Best Day Ever – Part Two

29 August 2013 – The Dory’s Avengers Book Launch.

And so it began.

My guests started arriving early, which took me a little by surprise as I was still in my casual clothes – and a few of my helpers had disappeared to the pub! After exchanging hugs and greetings with the earlybirds, I made a quick visit to the ladies toilets/baby changing room on Waterstones’ first floor to put on my posh frock. Such is the glamorous life of the newly published author – it did cross my mind to wonder whether JK Rowling ever dressed for Harry Potter launches while reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ on the walls of a book shop toilet cubicle…

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By the time I’d returned all glammed up; or rather, hoping I was all glammed up as the toilet/baby changing room was lacking a mirror of any kind, the stream of arriving guests had turned into a flood. As good friends, old and new, poured in to Waterstones for the launch of Dory’s Avengers, I started to feel a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of the support this unknown author was receiving.

My brother Ian and sister Sue came to the launch. Wanda, Angie and another Sue, friends from way back when we were at school, were there too. Friends from my former workplace, friends from Fen Ditton, friends from football, friends from my favourite pubs The Kings Head and The Brook, friends from book club; they were all there. People from pretty much every era of my life turned out to support me on that one wonderful night; and, much as I love words, I can’t find any that adequately describes how much it meant to me to see them there.

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The evening threw up a couple of lovely surprises too. Fellow Book Guild author, Janet Hopton, had previously hinted she may be able to come along – and so she did! It was lovely to meet her and spend a few minutes swapping published author anecdotes.

I may have mentioned the fabulous Everything Books & Authors website, created by super supportive Twitter and Facebook friend Toni Carter, in earlier blogs. To my delight, Toni attended the Dory’s Avengers launch, and she is as lovely in person as she is in the cyber world.

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The two hours of my book launch flew by in a joyful haze of meeting, greeting, smiling a big happy smile, and, of course, signing copies of Dory’s Avengers. Try as I might, it was impossible to take it all in, and I’m eternally grateful to my brother and the Evil Scribe for capturing a photographic record of the evening. It was nearly an hour and a half into the book signing before I got a chance to make my speech, and I never did get the opportunity to read the passage from Dory’s Avengers I’d intended to share that night.

Having spent the two days prior to the book launch practising my speech in order to speak confidently on the night, my mind completely blanked for a second or two as I stood, grinning inanely, in front of a sea of friendly faces. So much for the Evil Scribe’s insistence that I must not refer to my speech notes – the cardinal sin of public speaking, apparently.

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Speech!

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Mad author

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Er, what was I saying?

It did raise a laugh when I completely forgot the wording of the most important dedication of all, the one to my partner Andy, and had to peer desperately at the paper in my hand. The evening was so emotionally charged for me – especially when I spoke about how I wish my parents could have seen their daughter became a published author – and if I could do it all again, my speech notes would be to hand once more.

After the speech, the piles of books in front of me continued to dwindle as eager readers continued to purchase. My guests mingled and got to know each other; people I care about meeting for the first time, or in some cases for the first time in decades, and getting on famously. Behind the scenes, my wonderful friends Wanda, Charles, Doug, Karl and Andy flitted about replenishing refreshments and restocking copies of Dory’s Avengers – which disappeared to be purchased almost as soon as they’d been set down. Wow! To think I was worried about not achieving the 40 – 50 sales I’d tentatively promised events manager Rosie when we first discussed holding the book launch in Waterstones.

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We sold 59 copies. Fifty-nine! I hardly saw Rosie all evening as she was so busy selling my book, and when I confirmed the sales total to Book Guild the following day apparently there were huge cheers all around the office.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say: ‘My book launch? Yes, it went well!’

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Best Day Ever Part Three – The After Show Party – Coming Soon

Best Day EVER!

Part One.

Two weeks have passed since Thursday 29 August, also known as the best day of my life – so far. As you probably know by now (I think I may have mentioned it once or twice), my debut novel Dory’s Avengers was officially released on that day, and my lifelong dream to see my work published became a reality.

