On Thursday, I travelled down to London to meet my agent and publisher. This, I thought, would make everything official, and I would henceforth be able to call myself a Proper Author.
Despite hailing the one and only cabbie in London who *doesn’t* know where the Dickens House museum is, I arrived safely at Ian’s offices so we could get acquainted. He apologised for his visitor’s chair, a chrome and leather contraption in which authors have been lost, never to be seen again, and we exchanged tales of how book collections outgrow their shelves and having climbed the walls begin to colonise every available flat surface in one’s home like some sort of literary fungus.
Then it was off to Orion House to meet the lovely Jo for lunch. I was expecting the rest of the Gollancz team to be there. I wasn’t expecting the Deputy CEO and the publishing director of Orion Books to tag along too. Talk about wheeling out the big guns to impress the newbie!
But I needn’t have worried. Everyone was remarkably human–sometimes the unpublished author, confronted with the shiny glass edifice of the modern multinational publishing conglomerate, forgets that behind the revolving doors are real people, drinking stale coffee and swearing at the photocopier, just like the rest of us.
So we ate and drank and chatted about this and that. I made them laugh (and it didn’t sound forced at all) and they politely pretended not to notice when I dripped hoi-sin sauce on my lapel. They offered ribald commentary on some of the agents I had submitted to–”I can’t believe she turned you down!” and “Oooh, dodged a bullet there!” and heaped praise on my book that sounded so sincere I had to let myself believe that it was.
Trying desperately hard to create a good impression, and conscious of the fact that I was wearing 3″ heels for the first time in two and a half years, I had eschewed wine for Diet Coke. So imagine my horror when I went to the ladies’ afterwards and discovered that not only had my shirt come untucked, one of the buttons was undone. Eek.
Then it was time for shaken hands and lovely-to-meet-yous. In a flurry of kisses on the cheek, they were gone, off to cover meetings and whatnot. Me, I tottered into Covent Garden and sought out the nearest pub.
I had survived my first literary lunch. I should have felt different, somehow. In a properly-ordered universe, I would have felt different, as the brown juvenile feathers were shed to reveal the shining white plumage of the grown-up author. Instead I felt as if I had shared an end-of-term nosh-up with my uni study group (I know, I know, I never went to uni–bear with me, here). If only I’d known how much fun it would be I wouldn’t have felt like throwing up since 5:30am.
So only one question remains. Does this mean I am a proper author now?