I finished work at 4:30 and needed to catch the 5:42 train, one hour and twelve minutes to cycle three miles, shower, dress and get to the station. What could possible go wrong? A few things, on my cycle home I cross locks that shut when the ships and boats come in and out from fishing and whatever else these incredibly large ships do out on the sea. It’s a busy port so it was fated that the locks would be closed when I needed to get home. My head is whipped back and forth, left and right to see what was going to come through the locks and then this dirty great big tanker ship moved at a sloth like rate into the narrowest part of the lock. If I wasn’t desperate enough to get home I would be impressed with their parking skills. Cars have parking assist with beeping and this ship had nothing. Fifteen minutes wasted, gorping at the tanker, glaring at the tanker, making up stories of the seamen on the tanker.
I peddled like crazy, muttered at the motorists who forget cyclists have elbows and wing mirrors are at the same height. Get home at 5:10, get ready, get out the house and to the station, I manage it. The thing is I am hot and bothered, hot from the cycle, hot from the shower, hot from running around. I throw my coat over my arm and my scarf on the handle of the wheelie case. Off I half trot half walk and then two minutes in my case won’t move, it sits there like a petulant child who won’t move until they are picked up. I glare at the case, it sits the smugly and then I discover that the end of the scarf’s tassles had wrapped itself into the wheel. I have 6 minutes to get the train and the station is two minutes away. Decision time, do I yank the scarf out and rip it and get the train or save the scarf? No contest, I start pulling on the end only to find it digs itself in more, its smug I know. I drag the case along, big mistake. I will it backwards, genius idea and it unravels. Speed trotting to the station and stab at the screen to put my code in to collect the tickets. Run, yes run, up the stairs to the platform and I have four minutes to spare.
I can’t breathe mind you but I make it to the train.
Fast forward another train, across London on the tube and to Kings Cross I have a minute and a half to get the fast Edinburgh train, first stop Peterborough. Ace, the entrance barriers are at platform 10, and guess what platform I need, yup platform 2. I have to jog now, I am not happy at all at jogging but my need to get on the train.
I shove my case on and then me the doors beep behind me and we’re pulling out of the station. I seriously can’t catch my breath now. I’m doubled over dragging air into my lungs.
“Stop huffing and puffing and sit down.” The man’s gruff voice says.
I stand upright, hands on my waist staring at the man who is leaning against a make shift seat, he scoots over and points to the bench.
“I………can’t………catch…….my…….breath” I pant, seriously wondering if my lungs can cope. I’m dizzy and struggling to focus.
“Well then stop smoking.” He replies
Oh sod off, I think but he holds the only seat on this 15 carriage train, it’s full to the rafters and I need to share his bench.
“I………don’t……..smoke……..scarlet……..fever……..recovery…….” Why I need to justify why I can’t breathe deeply is beyond me but he was telling me off and I didn’t take that well. He had a seat though.
“Oh, ok, sit down, I’ll go and get you a coffee.”
I loved him at that point, I could have kissed him.
For the next 45 minutes we shared stories, he told me he was in Peterborough for a dirty weekend and nodded knowingly and swiftly changed the subject. He said three times he didn’t know where to go for dinner, I changed the subject again. Subtly wasn’t working so he asked if I would go for a drink when we got off the train before I met my friend. I declined.
Thirty authors in one room, heaven, some I knew and some I didn’t. It was in The Great Northern Hotel opposite the station. Jo and Rachel were there to greet everyone, beeping us in and putting wrist bands on us. True rock star event with wrist bands, red for the morning and silver for the afternoon. One large square room, tables hugging the walls on three sides and then two strips up the middle of the room. There were banners and a myriad of table cloths. I must say at this point I have never been to one of these before and had no idea what to expect. I am banned from buying paperbacks, so why am I here? I’m a rebel and will sneak my stash back into the house when no one is looking.
