
The reality of being an almost-published author (63 days to go, not that I’m counting or anything) still hasn’t quite sunk in, but I will admit to feeling a bit more like one now.
McEwan’s Best Scotch TV advert from some 25+ years ago. I’ve scoured YouTube but I can’t find it, which is a shame, because it doesn’t really work in text. Scene: interior, pub, barmaid is pulling a pint of the aforesaid ale (tagline: the one you’ve got to come back for) for a customer recently returned from Germany.
Barmaid: “So how was Munich?”
“How was the beer festival?”
<Meaningful pause as she tops off his pint> “And how were the lasses?”
<Cut to flashback of hefty Oktoberfest fräulein> “Oh, give us a bag of crisps.”