Summer reads

If you’re looking for a great read this summer, check out Dubai92’s list of top reads compiled by listeners… very happy to see Coming Home is on it!

“Never read your reviews”

“Never read your reviews,” Joanna Trollope told me when she found out at the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature that my debut novel was out that day. She touched my arm and leaned toward me as she said it, making me feel like she really cared about this and that it was an important thing I must never do, like walking across the train tracks or hitch-hiking with strangers.

“You’ve achieved a goal, which is to be published,” Graeme-The-Rosie-Project-Simsion told me, as he bought the first ever copy of Coming Home that I’d ever signed. “Everything else is just gravy.”

Good advice I’m sure. And maybe one day I’ll heed it. (more…)

Four days to go: Is this as good as it gets?

In 2010, a friend bought me a book called The Passion Test. At a loose end (I’m laughing as I type that), I read the book, even though I’m usually more inclined to hurl self-help books at the wall than actually read them. As I read it, I took “the passion test”, which basically helps you identify what you need to be doing with your life in order to be happy from the inside out. Not that I wasn’t happy from the inside out to begin with. But – as I said: loose end.

The other day, I found that list that I made in 2010. On it were the following points:

  • Write a best-selling book
  • Get a book deal
  • Be invited to speak at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature
  • Be in a position to teach people about writing

(The Passion Test encourages you to think big.)

And here we are five years later: I have a three-book deal from a London publisher. The (hopefully best-selling) book will be released to an unsuspecting Dubai public in four days’ (four days!) time. A week today, I will have delivered two sessions at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and, within the month, I will have given a talk to a class of writing students at Dubai College.

If you’d told me in 2010 that I’d manage to tick off so many of those outlandish goals in five years, I would have fallen over laughing. But here I am now, on the precipice of all my 2010 dreams coming true. It’s a terrific feeling…

… yet there’s a part of me that wonders if this is as good as it gets – that if, from here, the only way is down: at the moment hardly anyone’s read the book. It’s all anticipation, excitement, expectation and celebration. So far, there are no bad reviews.

But I know the moment will come when people start to finish the book. That they may well turn to each other and say “Is that it? I mean, really? She made all that fuss about that?” and “Seriously? I thought it would be better…” or worse, “OMG, I couldn’t even make it past chapter three…”

So when people ask me “Are you excited about your book coming out?” I don’t know what to say. Yes I am. Of course I am: I’m bubbling more than Lewis Hamilton’s champagne on the World Championship podium. But I’m also resigned to the fact that this magic phase of excitement and anticipation is almost over. And, from here on in, I have to grow a thick skin because, no matter what, and in the words of Taylor Swift*, “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate hate” – and I’ve got another two books to write!

*Am not particularly a fan; I have a tweenage daughter.

When I grow up, I want to be… David Walliams

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2015 (from now on to be called EAFOL15) kicked off today with a session by David Walliams, who was at the festival to talk about his children’s books.

Fortunately I have children who like his books so I was able to attend under the guise of “having” to drive them there but, if the truth be known, I was pretty keen to attend myself. Not only am I a big fan of Walliams, but this was my first chance to crib up a little on how to pull off an author session for when it’s my turn next week – and who better to learn from than a man who’s author, actor, comedian and master of self-deprecating humour?

So I sat there making notes while Walliams talked.

“Be humble,” I wrote, as he quieted a standing ovation with the words, “Lower your expectations.”

“Make jokes,” I scribbled as he admitted with a sigh that the best book he’s ever written was called Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone (“Some woman’s running around claiming she wrote it,” he said sotto voce. “Big legal battle.”)

Sadly, though, I suspect humour of that scale is something I won’t be able to get away with until and unless I’m filling 900-seater auditoriums. At the moment, I’ll just be grateful to see bums on seats and have people come to say hello but, as the title says: when I grow up, I wouldn’t half mind being David Walliams.