Wednesday, 16 April 2008

A publication gift to myself...

So, Becca's bride-hunting antics have been out in the world for nearly a month, now, and as yet I haven't had the papparazzi beating down my door, or been invited onto GMTV to share the secrets of my outstanding success. I believe this is pretty normal, and am comforting myself with a) the kind comments on the blog, b) nice snippets that Google Alerts keep sending me, like this tres gentil review from Red Wheelbarrow's blog (can I justify a Eurostar trip to Paris, to say thanks in person? And is review masculine or feminine and so shoule it be gentille?) and, c), the knowledge that the lack of photographers camped outside the house means I can continue to pop to the dry-cleaners without full make-up and foundation garments as recommended by the legend that is Gok Wan.

But I still haven't succeeded in finding a little gift to mark publication. I did go to Tiffany and the only thing I really adored turned out, alas, not to be a cute silver trinket but a PLATINUM pendant of eye-watering expensiveness. I was tempted by the pink handbag in LK Bennett but I didn't LOVE it enough, and I worried that it would just show up my other, less designer, accessories.

So I've bought a rocket garden instead. How cute are they? I've got for a kids' garden on the grounds that it's the easiest to grow, and also contains potatoes. Yum. I admit, it's neither sparkly, nor pink, but with the world shortage of food I feel I ought to be doing my bit, digging for victory, all that jazz. I realise this may herald the start of Middle Age, but then again, gardening is quite cool, now, isn't it? And when my friends are all paying a fiver for a single cherry tomato, I predict that I shall become the It Girl of Container Gardening, the Tara Tuber-Potkinston of South West London.

It also encourages me to get away from my laptop and fantasise about earthy men with green fingers. Or something...

Now, if you haven't entered the fab spa day competition yet, you only have until April 30.

Re: sightings, so far it seems WH Smiths are scoring highest with blogging chums (I am mightily relieved as I was sure they'd all disappeared). But I believe the book should be going on sale in some Tesco stores from tomorrow, so do pop it your basket if you're passing. Cheaper than a tub of Ben & Jerry's and lasts at least twice as long (especially in my household).

Friday, 11 April 2008

Two sightings in two days

So, the strange post-publication limbo continues. Have stopped going into the shops after not being able to find Bride Hunter in two branches of WH Smith – after seeing copies of everyone else’s books in there. ah well…

But then had two reports of people reading the novel, one on the Tube yesterday, and one in the departure lounge of Gatwick Airport today (this news delivered by text message). The Tube reader was smiling, apparently. I managed to stop short of asking what page they seemed to be on, or what kind of smile it was (wry? pleasant? or a huge grin)

I know how sad this sounds, but I am willing to bet that all authors except the stratospherically successful ones will relate to it. When I worked in television, the audience figures came back the following morning, and as well as the numbers, you often got stats too from the Appreciation Index, explaining how much viewers had enjoyed (or not enjoyed) the novel. For authors, it’s a much more gradual thing. A book may be bought, but then sit on your bedside table alongside half a dozen others. Or it could be competing with work deadlines, or an abandoned copy of Hello you found on the Tube (and the latest pictures of Kerry are hard to resist, after all). Now, if only I could get a picture of a celeb reading the book, I'd be made!

Meanwhile, I am taking a bit of a break from the latest book. It hasn’t quite been working – admitting that to myself was a toughie, but I am now excited about going in a new direction with it, and researching the subject. Watch this space!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Bits and Pieces

A while since I posted, I know, but the truth is that, after publication, things seem to return to normal very quickly. Well, I say NORMAL. It's April and yet outside it looks like January and the cat has the sulks as clearly she believes that the snow is something we have produced with the express purpose of winding her up and confusing her...

A couple of lovely write-ups for Bride Hunter. One at HotBrands, Cool Places, and the other by author Shari Low, who reviews books for the Scottish Daily Record.

And in case you're not reading comments, the book's on sale in Paris, and Eva Fernandez tells me that if it was published in Spanish, the title would be 'La caza-novias'. Which sounds VERY cool. However, I am NOT big in Dubai, as Liz tells me that she cannot log into from there - perhaps they think it is some kind of British bloodsport? But if you're not in Dubai, then there's still time to go to the site and enter the fabulous spa day competition!

Not much else to report right now. Head down writing the next book!

Monday, 31 March 2008

Coffee and Chick Lit to go, please

Ooh, my first international blog comment, from Emma, who obviously has impeccable taste (I hope you’ll forgive me repeating it, as she’s commented on a previous post):
I bought The Bride Hunter from one of the biggest bookstores in Helsinki, Finland. I read it and thought it was very good and funny, not like every other chick lit book. I hope you finish your second novel soon, I can't wait to read it!

