Today is Publication Day in the UK for The Concubine's Secret (titled The Girl From Junchow in US). I keep thinking I'll get used to this, the launch of my latest book, that I'll learn to take it in my stride as an author. But it doesn't get any easier.
It's still as nerve-racking as the first time, this whole process of letting one's beloved brainchild take its initial tottering steps. And I cannot shake my addiction to popping into book stores to check that it's on display, to loiter around the front tables, seeing who is - or more worryingly, who isn't - picking it up. The temptation to thrust it into shoppers' hands is strong, but I resist.
WHSmith is doing me proud with a special promotion of The Russian Concubine and The Concubine's Secret in a pack together and I love the idea of both Lydia's stories going out hand in hand. They belong together. Writing a sequel was a risky step, but I learnt a lot while doing it.
One of the main delights for an author when writing a book is getting to know the main characters, watching them develop and feeling them grow. You inevitably fall in love with them with all the passion and heady excitement of a new relationship. But when I came back to them for the sequel after a year's break, it was different. We were old friends by then, had been through a lot together, so our relationship had changed.
It's a bit like having children and one day you look at them and realise they've grown up, no longer 'trailing clouds of glory'. You have to adjust. Form a new relationship. And that's what I did with Lydia, enjoying seeing her mature but grieving the loss of her childish innocence. I needn't have worried though. She still led me on a wild and convoluted chase, took me to places I hadn't planned for, and swept me up in the intensity of her love for Chang An Lo.
I loved writing The Concubine's Secret but the time has come to let go. That's what I'll be doing when on Saturday (4th July) I'll be signing books at Torbay Bookshop, Paignton, Devon.