I was starting to feel a bit like Cinderella: always reading about book launches, but never actually receiving an invitation to one, so when Amanda Jennings invited me to the launch of In Her Wake, I can’t tell you how excited I was. Not just because In Her Wake is one of the most skilful and moving psychological thrillers I have ever read, (you can read my review of it here: http://tinyurl.com/zgro8pv), but because Amanda Jennings is one of the warmest, funniest and self-depreciating writers on twitter.
But after the initial excitement wore off, I soon found plenty to fret about. What should I wear? What if I didn’t know anyone? And what do you actually do at a book launch anyway? Feeling a bit nervous, I left work early and headed over to central London, where just off St Martin’s Lane, there’s a narrow little street called St Cecil’s Court. I am ashamed to say that I must have walked past this street thousands of times in total ignorance of this hidden gem: crammed full of beautiful little bookshops like Goldsboro Books, where the launch was held.
I was worried I might be the first to arrive, but I was surprised to find the bookshop absolutely rammed with people, and delighted to see @JaneIsaacAuthor, whom I had met at a recent writers’ lunch organised by the infamous @debrabrown_. Jane gave me some great advice – ‘go and get a glass of wine’ – and on the way to and from the bar I met so many lovely people I ‘knew’ from twitter we didn’t get to speak again!
It was lovely to meet @Matineegirl, hairdresser to top authors like Joanna Cannon and a great book reviewer herself, as well as prolific blogger @annecater. Kerry Fisher, author of The School Gate Survival Guide and one of the friendliest and most helpful sources of advice for writers, was kind enough to introduce me to @Jenny_Ashcroft, whose debut, Under a Burning Sky, comes out in November.
It was so brilliant to talk to other writers about the drafting, the waiting, the revisions, the waiting, the editing and the waiting. (Did I mention the waiting?) And all the time, we were surrounded by other people talking about books, writing and how much they loved In Her Wake and the woman who wrote it.
Eventually, someone dragged Amanda Jennings away from book signing and insisted that she gave a speech. Explaining that she was terrified she might cry, Amanda asked us all to jeer or cheer whenever she got choked, to help her get to the end of what she wanted to say. And then this lovely, funny lady told us how she first queried her agent @brooDoherty with a version of this story back in 2007, who said she would be interested if she ever rewrote it. With characteristic determination, Amanda spent the next two months re-writing (‘Stalking!’ heckled Broo), until she was ready to submit again. This time, of course, she signed, and the book that finally became In Her Wake went through 11 or 12 drafts. ‘The lesson being,’ said Amanda, ‘Never, ever, give up.’ Hearing those words, and the shaky, heartfelt way she delivered them, brought tears to my own eyes, because it was so lovely to see an author on HER day, thinking about the other aspiring writers in the room.
After thanking the ‘force of nature’ otherwise known as Karen Sullivan @OrendaBooks, Amanda Jennings thanked the wider writing community, ‘because only other neurotic, angst-ridden writers can support other neurotic, angst-ridden writers’. Several of them, like @Iona_Grey had read and commented on earlier drafts, and reviewers and bloggers like @hannahbeckerman were thanked for helping to raise the profile of this brilliant book. By the time she thanked her family and husband, we were all crying anyway, so it didn’t matter that Amanda was too. There was just enough time to say a quick hello to the lovely @Iona_Grey, author of Letters to the Lost and @Hannahbeckerman, author of The Dead Wife’s Handbook (two excellent tear-jerkers, by the way), before I had to run and get a train back to Birmingham.
Back home, I tried to explain to my partner why the book launch had been so brilliant. It wasn’t just that I’d got to meet and talk with so many fabulous people, or that I now have a personally signed book from Amanda Jennings, or even that there was lots of free wine (all of which are fine and important things). This will sound clichéd, but that small beautiful bookshop in London was absolutely brimming with love. The bonds of friendship and mutual support between the people I met that night were tangible, and I could see the hundreds of loving hands reaching out to help Amanda bring her story into the world. It was a very special feeling for a very special author and book.
I am so glad that I attended the launch of In Her Wake. It was a genuine honour and privilege to feel part of Amanda Jennings’s writing community, and a powerful reminder that writers and the people who support them, are lovely.