I had no idea my book was on sale in Helsinki and it has excited me a great deal, so thanks, Emma…I do know, though, that The Bride Hunter is going to be translated into German and Russian. I did get a B in German at school, but I have forgotten most of it, sadly, so I am not confident that I'll be able to read the end result. However, I’m thinking that Bride Hunter is Der Brautjäger, which sounds very fierce, though of course there’s no guarantee that a) I have got it even vaguely right or b) the German edition will use a direct translation. On the Russian front, google suggests that in Russian it will be охотник невесты (I don’t have the foggiest idea how that is pronounced) but then I tried another site and it said: Брайд Хантер – it’s a mystery to me (ah, have just realised when I try doing a German translation, it comes up as Der Bride Hunter so I am not really trusting that site).

Still hoping it might make it into some other languages…in French, might it be Le Chasseur des Mariees? In Italian, perhaps Il Cacciatore di Sposa? Both sound like very tasty casseroles to me.

Anyway, talking of tasty things, I have more news. As an unpublished author, I dreamed of Tube posters featuring my books. Or ads in Heat magazine perhaps. But never did I imagine it would end up on coffee cups. Well, coffee wraps (I call them sleeves, those cardboard things you use to stop your hands burning when you’re carrying your drink around). Apparently they’re going to distribute thousands and thousands of these at various coffee shops in Central London, featuring the Bride Hunter website and the competition. As I don’t live in Central London, I haven’t seen any yet, but I would love to know if you have…

I’ve never come across the idea of advertising on your coffee cup before, but I can see it makes sense. You buy a coffee and take it to work and then when you’re staring at the computer screen the title works its way into your sub-conscious and at lunchtime you find yourself walking into a bookshop, consumed by the desire for a certain book…

Let’s hope that’s how it works. I LOVE coffee. Make mine a double espresso.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Fab spa day competition!

(I am obviously writing this having just carried out my own ceremony, smashing a bottle of champagne against the side of a tugboat in the bath. And I just went for another look and it seemed a do keep checking back)

I take no credit for designing the website, though some of the content may have something to do with me (and Becca Orchard, the Bride Hunter in question)! There are love tips - including how to find your Marmite Factors, and sussing out an Emergency Exit. There's also a 2-page Q&A with the Bride Hunter on how to find your perfect match, plus a link to a truly wonderful competition to win a blissful pampering experience for you and your mates at a top London spa (I believe the clue is in the word BLISSful...but I can't be sure).

Sadly I'm not allowed to enter, but you should! The only thing that isn't on the website is an extract from the novel itself, but you can click here to download a chapter. So... What are you waiting for? Tell your mates. Get entering!

Monday, 24 March 2008

OUT and about...

The Bride Hunter is officially out, a debutante all dressed up in pink, ready to have her card marked or to sit on the sidelines like a wallflower. I'm hoping it'll be the former, of course.

On Friday night, I went to Wahaca, a Mexican restaurant in Covent Garden, to celebrate with margaritas and tostadas. We also found the book in Waterstone's and Border's. The novel looked very pretty on the tables, though perhaps not as bright as I was expecting: my friends were delighted with how it looked. It's possible that I was somehow hoping it would flash on-and-off with neon unmissability, subliminally screaming, BUY ME, BUY ME to everyone in the store, from retired colonels seeking angling manuals, to small girls looking for Jordan's pony care book. Perhaps that was a tad unrealistic.

It also gave me a chance to check out the competition. I bought one of the books, Vintage, by Olivia Darling, and have been reading it while watching the Easter snow this weekend. There was a piece about the new bonkbusters in The Times this weekend and I've already read books by two of the other featured writers, Lesley Lokko and Tilly Bagshawe, because they're both published by Orion, like me.

I really enjoyed their novels (though I haven't read their latest books so maybe I am not comparing like with like) but so far, and with only the last 50 pages to go, Vintage is the most fun. It's very fast-paced, and the three main women characters - all competing to produce the best champagne-style wine - are sympathetic yet enjoyably flawed. I really don't know which is going to win and, bizarrely, I am rooting for them all. A very neat trick by the author. There's sex, of course - otherwise it just wouldn't be a BONKbuster - but the sex isn't as much of a draw as the story. When the blockbuster novel first hit the shelves, the explicit sex felt like a novelty: I remember reading Lace etc and my eyes popping out of my sockets (I had less experience with men than with goldfish and the thought that you could combine the two was very bizarre). Now we live in a time when a couple of clicks can bring the perviest of behaviour to your own computer screen, so I am not sure that the sex is so important any more in these kinds of books. It has to be there, of course, but personally I think the 21st century bonkbuster is distinguished more by jetset locations, big egos and bigger ambitions. It's a fun change, though I'm not sure I'd want to read lots of them, back to back.
It's made me think about my book, and the way we define different genres. As well as bonkbusters, there are all the 'lit' sub-genres: chick lit, of course, plus bloke or lad (or 'dick' lit), mum lit (where the heroines are getting to grips with nappies), hen lit (for the slightly older chick), and, most recently, chick noir (where the heroines are bitchy and sharp). Chick lit, the Times suggests, is full of angst and obsessing about weight and men, and presumably the mum/hen varieties are similarly burdened by neurosis about nappy contents or HRT. I think that's a caricatured version of chick lit, but it's certainly true that the emotional side is given more attention in chick lit than in the bonkbuster.
The former are also frequently written in the first person, which makes them more intimate and more likely to dwell on doubts and fears. Bonkbusters tend to be written in the third, which keeps the reader more at arm's length. If an author is writing in the first person, I think it's more important that the reader empathises at least to some extent with the narrator, otherwise it's a very long journey, to go through an entire book that way. In the third, the action tends to switch between characters so that empathy is less critical. It's also easier to keep secrets from the reader in the third: if you hold back something from the reader while writing in the first, the reader may feel very cheated if the denouement depends on something that s/he hasn't been told. In the first, it's more likely that the narrator discovers things about herself, or her past, at the same time as the reader: either emotional truths or secrets others have been keeping.

