Radio and romance
A whirlwind few days...began with my Radio 5 Live interview on Wednesday afternoon. Because it's a news and talk channel, our slot got squeezed by Stuff That Was Actually Happening (i.e. news) so we spent ages waiting outside. Once inside, the studio felt extremely full as there was Simon Mayo, a film director, plus the four of us.
I enjoyed doing it, though it was frustrating not to have time to develop what we were saying in detail: for example, I think I annoyed the Brown Owl (who was a very smart and savvy lady) by saying the Brownies weren't cool - she later said her Brownies would feel they were cool. The point I was making is that the image overall of Guiding isn't 'hip' because it has such a strong heritage in this country. I actually feel that a place where 7 to 10-year-old girls can be girls, and not worry about boys or boy bands, is something to be celebrated. I upped my brownie points later though when I talked about how I feel the Brownies and Guides are actually feminist organisations, in that from their first origins in 1912 (with the first handbook that I've used excerpts from, in Brown Owl's Guide to Life), they were fairly revolutionary in the way they encouraged independence and self-reliance among girls. All good fun.
Then on Thursday it was the Romantic Novel of the Year lunch at the Savoy Hotel. I went with lots of fab people from Orion as their brilliant author, Erica James, was on the shortlist with her novel Gardens of Delight. It's the fifth time she'd been nominated and I have to say, had that happened to me (as if!), I think I would have stayed at home simply because it must be so stressful to work yourself up every time.
It's a riot of pastel colours and gossip at the reception - before a very good lunch of asparagus with a sauce rather like lemon curd, mushroom risotto for veggies like me, and a tasty choc pudding with a peculiar odd thyme sorbet. Chocolate and thyme isn't a combo I will be repeating. Then came the speeches. One of the judges was a GP - Dr Susan Horsewood-Lee - and she gave something like a school report on each of the nominated books which was quite funny if you weren't nominated but would have been AGONY if you had. She also made a comment along the lines of 'thank you to everyone who read the 23 long-listed books - so I didn't have to!' which could be taken either way, so it was slightly surreal.
Then finally the lovely lady from Foster Grant (the sponsors) announced the winner - and it was Erica! Massive cheer from all at our table, and she was whisked off for photos and to be given her £10,000 cheque. She made a very short and pithy speech about how people at readings and events always comment on 'how tiny she is' - it's true, she is such a petite woman and a lot of fun. Then the rest of us sat through an extremely long speech from Stanley Johnson, father of 'blonde bombshell Tory' Boris Johnson. It wasn't really my thing so naybe I shouldn't comment on it directly, but he seemed to spend a lot of time talking about his novels about Eurocrats in Brussels, and not much about the matter in hand, apart from telling us we were all 'jolly professional' - gee thanks, Stanley. Maybe I just don't share the same sense of humour...certainly there were lots of laughs from the audience so perhaps it's a 'love it or hate it' thing.
Overall, it was a terrific day, wonderfully organised and very British, one of those events you feel gives you a glimpse of the glamour that people always imagine constitutes 99 per cent of a lady novelist's life. Whereas actually it's perhaps 0.3 per cent but all the more appreciated when it happens!
Now I am back to the WIP. Trying to hit 60,000 words before publication of Brown Owl. Oh, yes, got my first copies yesterday, they do look gorgeous.
Lovely Link of the Day:
If you feel inspired to write romantic fiction, try this cool and free online course from the BBC Get Writing site.