Is there anything quite so discombobulating as a book launch?
You’ve spent months alone, muttering to yourself, literally and metaphorically pulling your hair out, wandering around the empty garden gazing sightlessly at the cruel sky, trying to find a new way to say “the sun rose”.
You’ve been up and down like a seesaw on steroids, you’ve cried, drunk so much coffee that the few words you managed to squeeze out over four hours dance in front of your eyes, and inhaled so much beer after bad days that everything dances.
And then, all of a sudden, like a literary Lazarus freed from the cave, you have to put on some smart clothes and go out and make like you knew what you were doing all along.
I had the official launch for my second novel, Rain Falls on Everyone, last week. It was held in the gorgeous Lutyens and Rubinstein book store in Notting Hill, and it was a glorious evening with friends and family and the wonderful people from Legend Press.
Hugs and kisses, kind questions and praise. I felt like an imposter — all dressed up like the mental cray cray of the last year just never happened. Me, crying into my coffee? Me, dusting the backs of radiators just to avoid Chapter 12? Me, eating a whole packet of Maryland cookies because that, dear reader, is how new adjectives materialise? Oh no. I was always this balanced, and poised, and sure of myself and my book.
Sending a new book out into the world is a bit like watching your child on their first day at school. You are terrified, and proud, and weepy, and you might, as in my case, have to be forcefully dragged away to spill your tears into a cappuccino out of earshot of the school.
It’s agony waiting for those first reviews, hitting REFRESH on Goodreads like an addict at the fruit machines. When friends message you to say they have pre-ordered your book, you have to fight the urge to say: Ah no, sure you didn’t have to go and do that. No need to actually READ it.
You tell yourself that tomorrow, DEFINITELY TOMORROW, you will NOT check Amazon to see if anyone else has bought The Book. You creep around shops to see if it’s been stocked and slink out sheepishly when it is not (that may just be me, of course). You dream of making it to THE TABLES in the middle of the store. If you find a copy of your baby, you move it to a more prominent position. Hey, Lee Child doesn’t need the sales. No harm done, right?
And all the while, ordinary life goes on. The ironing is still, bizarrely, unsmoothed in the basket. The dust has not been informed of your new star status and insists on its right to accumulate. The daddy-long-legs also seem not to have got the memo about your brilliance. And your children still seem to think you will feed them.
I love the utter madness and contrariness of it all. Now that my second baby is out there, I’m itching to get started on the next, so that I can enjoy all this insanity again! But before I pick up my bandages and head back into the cave, I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who helped make this second birth so magical.
My sister Esther, who travelled over from Ireland, bought me shoes WITH HEELS so that I would not have to go to the launch like a grungy Cinderella in my daughter’s hand-me-down Doc Martens. Said 13-year-old daughter did my make-up, ignoring my insistence that I always put my foundation on with my fingers. She rolled her eyes, smiled sadly with the savvy of a streetwise teen, left and returned waving her magic make-up brush.
My youngest daughter said I was gorgeous and that this was definitely going to be The Bestseller. My husband’s family trekked all the way from Wales and the Forest of Dean to attend, and friends came from across London and beyond. My long-suffering, stalwart husband brought friends from work and shepherded the family to GBK after it was all over so that we could eat and drink and wonder at the sheer madness of it all. I was truly honoured and humbled and felt like an eejit for putting so many people out!
Beyond friends and family and the delightful team at Legend Press, there are the bloggers and the reviewers – people I don’t know and have never met who took the time to read my book and then took even more time to write about what they thought. I have nothing but praise for these small acts of selfless devotion to the craft of writing. Launches are lovely but reading thoughtful words about how something you dreamt up made someone else feel – that’s priceless. Thank you to everyone who reviewed Rain Falls on Everyone, who tweeted about it, who thought about it, and who took the time to tell others. Kindness. That’s something we don’t get to shout about much nowadays, but it’s there, in the shadows.
Today, I cleaned the bathrooms, walked the dog, bought some shopping and hung out with my beautiful girls. The cave beckons, but I’m just going to stand here in the sunshine a little while longer. Thank you everyone.