Monday, May 14, 2007

Publication Week

Today is officially publication day for The Unquiet. I fly to Birmingham to talk with a book group, but first of all I have to sign books at Dublin airport. Joe O' Connor is there at the same time, signing copies of Redemption Falls, the sequel to Star of the Sea. It strikes me that, in his nice suit, he looks like an author. I, on the other hand, don't. He seems to be autographing his books. I look like I'm vandalising mine.

Book group goes well. My publisher sends a driver, Adam, to pick me up and drive me down to London. Adam is a Manchester United fan, and United are playing that night in the Champions League semi-final, second leg. Adam admits he would quite like to be watching the match, but a job is a job. We drive to London listening to the match, and as United concede one, then two, then three goals, poor Adam ends up hunched further and further over the wheel, as though he's being slowly deflated. When we reach the hotel, United now roundly defeated, I suggest to Adam that I did him a favour by enabling him to avoid watching the game. Adam looks even unhappier than before. I like Adam.

Run around London. Do an interview for the London Independent. The interviewer, a nice man whom I've known for almost a decade now, is the first person that day, but not the last, to mention that I'm going grey. Feel rather sad. Dinner that evening for journalists, buyers, friends to celebrate publication of the book. Hear nice things said about me and wonder if this is what it might be like to attend one's own funeral service.

More London stores. Do an interview with an immensely kind journalist from the South China Morning Post, which lasts an hour longer than it was supposed to thanks to a glass or two of wine. We talk books and music, and I'm rather pleased with how it's gone until I realise that a button on my fly is undone. Oh dear. I talk at Borders on Charing Cross Road, then take a few people out for a drink. Wonder if I am an alcoholic, then decide that I don't drink enough to be an alcoholic. Then again, what's enough?

Grotesquely early start. Drive around the south of England signing books. Finish up in Windsor, which is very nice if very English. Always feel I should moderate my Irish accent when I'm in places like Windsor and Tunbridge Wells. Then again, we Irish don't blow stuff up anymore, so people aren't as frightened of us as they once were.

Bit hungover. May be an alcoholic after all, but at least I'm a functioning one. More driving around. More signing. Have no idea how well the book is doing, but do know that there are a lot of copies around. Worry if that's because nobody is buying them. It's the eternal worry of writers: if you go into a store, and they have loads of copies, you figure it isn't selling, and if you go into a store and they only have a few, you figure they haven't ordered many. Writers are 'glass is half empty' kind of people. Sometimes they are even 'what glass?' kind of people.

More bookstores. Spend the night in Southampton, which is very quiet. Eat alone in a nice Indian restaurant and read my book. It's nice to have a night alone somewhere during the tour. When I tour, especially in the US, I seem to be out with booksellers and friends every night, and I miss having a little time and space to myself. Then again, I'm not on tour to have time and space to myself, as that would rather defeat the purpose of the exercise. There are not, after all, many touring recluses . . .

Even more bookstores, then a trip to the warehouse to sign 1000 copies. Jodi Picoult holds the record for signing, I believe: 1500 copies in one hour, but I suspect her signature was just a squiggle by the end. I am determined to beat her, and manage to get all of the books done in 37 minutes. Leave feeling quite smug, until someone calls to say that we missed 500 copies that were stacked in boxes in a corner, so Jodi's record remains intact. Dinner for booksellers that night, then a long drive to Dorchester. Arrive at the hotel shortly before 1 am, so it's been a 16 hour day. The night porter looks at me funny.

"You here alone, sir?"

"Er, yes."

"You sure."

"Um, pretty sure."

"Funny, that. They've put you in the honeymoon suite."

And indeed it is the honeymoon suite. It has drapes, and a four poster bed. I lie on the bed and feel a bit strange, as I've a pretty good idea what a lot of people were doing in this bed before I arrived.

Even more bookstores, and a lunchtime event at a library attended by five (5) people. Feel my shoulders drop a little, but give me talk and rather enjoy myself by the end of the hour. Everyone is kind, everyone is enthusiastic. Sometimes, you do events which are sparsely attended. It's in the nature of the game.

Get dropped at deserted railway station 90 minutes before my train is due to arrive, due to glitch in schedule. Listen to horrible chav play dance music to her best mate and sleeping child out of a tinny mobile phone. Try to listen to my own iPod to block out noise, but the battery is flat.

Spend 90 minutes quietly seething.

Event in Bristol, which is well attended despite the rotten weather, then dinner after with a fellow author. Feel very grown-up, even managing not to spill food on myself despite my tiredness.

Drive myself for a change, as the reps are otherwise engaged. Usually, I drive myself for most of the tour in the UK, but it's been quite nice to have a rep with me, and to have someone else do the driving. The reps are amazingly tolerant and patient. I'm sure that squiring authors around wasn't in the job spec, but they do it with good grace.

Am given a nippy little BMW convertible, and spend the day trying to do some good for the image of BMW drivers by not acting like a knob. News comes in that, after a half week's sales, The Unquiet is at number 6 in the UK bestseller list. It's sold almost 4000 copies in three or four days, which is a huge increase on my previous books. Cheers me up no end.

Very quiet bookstore signing in Bath that night, but I stay for an hour chatting with the readers who've made the effort to come out. We talk about music, old movies, new books. It's one of the pleasures of what I do, and I think I'm more grateful to them for taking the time to chat than they are for getting their books signed. Nice people.

Early train, then more bookstores. Rushed interview with nice website journalist, then a formal signing at Banbury, and followed by coffee and cake with one of my favourite booksellers. Booksellers are interesting people, and the quirkier they are the more I like them. Telephone interview, then on to Birmingham for signing and more drinks with booksellers. (I begin to see a pattern emerging.) Have one glass of wine too many, but don't realise that I've had until . . .

Ow. Seven am start. Head hurts. No painkillers. Long drive to Lincoln for festival event. Want to die. Stop for tea and toast. Still want to die, but not as urgently. Do event, then straight back into car to race for Manchester and flight home. Eventually get painkillers at Manchester airport. Eat chocolate. Feel sorry for myself. Home for two days, then back to the UK next week to finish tour. After that, I realise I have only eight days at home before heading into two full months of promotion. I am already tired. I am going to be very much tireder . . .

This week John read:

Dalek I Loved You by Nick Griffith

and listened to:

New Moon by Elliot Smith
Everybody by The Sea and Cake