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The ‘New Books’ window display – including Dory’s Avengers!

That was two weeks ago, and – shock horror – it’s taken me until now to blog about the magnificent book signing event in the Cambridge Waterstones, the event that launched Dory’s Avengers into the literary World. It’s probably taken me so long because I’ve since journeyed from a massive high to a bit of a low (‘is that it now?’), visited confusion (‘what next?’) and finally arrived at efficiency (book clubs, shops and other potential signing venues contacted, eagerly awaiting positive replies).

Thursday 29 August 2013 found me rather more excited than the cool and composed author writing this blog post. The day dawned bright and sunny; following an inauspicious start the UK has enjoyed one of the best summers I can remember, and my book launch fell in the middle of yet another heat wave.

For once in my life, I was very organised leading up to the launch of Dory’s Avengers. Having attended a hugely enjoyable wedding earlier in August, a perfect day thanks to the organisational skills of the bride Babs, I had done some watching and learning. Therefore, by 29 August my speech was written and rehearsed, the food and wine were ordered, the hairdresser booked, and I even had time to enjoy a delicious steak baguette for lunch in the Ancient Shepherds.

Then, everything started to unravel. 1.30 came and went, no sign of hairdresser. Then, ping! In came a message from him saying he’d been held up and would be with me at 2pm.

That’s fine. Relax! There’s still plenty of time before we have to leave at 3.30.

2pm came and went. No sign of hairdresser. No sign of my friends Charles and Doug, who were due to stop on their way into town and pick up some books to take to Waterstones. No sign of anyone! I’m sure there would have been a huge tumbleweed rolling on by, but for the fact that’s not something you often see in a quintessentially English village.

My hairdresser never did turn up. He was doing dreadlocks fifteen miles away, the muppet. It’s a good job we’re friends! Luckily my hair had dried into rather cute curls rather than the tangled mess it usually favours, so disaster number one was averted.

In the grand old tradition of meticulously laid plans, they fell to pieces and instead everything happened at once. Charles and Doug drew up outside my house to collect the books at exactly the same time as my partner Andy got home from work, and my sister Sue arrived from Nottingham armed with overnight gear and a tub of tomatoes. After a short consultation, we decided it made sense for Andy to transport everyone and everything into the centre of Cambridge in his eight seater taxi, and half an hour later that’s exactly what he did.

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The author signing desk

Talk about precision timing; we arrived at Cambridge Waterstones at exactly the same time as the Majestic Wine delivery man. It took a few trips to transport seven people, five cases of wine, three boxes of books, my posh frock and a multitude of snacks up to the third floor in the tiny customer lift, which must have presented quite an unusual spectacle for the people browsing around the ground floor. As is the custom with Cambridge folk, no one took a blind bit of notice! At least the wine delivery man caught on to our excitement, and left with a promise to buy Dory’s Avengers when it’s translated into Polish – hint hint, Book Guild

Rosie, the Waterstones events manager and enthusiastic supporter of my book launch, met us on the third floor where, despite being understaffed, the lovely Waterstones people had managed to clear my area of the usual bargain books. This left us with nothing to do other than plate up (and sample) the snacks, open (and sample) some of the wine, and, in my case at least, scurry around getting ludicrously excited – which was fully to be expected. After all, it’s not every day that one’s dream comes true.

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Alison Jack – Published Author, and ‘Silly Face of the Year’ winner 2013.

Best Day EVER Part Two – Coming soon.

The Countdown Escalates

22 August 2013

Regular visitors to ‘An Author’s View’ may have noticed that no author interview has appeared this week. The interviews will return in September as there are plenty more fabulous authors happy to share their stories with us, but for now I would like to dedicate ‘An Authors View’ solely to my very soon to be published début novel, DORY’S AVENGERS.

