Friday, 23 November 2007

Mayo Magic

Yes, that's me and Helen Dunning getting friendly with a Dalek.


Well, Simon Mayo has chosen The Russian Concubine as his Book Of The Month on Radio Five Live and I was invited to go on his show with a panel of reviewers to talk about it. So off I trotted up to London again to the BBC at White City, which is where I bumped into the Tin Terror.

Simon Mayo is an icon. A radio giant. And there my book was in all its glory on Radio Five Live's homepage - just me and the football. (We won't talk about the football disaster - crashing out of Europe. Aaargh!)

On the journey I tried to prepare myself for what kind of reception The Russian Concubine would receive from this impressive panel of reviewers, though I hoped that the fact that it was Book Of The Month indicated that my judges might not be too harsh. And it turned out that I didn't actually need that calming camomile tea beforehand after all. Instead of getting dissed, I was greeted with generous comments and thoroughly enjoyed talking with Helen Dunning, Sarah Harrison and Boyd Hilton about how I'd come to write the book and its connection with my mother's White Russian history. And Simon Mayo made the whole experience of doing a live radio show a breeze. Nerves? What nerves?

Lovely Tamsin, my PR person at LittleBrown/Sphere, came along for morale boosting and did a great job. Thanks, Tamsin. As elegant and supportive as ever.

And to top it all, sitting next to me at the recording table was the Pultizer Prize winner, the brilliant American author Richard Russo. He's a real charmer and I just love his new book - The Bridge Of Sighs. Give it a try.

But only after The Russian Concubine, okay?

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Book signing

Book signing at Torbay Bookshop in Paignton with friend Ann. It turned into a mini party as so many people came to support it.

Two high points of the morning for me were:

1) A woman came to buy a copy of The Russian Concubine because she'd heard me on Palm Radio the day before talking about my mother's White Russian history. It turned out that this woman's own White Russian grandparents had also suffered tragically at the hands of the Bolsheviks. A deeply touching story that stays with me.

2) Another woman arrived to buy the book because she has the same surname - Furnivall. Not a common name. So we're going to compare notes and see if our families are connected somewhere along the line. A new cousin?

Many thanks to all those who came to the book signing to support The Russian Concubine. It made it special.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Publication Day dawns in Devon

The Russian Concubine is out there.

I did in fact spot it first in WHSmiths as I arrived in Paddington Station in London. What better start to Publication Day? Their Read of the Week.

And yes, I confess, in the Charing Cross Road branch of Borders I did actually walk in and fiddle with the display, so that the lovely cover was facing outward on the shelf instead of just the spine. Well, it's The Russian Concubine's birthday, for heaven's sake, so it's the least it deserves.

Seeing it there in the shops makes me realise how much I love this book. How anxious I am for it. Like a mother on her child's first day at school, a mixture of pride and nerves and that churning feeling in the pit of the stomach. You want them to come home with five gold stars.

A book is an extension of an author, no matter how much they claim that the story is fiction and the characters are figments of an over-active imagination. Writers distil a vital part of themselves on to every page, as much into 'bad' characters as into the 'good' ones. In an odd kind of way, it's a bit like being a stripper because you have to be willing to expose so much of yourself to the gaze of total strangers. That can be daunting, but I believe it's what makes a book work, that emotional connection with the reader. It's crucial.

The LittleBrown/Sphere team gave me and my agent, Teresa, a great launch lunch party at Moro's and drowned my nerves in champagne. They are a brilliant group of people, hugely professional but at the same time tremendously supportive and great fun. I am very lucky to be working with them.

And flowers. They sent me flowers as well. What more could I ask for?

Good reviews.