I talk to a lot of the authors online, so meeting them was ace. I met SJ Warner off the train and went for a beer until the afternoon session started. We exchanged signed books and talked author stuff.
As a reader going to an event like this it is intimidating to go up to an author you have followed and have loved their stories. I know that is not everyone’s feeling but it’s mine. I want to fan girl all over them and lavish praise over the stories I have loved but I’m shy girl and it doesn’t come naturally. I’m a quiet type, sitting and listening and watching. BUT I came to see these lovely people, shake their hand, kiss their cheek and hug them til their arms flailed in protest.
I wanted to meet Kitty French, badly, love her books, Lucien Knight (sigh), awesome, Undertaking Love made me snort with laughter. I kept doing passes to her table and she was a popular girl, eventually I got my chance. She has an empty seat next to her and invited you to sit and chat. Brilliant, really personal, we chatted about her books, she showed me the cover for her next book, it’s gorgeous. I told her that I had taken a leaf out of her book and have two names too and she had given me the idea. Anyway, I bought Undertaking Love, she signed it, I stroked the page. I walked away. I met back up with Amelia who was supporting Neil Winnington because his helper for the day hadn’t been able to make it and, the diva, demanded water. Off I scuttled and got her a bottle of water and when I was paying I realised I had never paid Kitty for her book.
I raced back and handed over my money, I felt awful and embarrassed but was soon remedied. So, breaking my author meeting virginity on Kitty, I then talked to a lot more authors that were there. Everyone was friendly and chatty. I bought two more books. If I were at a signing I would welcome anyone coming to my table and having a chat so I wasn’t sure why shyness had overcome me. It eased as I chatted more and more. I swapped with Amelia and helped Neil on his table and met some really lovely girls who run blogs.
The disappointment I felt were that some authors started to pack up at 4pm when it didn’t finish until 4:30, I could see the main door from where I was sitting and there were a few people who had come back into the room and look over at a few authors, they saw that they were packing up and then walked back out again. That was shame. One packed up and then that started the domino effect. Still, I’m sure everyone had plenty of time to speak with the authors that they had come to see.
It was a wonderfully organised event, friendly, intimate and inclusive. But there was more to come.
The evening ball
The Ball event was in the same room as the signing, a dozen round tables with a bar and dance floor. I had the immense pleasure of being on a table with fabulous people, Lisa Fulham, Cameron Lincoln, Mags, AM Harding, Amelia J Hunter, Glenn Haigh and Charlotte Kennaird. Awesome table, a lot of laughter and stories swapped. I reckon we had the best table.
I am going to fast forward to my favourite bit, the last fifteen minutes.
With roughly fifteen minutes to go until the end of the party the DJ put Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon on. With the exception of me and five others, the entire room poured onto the dance floor. It was packed out of writhing bodies, well jumping up and down bodies with hands in the air. Rachel stood among the people who couldn’t fit on the dance floor and the tears flowed. She tried to wipe them away but more appeared, giving up she stood and sobbed. Her husband looked at her and I imagine the sentence being ‘what the hell is wrong with you?’ and Rachel answering ‘it’s all so emotional’ said through sobs.
Fierce hugs then came from Jo who had become emotional too. The room was singing at the tops of their voices ‘whhhhooooaaaa, you’re sex is on firrrrrreeeee’. Watching Rachel be overwhelmed with the success of the event had me swallowing hard. I am welling up now thinking of the scene playing before me. Twelve months in the making for just a single day. Bit like a wedding really. The Killers song came on next and Rachel cried harder still, her husband and another bloke lifted her up high in the air on their shoulders. Jo’s turn next to be lifted and cheered. The support in the room, warmed my soul.
Music died and the lights came on, party is over for this year, but roll on Leeds, it will be my first author signing. Cannot wait.
Thanks for reading
Harper’s Motto: You will not be everybody’s favourite flavour, but that’s ok, because they will not always be your favourite flavour. Be who you want to be and you will attract the people who will support you no matter what.