There are many wonderful things about being an author.
Firstly, you get to write books and as we all know, everyone loves books. In the same way that everyone loves Cornwall and Mary Berry. It’s just a fact of life. If you ever meet someone who tells you that they don’t like books, take this as a distress call. They just haven’t met the right book yet. Simply lead them gently to the nearest friendly librarian or bookseller and they will do the rest.
I love writing books – it’s the best kind of challenge. I love developing characters, weaving their stories, undertaking research (yes I really do need to watch that You Tube video of Bruno Mars again – my main character is a huge fan, honest) whilst doing my best to create something original and authentic, which readers will enjoy.
I have even learnt to accept the bad writing days, when pulling just one word from your brain feels like delving into treacle, when you’re convinced that you’re rubbish at this and should be doing a proper job, like tidying the hell-hole of the cupboard under the stairs. I believe that this is part of the process (albeit a very tedious part). Any writer who claims not to have days like these is a big hairy liar. That’s another fact of life. You’re welcome.
Last weekend I discovered the absolute cherry-on-the-cream-on-the-icing-on-the-cake (what? I like big cakes) moment of being an author.
A book event. And not just any book event, my friends. Oh no. This was quite literally an all-singing, cake-eating book event.
As many of you know, my most recent book is called The Choir on Hope Street. It tells the story of two very different women – Nat and Caroline, who come together to form a community choir when their beloved Hope Street hall is threatened with closure.
I have made no secret of the fact that I love my own community choir and they were a huge inspiration when I wrote the book. I wanted to write about how joyful I feel when I sing with them. If you’ve ever been part of a choir, you too will know how wonderful it is to share in that moment when the harmony sounds so sweet or indeed when you fluff it up and fall about laughing. Bloody marvellous, isn’t it?
The event took place in the Orpington branch of Waterstone’s. It’s a small branch and the manager told me (with no hint of malice or irony), ‘we just don’t get the big names – David Walliams and Lee Child won’t come to Orpington.’
But I went. And I took my choir and I can honestly say it was the best day of my writing career so far. As we walked in and spotted my books on the table, a man approached me and offered his hand. I didn’t know him but he told me that he was a writer too.
‘Well done,’ he said, wiping away a tear. ‘I’m proud of you. You’ve done it.’
I’m not great at taking compliments so I smiled and muttered something self-deprecating but I was very touched.
When the choir began to sing, it felt like the perfect summary of everything I was trying to get across in the book. I left my signing table and went to join them. I think this photograph sums up precisely how I felt.
While I signed books for people during the break, I experienced a tiny glimpse into what it might be like to be famous in a low-key, writerly way. I can report that it is utterly lovely. Talking to all kinds of different people about books and singing? And there was cake too? What’s not to like?
I was overwhelmed by the different people who turned up to support me – a school friend who I hadn’t seen for over twenty five years, two of my lovely author friends – one lady even asked me for a selfie. I was surrounded by my choir, my friends and my family – it was a bit like my wedding, just without the drunken dad-dancing.
As the choir finished their last song, I wiped away a tear because I didn’t want it to end. I was having a moment – a very, very happy moment.
Needless to say, the bookshop were amazing and very pleased because I finished the event as their number one bestseller.
Move over, Lee Child – see what happens if you don’t make time for Orpington?
For the rest of the day, I was buzzing as I shared pictures on social media and people responded with lovely comments. My favourite message was from a choir friend who told her six-year-old daughter about the event and my book.
‘That’s amazing,’ she said. ‘I want to be an author just like her.’
I’m already looking forward to her book-signing.
My work is done and I couldn’t be happier.