How does it feel? everyone keeps asking me, to see my first novel Paris Mon Amour published? A week has passed and I’m still not sure I have the words to convey it, but I’m going to try. For me, the dream and ambition of getting a book published was never primarily about notching up an achievement, though I am of course proud and delighted. It was about wanting to tell a story that means something to me in the hope that readers might connect with it and think it worth their time. Or even not. What matters most is that I’ve been given the chance to put it out there.
As many of you know, this hasn’t exactly fallen into my lap. That very rarely happens. There were some major upsets and disappointments along the way. Being open about this helped me, and I am happy to hear that it’s helped other people – so much, in fact, that I have plans to get out on the road talking about perseverance. One of the most extraordinary discoveries I’ve made is that it’s possible to change the way you think and feel, and to get there in the end, if you want it badly enough and are prepared to work very hard! (Yesterday I appeared on the Writers’ Workshop blog with a piece called Seven Years to Publication, Seven Things I’ve Learned.)
Last week’s launch party felt like the night of my life, surrounded by many of the many who have kept me going. Some are probably sick of me thanking them but I’m going to keep on doing it. I’m often told ‘it was nothing’. Well, it was something to me. When enough people believe in you, you end up thinking ‘they can’t all be wrong’.
Against the odds, we had a warm, dry summer’s evening for the occasion, mostly spent out on the packed balcony at Canal 125 near King’s Cross, overlooking the water. I didn’t imagine the amazing buzz (lots of hugging, kissing and clinking glasses) because so many commented on it. Seeing so many of my friends all together, and different groups mingling, was wonderful and immensely touching. It was right up there with my wedding day for the happiest I have ever been – I can say that because JC was right beside me, as he has been all along, grinning his head off as everybody told me (since confirmed by photographic evidence). Absolutely unforgettable.
I didn’t write my speech until the day, feeling very emotional and worried that I wouldn’t hold it together on the night. It hadn’t occurred to me that I’d feel so overcome listening to the words of my publisher Iain Millar from Canelo before I even got to do my bit. I’ve been unbelievably lucky hooking up with the right people to get Paris Mon Amour out there. Both Canelo and my agent Diana Beaumont have shown the greatest possible commitment to me personally and to the book reaching readers on its own terms. I felt Alexandra’s story very strongly, and some things were not negotiable, even if it made the task harder. It is a privilege to work with people who understand and respect that and push me to do it better – it’s what I’d wish for any writer.
My last word is about the most important people in all this – readers. There are thousands of new books being released, more than anyone could possibly keep up with, and it is an incredible feeling that mine is finally one of them, and that people I’ve never met are choosing to spend time with my characters, bringing their own lives to the experience.
THANK YOU to everybody who’s supported me, the blog or my writing in any way, at all, ever. Told you I wasn’t going to stop saying it!
Thanks also to official phototgrapher Pete Domican for the pics (more to follow) of me, me and JC, my publisher Iain and agent Diana – and to Annemarie Neary for the one below which really captures the atmosphere of the launch: me with writers Barry Walsh, Claire King and Britta Jensen.