One week today Dory’s will be officially published and my lifelong dream will have come true. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling, and I’ve always loved books. Now the two have come together, and it goes without saying that I’m excited. I’m also nervous; the butterflies have been churning away in my stomach for a couple of weeks now, but that’s all part of the thrill. At the forthcoming Book WaterstonesLaunch in the Cambridge branch of Waterstones on 29 August I’ll be signing copies of my beautiful book, making a speech, reading from DORY’S AVENGERS…

Yes, I’ll be the centre of attention. Bring it on! I can’t wait.

Whatever happens after the book launch will be a huge adventure as I continue my steep learning curve. Thanks to fellow authors, who have been unfailingly supportive of my writing, I know a lot of hard work awaits me as I continue to keep the interest in DORY’S AVENGERS alive with promotional events, more book signings, and, of course, my twin loves of blogging and networking. Somewhere along the way I would like to continue writing ‘New Book’, as well as acquiring a good reputation as an editor. I need to keep the wolf from the door somehow, and believe me, he’s sharpening his teeth even as I type! I’m looking forward to it, with a little bit of trepidation. No one ever ventured into the unknown without a few nerves, but I’ll be working for something about which I am passionate: my writing. To have been given the opportunity to follow my passion is a wonderful gift, a gift for which I will be eternally grateful.

The future certainly looks very exciting, and it will all kick off in a week’s time. As the countdown escalates I have decided to shamelessly copy an idea from Nicky Wells: blogger extraordinaire, author of the fabulous SOPHIE’S TURN, SOPHIE’S RUN and soon to be published SOPHIE’S ENCORE, and supportive friend. Like me, Nicky is a music fan, and every Monday she adds some music to her blog. Music has always been a source of inspiration for me, so for the next seven days I will share a song each day as a soundtrack for DORY’S AVENGERS.

I hope you will enjoy Dory’s Music, and the accompanying blogs.

Author Interview – Janet Hopton

My apologies for not posting an author interview last week. It was a bit of a hectic week for me one way or another, but I’m back on the case now and would like to extend a very warm welcome to Janet Hopton. Janet’s fast paced thriller ‘Strange Days’ was published towards the end of 2012, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with her and bombard her with questions.

Novel:  STRANGE DAYS

Purchase Strange Days on Amazon

UK link         US link

 

Alison – Hello Janet, welcome to my blog and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Let’s start with your debut novel Strange Days. In your own words, please tell us more about the book and its launch.

JanetStrange Days is Crime/Thriller Fiction.  It is my debut novel and it tells the story of a young barmaid whose life is changed for ever when she gets herself involved, after witnessing a car accident.

Since the launch of Strange Days on the 29th of November 2012, I have done two book signings, one at Waterstone’s in Derby and another at Waterstone’s in Burton-on-Trent.  Both signings went very well resulting in 45 books been sold altogether.  Unfortunately, since then I have had a fall resulting in some injuries, which has meant that I haven’t been unable to do anymore promotion but I hope to get back on track very soon.  I intend to arrange more signings and talks at Women’s Institutes and Townswomen’s Guilds.

Alison – I’m sorry to hear about your accident, and hope you are on the mend now. I’m sure you’re looking forward to getting back to the business of promoting Strange Days. What inspired you to become an author in the first place?

Janet – Since being a teenager I have had it on my mind that I would like to write but for some reason never got started, other than writing a few poems.  It wasn’t until I was married and with teenagers of my own, did I decide to have a go.  It has always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to achieve something, to be recognised in someway, to leave something behind after I am gone.  Maybe that is my driving force!

Alison – I can’t think of anything better than books to leave behind for generations to come! Looking to authors from the past, do you feel that anyone in particular has influenced your writing?

Janet – I don’t think my writing has been influenced by any other authors.  I think it is entirely me, or am I being naive thinking that?  You ask which authors I like.  To be honest, I think I like the books rather than the authors.  A good book makes a good author and you have to be a good author to write a good book and there are many who fit that category.  I particularly like the classics, such as Dickens, The Brontes, Jane Austen but any good book will do!

Alison – I’m a big fan of Dickens myself, I love his turn of phrase. Was there anything in particular that gave you inspiration for Strange Days itself?