What both must have in common, though, is a compelling story: whether it's a fight to prove yourself in a man's world, or a journey to discover who you really are.

The Bride Hunter is firmly in the chick lit category though I hope the match-making/head-hunting element makes it original. Also Becca is no Bridget Jones. She's not one to worry about her stomach or booze consumption or about whether a man fancies her. If anything, she'd prefer it if they didn't. But I'm not ashamed of the fact that I want readers to like her, even if they find her a bit infuriating at times, as she gets lost trying to help her clients navigate the path towards true love...
So - which genres do you like? And are there any you just won't consider reading?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Take a chance on me…

The big day is tomorrow. Except…well, it isn’t really, is it, because as some of the lovely blog visitors have pointed out, The Bride Hunter is already out there, on the shelves or on the tables or hopefully both, with stickers reading 3 for 2, an invitation to take a chance on a book you’ve never heard of, by an author you don’t know.

I wonder what REALLY makes people buy books? I don’t mean the automatic purchases by our favourite authors – in my case, I will always buy the new Lisa Jewell or Deborah Moggach or Marian Keyes (maybe the hardback, if I am feeling flush, or the paperback if I’m not). I mean the impulse buys – the third in the three for two that you weren’t planning to buy, and hadn’t seen advertised, or reviewed?

In my case, I do follow the tested pattern that researchers have identified: first, I’m attracted by the cover and the title. Now, I might have heard of the book already, but I am almost as likely to be curious about one I haven’t heard of.

I do have certain prejudices. I don’t much like cheeky cartoons. Or legs with no bodies. And I hate anything where the title is blood-red, with drips (I know a lot of people hate pink. I guess they won't be buying my book...). Then I’ll turn over and read the blurb. This is a crucial moment – I am put off by pretentiousness or hyperbole, e.g. ‘this all-encompassing chronicle of lives lived in tumult is this year’s most accomplished novel’ and also by any mention of child abuse, drug abuse or pet abuse (though the washed-out covers and the word 'no' or 'please' in the title normally make it pretty clear which are to be avoided if you’re not a fan of the misery memoir). I also don’t like stories sounding too similar to those I’ve already read: there has to be a hook that intrigues me.

If I move on from the blurb, then the battle is half won. But the opening page is a big test: does the first sentence grab me, do I like the style, is there anything naff or irritating in the writing? I think, in a way, it’s like a version of the way an agent or publisher looks at submissions: you’re as much looking for reasons NOT to buy as you are for reasons to add a new title to the groaning to-be-read pile back home. Of course, the grammar and spelling is usually better than in most slush piles (no offence to slush piles but amongst the gems are a lot of very odd manuscripts, including explicit Harry Potter fan fic, and handwritten pages featuring unidentified stains).

Book-buying is often a triumph of hope over experience – I love books in general, but not all that many deliver what I want. I am increasingly picky. So when I read those first lines, I am looking to be seduced and charmed and to fall in love, but also doubting that this could be The One because I have been disillusioned so many times before.

I am still talking about books. Honest.

Anyway, that’s my route. I could – and occasionally, do – spend hours in a bookshop perusing and entering an increasingly trance-like state until I am past the state of actually being capable of remembering my PIN. And so I leave, dreams intact, but with nothing to read on the train except London Lite.

Of course, the whole process is very different in supermarkets, where the book selection is so much smaller, and the atmosphere less conducive to reverie. There I am more likely to take a chance on a novel because it’s not that much more expensive than a glossy mag. Best of all are libraries because it’s all FREE! But then that’s overwhelming too because you’ll never read all the novels you’ve picked up, and then you’ll put them in a corner and forget about them and the fines will end up costing you as much as a shiny new book would have in the first place.

I think I am now obsessing, aren’t I? time to go and lie in a darkened room and accept that this is about fate and chance. I also have to stop looking for Signs. This morning’s sign was that although the cat threw up her breakfast, she did it on the tiles (easy to clean up) rather than the floorboards (which have massive grooves, impossible to clean) or the carpet (just don’t go there). Obviously this is a Good Sign, because there is a direct correlation between where the cat throws up, and how many people are picking up The Bride Hunter at this exact moment.

Moving swiftly on. How exactly do you choose books?