It’s a book!

For all those who couldn’t make the launch last night in Barnes Bookshop here’s what I said in my speech — with all hesitation, deviation, repetition and audience participation removed.

‘It seems entirely appropriate that my novel should be launched the day before my birthday because many people think that producing a book is just like giving birth.

For obvious reasons I find it difficult to tell exactly how true this is, but if giving birth is a mixture of pain and joy then writing and publishing a novel might be a similar process. That thrilling, joyous, exciting moment of conception is followed by many months worrying about what you’ve done and whether it’s a good idea.  And then there’s always that haunting and terrifying question at the back of your mind – what the hell am I going to do when it comes out?

Looking at an ebook is all very well, but, let’s face it, it’s just the equivalent of a scan – you can see the shape on a screen but it’s not real. You can’t hold it.  But as soon as I heard the words ‘It’s a book!” and as soon as I felt the cover and the pages in my hands I realised the enormity of what I had managed to do. And here it is!

What you feel on these occasions is an enormous sense of relief but also an enormous sense of gratitude. And I think it’s entirely appropriate for me on this occasion to give a few thanks

I’d like to start my thanks with Jo.   Without you, Jo, none of this would have been possible. So thank you for all your support. If you were a book I wonder what I would write on your cover? How about – ‘Beautiful. Brilliant. The best book I have ever read. My all-time favourite’.

And thank you as well for what you have managed to produce. Even if ‘No Regrets’  won a  prize, even if it won several prizes, even if it were picked up by Richard and Judy, even if it were stocked in Tesco’s it would be absolutely nothing compared to the  two perfect volumes you have managed to bring into the world.

One of those volumes is here tonight.

Thankyou Caitlin. If you were a book I wonder what I would write on your cover? How about ‘kept me up all night?’. Certainly the case in your early years. Or maybe ‘Unputdownable’? Certainly the case in your later years. Or perhaps we should just settle for ‘Fantastic’ and, just like your mother, ‘Brilliant and beautiful’

Thanks also to Caitlin for sending me my first review –a text I received while shopping in Sainsbury’s – I think I can still even remember the aisle I was in. It said . ‘Just finished the book. Brought a tear to my eye…. I like the Joycean reference at the end. Very readable. Really enjoyed it. Can you remember to get some prawns?’

The other volume is currently out on a two-week loan in the Caribbean. Rory had a difficult choice to make between tutoring in  Mustique and hanging around in Barnes for his dad’s book launch. A tough decision. He spent some time thinking about it – then after five seconds his mind was made up.  Funny how he’s taken after me – educating the offspring of the well-to-do. Funny also how he gets to do it on a sun-kissed beach in Mustique and I get to do it on a building site by Hammersmith Bridge.

If Rory were a book what would I write on his cover? ‘Laugh-out-loud funny’ perhaps. Or maybe ‘Warning. Contains explicit material.’  Or how about ‘ the QPR of the literary world –you never quite know what he’ll do next’.  I think I’ll just settle for ‘Magnificent’ and thank him in his absence for his considerable support, not least in being my Facebook marketing manager.

I’d like to thank my mum– great to see you here, 89 and still going strong. So thanks to you and of course to Dad who I am sure is up there reading an advance copy of ‘No Regrets’ specially delivered by the angels. Thanks to you both for what you have brought into the world – me of course, but also my brother and sisters, Mary, John, Monica and Clare  who are all, I know,  at this moment worried that I’m going to give each of them a cover blurb. They’ll be relieved to know I’m not.

Equally relieved will be the members of the St Paul’s English department who will have realised that my book blurb motif is by now beginning to look a little tired. But thanks to you for coming –  and thanks for putting up with me for nearly twenty years.

Thanks also to those from Ellison Road – thanks for putting up with me too, and just to let you know that if you see me strolling up the road over the next three weeks I haven’t been fired  – I’m just on holiday again.

Thanks to those  who I know from St Osmund’s. Thanks to those from the Harrodian and all of you – friends and acquaintances and anyone who’s wandered in because they liked the look of the orange poster in the window.

Thanks also to Leila and Ali from Acorn Press for helping me through all the stages of this and answering all my silly questions.

And of course final thanks must go to one person without whose help nothing would be happening this evening. I mean  Isla and the fantastic Barnes Book shop for allowing me to have the event here. Isla has been a tremendous source of advice and support over the last few weeks and I am very grateful. We are incredibly lucky to have a shop like this in Barnes and there aren’t many of them left so please, please do support it.

That’s it.

I began with birth and I’ll end with birth.  Here it is. My baby.

All I ask you to do is treat it as you would any friend’s new born – smile, coo, and say nice things if you think it’s lovely, keep quiet if you think it’s ugly.  And if you do like it please spread the word and give it the helping hand that all new borns need in those difficult first few weeks and months.

And what this new born needs is probably reviews. So if you like it please post a review on an appropriate forum – or even an inappropriate one.

So  thanks to everyone for showing up. Great to see you all here.  And thank you all very much.’