I’m not sure if appearing in the Athlone News or the Houtbay Sentinel qualifies as fame but he was right about the book party.
A book launch is really a great big party for all your friends and family at someone else’s expense. The pay off though is you can’t just get pissed and dance badly to old 80s tunes. You have to appear respectably author-like.
And there is the thing of having to talk to a large group of people staring right at you. And best you don’t screw that up because they might not buy your book.
And so I was mute driving towards the Book Lounge where my launch was to be held – partly to preserve my voice but mostly because I was in a state of terror. I marginally relaxed when I recognised the familiar faces of friends and family who were going to buy the book regardless of how I performed, partly to be supportive but also to see what I’d written about them.
And then I had to sit on a small platform and talk into a microphone to a rather packed bookshop. Thankfully, crime writer Margie Orford, who interviewed me, was charming, humorous and most importantly calming. I didn’t even mind that folk eagerly flocked around me afterwards to say, “Wasn’t Margie Orford amazing?!” Because she truly was. And I was simply happy that I’d managed to survive an intense case of the nerves only last experienced so acutely when I had to address my very own wedding party of a similar number of expectant faces.
There was wine, conversation, photographs, signings and some people even bought the book, resulting in one or two of my friends who had never actually been to a book launch saying, “Book launches aren’t nearly as boring as I thought they’d be.” Bloody uneducated bunch.
I, too, enjoyed every giddy minute of it. Which was in sharp contrast to an event I’d been asked to attend earlier in the week. Like the book launch I had been required to talk to a smallish crowd about Making Finn at a restaurant in the southern suburbs where they held a monthly bookclub event. On arrival at the small Italian restaurant I was pleasantly surprised. The owners were charming and warm. The mostly female audience seemed down-to-earth and chatty as they tucked into their pizza and buy one bottle of wine and get the other bottle free. I was going to be ok.
I had been told I needed to ‘hold the floor’ for 30 plus minutes and I had a grand plan to tell my story and read some of the more uproarious passages from the book. But it was when I began to speak that I became nervous. The room seemed too quiet. The faces staring back at me were unmoving, stricken. I started talking quickly, and made a joke to try and lighten the atmosphere.
I thought I heard a stifled chuckle at the back of the silent restaurant, but I couldn’t be sure. There were certainly no guffaws at my riotously funny book passages I read in a near panic. It was a long and uncomfortable half hour.
Only three people bought the book, and they happened to be three old school acquaintances I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. I suspect they were also responsible for the three laughs I managed to garner the entire evening.
At the end of the evening I felt like I’d been the object of voyeurism. I had an extra long shower when I got home.
And now that the launch is over and the Leopards Leap all drunk, it appears that things have quietened down to near normalcy. As far as it’s possible to refer to quiet and normal when being dive-bombed by a testosterone-infused three-year-old and an energetic and pot-bellied five-year-old who has not yet learnt the meaning of ‘inside voice!’