Author Readings – Horror and Triumph!

My journeys always begin here – in Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island, taking the Skeena Queen, to the Victoria ferry terminal. Today, I have come on to the Victoria airport and am writing there. I fly to Seattle in 2 hours.

To read (See ‘Appearances’ on this website) from my new novel: ‘A Place Called Armageddon’. Though read doesn’t cover it. I like to chat, to explain some aspects of the writing of this novel, from genesis to cover. To tell racy tales of my research (how I was assaulted on the walls of Constantinople, for example). And yes, to read some excerpts… if there’s anyone there to read to!

When writers emerge from their attic/basement/garret to gather, they tend to drink too much – well, they are not used to human contact and overcompensate. Then they become garrulous and will often compete in the event: ‘What’s the worst reading you ever gave?’ And they have horror stories. No one shows – this happens surprisingly often. Or one person… who refuses your kind offer to sit down and chat over a beer, demands a reading – and then doesn’t buy a book! (Both these things have happened to me.) This is bad in your home town. It is worse when you have flown several thousand miles. (This has also happened to me – I showed up at the University Book Store, Seattle to be greeted by a hundred chairs, a podium with my picture… and no one! Though I did have a very nice chat with the fiction buyer who vowed to more heavily stock my books.)

Panic sets in. As an author you believe the publisher is one click away from dropping you from their list anyway. How much more ready will they be when they see that you cannot draw a crowd? Even a small crowd. Even a person.

However… the stories the writers are less likely to tell to each other – because misery so loves company! – are the tales of triumph. The great event when people show, enjoy… buy books! One such for me happened in what I thought were unlikely circumstances – in Huddersfield, UK. The night before I’d read in what I thought was a literary capital, York. Two people came. One bought a book. But in Huddersfield, I was in a cellar bar, filled with eager students. I sat on a barstool, a pint to hand – my favourite kind of performance. I was reading from ‘Vlad’ my novel about the real Dracula so the low lights and brick arches really helped. I told stories, I read… and people bought books. Almost everyone bought a book. They say if you can sell 10% of the crowd you are doing well. I sold 90%!

And here I am setting off again, hoping for a triumph. Starting at Elliot Bay Bookstore, this Sunday 2pm. Going on to… well, you can see the list on ‘Appearances’. So don’t let me be alone out there, America! Don’t let my publisher drop me, nor let me have more horror stories to tell. Come and stop my tears. I promise you will have a good time. I am an actor after all.

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