Janet – My inspiration for Strange Days was when I worked behind the bar in our local pub.  It came from observing the clientele and getting intrigued by them and wondering what their lives must be like.

Alison – People watching is something I guess all authors must do. Our characters would be a little boring otherwise! Going back to the subject of books in general, what are you reading at the moment, and what is your opinion?

Janet – The book that I am reading at the moment is Small Island by Andrea Levy.  I am enjoying reading it.  I thought at first that she was taking too long to get to the plot and going into too much detail about the characters in it but as I have read further I have found that she has brought the characters to life for me in a very interesting way.  I am only two thirds through it at the moment, therefore cannot give my full opinion on it.

Alison – I recently read a highly entertaining blog in which an author describes the rituals she has to perform before she begins writing for the day. A second author commented that she has to be wearing certain jewellery when she writes. Do you have any idiosyncrasies when you’re writing?

Janet – None in particular, other than that I like to be alone in the house when I write and nobody can see it until I am happy that it is finished.

Alison – I can relate to that. My poor partner gets snarled at if he so much as glances at my unedited work! As I’ve mentioned I’m reading a lot of excellent blogs by fellow authors, and one thing that intrigues me is the different writing styles each one has. Do you like to plan your work, or do you just see where the story takes you?

Janet – I didn’t plan Strange Days.  I had an idea and worked on it.  I let my imagination run away with me as I typed.

Alison – That’s very much how I write too. Once I get to know my characters the story becomes theirs and I just follow along to write it all down. I remember hearing an author speaking on a radio show, saying his characters told him when they considered it the right time to finish their story. Do you find your characters talk to you?

Janet – I haven’t noticed my characters talking to me, if they did I would worry that I was Schizophrenic, but I will say that I do become my main characters as I write.

Alison – That’s very interesting. My characters chat away to me all the time, but I’ve never felt that I was one of them. It just goes to show we all have our own unique ways of writing. It must be very exciting, and quite daunting, once your book is published and you know people are reading it, especially when those people start to write reviews. Has Strange Days received any reviews, and were you happy with them?

Janet –  I have had some favourable reviews, the ones on Amazon giving Strange Days 4* status and some on my Facebook Site – Fans of Strange Days, all very favourable.

Alison – Do you feel you have learnt anything throughout the publishing of Strange Days?

Janet – I think I learnt a lot from my publishing experience.  The way the process is done from the editing, through the proof reading and artwork stages.  I looked at self publishing at first but felt out of my depth, so I went through an independent publisher, Book Guild.  I was glad that I did, as when it came to promoting my book at Waterstones, I was told that they wouldn’t have been interested in it, if I had self-published.  I am not sure whether that is always the case!

On reflection I think I might have benefited from a more local publisher, the only reason I say this is that Book Guild Publishing is in Brighton and I am in Derby.  There were occasions that I thought maybe they would have attended promotional events if they had been closer and that I could perhaps have attended promotional events that they are involved with.

Alison – I think bookshops are becoming very wary of promoting unknown authors now, with all the competition from e-books making it harder and harder for them to survive. I’m convinced Waterstones would never have agreed to hosting my book launch had I not had the support of an established publishing firm. Aside from book signings, have you joined any book clubs or writers groups while promoting Strange Days?

Janet – I am not involved with any book clubs, but having said that I recently joined Vixen Fiction, a small group of ladies who like to write and meet at our local library once a month.  We have a trip to D H Lawrence’s House and Museum in Nottinghamshire coming up soon.

Alison – I’ve found networking with authors, editors and book lovers very useful as I approach the publication date of my novel. At the very least we can bounce ideas off one another, and I’ve made some useful contacts for when the time comes to get reviews rolling in. I’ve mentioned editing here; would any writing other than fiction, such as editing or script writing, appeal to you?

Janet – I would be interested in other writing ideas, such has writing plays but I am not sure how good I would be at it.  As for writing reviews, I don’t think that I am eloquent enough to do a good job, especially when there is so much at stake.  Editing is very specialist, I think one must need a degree in English Grammar to be able to do it.

