Today I have mostly been trying to finish my second novel, Ketchup Clouds. To paint a picture: coffee cups are piled up on the bedside table to my right; on my bed there’s half a manuscript covered in my scrawl; my mum’s dog is at my feet, badgering me for a walk; my laptop is on my knees; I’m wearing my pyjamas; my hair’s in a high ponytail that makes it impossible to rest my head on the wall, thereby encouraging me to sit up straight and work work work work work.
My wrists are aching.
My eyes are tired.
But I am sitting here smiling because the book is almost done.
Finishing my second novel while trying to move house and promote the first was ambitious to say the least. I haven’t really slept for three weeks. It’s been worth it though. Seeing Mantelpiece on the shelf and getting to speak to students, journalists, bloggers and book shop owners about my debut novel has been an enormous privilege, and I have loved every second of it. It is impossible to describe what I’ve been up to in the past few weeks, so instead I thought I’d do a sort of bullet-point summary. Forgive my laziness – I’m approaching my twelfth consecutive hour on this laptop and my brain is FRIED.
- Most exciting moment – walking into Europe’s biggest Waterstones in Piccadilly (London) to be met with this fantastic display of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.
- Scariest moment – talking about Mantelpiece live in the studio of BBC Look North. It wasn’t being in the studio that was terrifying. It was seeing the replay later, blown up in high definition on my dad’s huge TV and realising I need to get my teeth done.
- Loveliest celebration – a glass of champagne or two at Bob Bob Ricard with my agent, editor, publicist and marketing lady followed by a congratulatory dinner.
- First ever book signing – at Orion, my publishing house. The company provided a copy to everyone who works there. People queued up to get their copy signed and I got to say thank you to all the folk who have worked tirelessly on Mantelpiece for the past few months.
- Most lump-in-throat moment – returning to both Holmfirth High School (where I was a student) and Wakefield Girls’ High (where I was a teacher) as a visiting author.
- Schools visited – Holmfirth, Wakefield, Broughton High School and James Gillespie High School with the Scottish Book Trust, and Chorlton High School with HeadSpace. Big shout out to you all! Thanks for being such wonderful audiences.
- Best comment by a student – ‘You looked much younger in your photo.’
- Best question – ‘How many books do you want to write before you die?’
- Biggest audience – about 800 people at Wakefield Girls’ High. My pulse was racing all the way through the assembly, and increased significantly when I realised I had to sing the hymn on stage in front of everyone. I was worried my microphone was on and I was bellowing Abba Father to the Heavens.
- Interviews given – Look North, ITV Calendar News, BFK Books, Scottish Book Trust, The Big Issue, The Scotsman, Write Away, Wondrous Reads, Teen Titles, The Huddersfield Daily Examiner and The Yorkshire Post.
- Places visited – London, Cheltenham, Manchester, Wakefield, Leeds, Edinburgh.
So there you have it. In between all of this I have been snatching a few hours of writing wherever possible, trying to fit in kitchen and bathroom appointments for our new house, looking at carpet and paint samples and talking to builders about patios and plaster. Suffice to say, I am one very tired but very happy author. Thanks to Nina Douglas, my publicist, for organising the chaos so magnificently.
Of course a bullet point list cannot possibly do the experience of being published justice. After such a long build-up, it crossed my mind that seeing my book on the shelf of a shop would be something of an anti-climax. It is thanks to my family and friends that this wasn’t the case at all. I have been truly humbled by the amount of enthusiasm and support I have received. From loved ones sending me pictures of themselves next to the book, to friends buying several copies for no reason, to neighbours popping round to get their copies signed, to phone calls and cards and emails and tweets and messages… You have all made March 2011 one of the best months of my life. Thank you.