Alison – I’m not so sure about that. Obviously, an editor needs a high standard of grammar and a good command of the language in general, as well as an eye for storylines and characterisation, but I think one can learn all that from being a voracious reader. You’re right about script writing, which I think is very different to writing a novel. As for reviewing, I think you do yourself a disservice! Anyone who can write a book deemed worthy of publication is eloquent enough to write a review. Revisiting the subject of editing again, do you think authors need to get their work professionally edited and proof read, or is it something they can do themselves?

Janet – I do think that professional editing and proof reading is essential for the publishing process for most of us.  I hope that someone edits and proof-reads this before it goes out!

Alison – Just me I’m afraid, although I may be able to persuade one of the lovely people at Book Guild to cast their expert eyes over it too! It’s no disrespect to an author’s talent, but I don’t believe anyone can successfully edit and proof read their own novel, and it’s a shame that some authors think a DIY job is a good way to save some money. Apart from employing the professionals to edit and proof read, is there any other advice you would give to a budding author?

Janet – My advice to any budding authors out there is to give it a go, what can you lose?  You will never know, unless you try!

Alison – I’ve recently received the first copies of my debut novel, which I found immensely exciting. What a great feeling it was to hold my book in my hands for the first time. How did you feel when the initial copies of Strange Days arrived?

Janet – I felt a bit overwhelmed when my book arrived all done and dusted.  In fact I made my husband open the box and look at it first.  My first reaction when I got my hands on it was ‘WOW’, it was a lovely book and nicely presented.  My only gripe was that I thought it would be thicker.  The strangest feeling was seeing it being advertised in Waterstones for my signing.  I then expected to see it everywhere, on bookshop shelves, in libraries, I guess that only happens, every blue moon!  Not giving up hope though!

When in London I called into The British Library and asked for it, only to be told I was too early as it takes more than six months to get there.  Must try again!

Alison – Are you planning a sequel to Strange Days?

Janet – I haven’t planned a sequel to Strange Days but it isn’t out of the question, especially as friends tell me that they need to know what happens next to some of my characters.

I do have another novel nearly finished and hope that my publisher will like it.

Alison – I shall keep my eyes open for that. Would you ever consider ghost writing a novel for a celebrity ‘author’?

Janet – Ghost Writing for a celebrity author – I think that if I was younger that would be a great idea.  I am not sure what the celebrity author would think of me doing it though.

Alison – Have you ever thought about Strange Days being made into a film or television drama? If so, would you like to appear in it?

 Janet – Some have said that Strange Days would make a good television drama, as for me starring in it; I think that would be best left to the actors.  Maybe an extra on set would be good!

Alison – Just a couple of general questions to round off the interview. What are your top five books, if you can narrow it down to five?

Janet – My five top books are:

  • Papillon – Henri Charierre
  • Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • The Blind Miller (I like a good cry) – Catherine Cookson
  • The Secret Garden (Childhood Inspiration) – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Oh yes, I did like Puckoon (I also like a good laugh) – Spike Milligan

Alison – I loved The Secret Garden as a child too, I must have read it dozens of times. I do love my Kindle for its convenience, but I don’t think it will ever replace the pleasure of opening a brand new book and smelling the print before I delve into the story. Do you think there is a future for physical books, or will the e-book eventually take over completely?

Janet – I do hope that the future is okay for real, touchable, smellable books, however I think that there is a place for e-books to.  Perhaps everyone who purchases an e-book should buy a real book to make amends.  I can’t see readers loaning out their e-books, can you?

Alison – No, I can’t see that happening either; but, on the plus side for us authors, it means everyone will buy their own copy for their e-reader and we make more sales. Kerr-ching! Thank you very much Janet for taking part in this interview. It has been a real pleasure to chat and hear your news and views.

Janet – Thank you Alison, I think this is a great idea!

To find out more about Janet and her work, please visit her facebook page Fans of Strange Days or follow her on Twitter  

Author:  JANET HOPTON