I spent my book’s first birthday observing customer behaviour in a bookshop, and chatting to those who weren’t so adept at avoiding my gaze. One was a self-declared non-reader, hanging around while awaiting her appointment with a tattooist. Not my thing at all, but I was intrigued enough to ask to see her chosen design as well as to enquire whether the process was addictive, given that she had a couple of earlier tattoos on display.
I might have had in mind my own addiction to blog tours, given the five-week tour I embarked on last year when I launched my novel. I was slap in the middle of another, this one much more modest – in its fortnight’s duration, if not in ambition – that has now come to an end. My thanks to you if you’ve been following, or hosting; here’s my summary of how it went … and what’s still to come.
The tour kicked off with a chat with my long-term writing friend, Geoff on Tangental, on being a sociable introvert (including my confession that I once fainted when giving a presentation). But how could I write without being introverted? How could I go on tour without the social side? So I enjoyed having a cuppa, cake and a chat with Susan of The Book Trail, although we got off to a shaky start as I’d forgotten, given my novel’s title, she might be nervous initially about what I’d bring to eat and drink!
Poppy Peacock posed some fascinating questions about character and whether the novel is written to “sell” an idea. My Q&A with Jo, and her novel-reading cat, Jaffa, featured some of the challenges I faced writing Sugar and Snails, along with a question I’ve often posed myself in the debut novelist Q&A’s, regarding the extent to which I’m a planner. (I’m not – maybe I am! Can I change my mind?) Kate Evans also asked me about my writing process, as well as that fascinating subject of how much fiction is entwined with real life.
On the subject of feedback, the tour furnished some lovely new reviews: Clare felt as if Diana was speaking to her personally; Jo described the novel as “an altogether different look at the way destiny shapes our lives”; Emma wondered with me about the point at which the reader guesses Diana’s secret (and, if you’ve read the book you can share your experience via my online survey) as did Paula; Sandra considered it written with sensitivity and compassion, but was disappointed that more wasn’t resolved before the ending. Jo picked up particularly on the theme of decision-making, and the role of Diana’s parents, while Poppy loved the contrariness of my character.
I’m delighted that the tour is like my book with an Amazon UK total of 33 reviews with an average of 4.6 out of five stars. I’ve written before about my reluctance to engage with Amazon, but there’s no doubt that an author is heavily dependent on their reviews. Now that Terry Tyler has launched #Augustreviews encouraging readers to leave at least one Amazon review in the coming month, I’ve committed to paying the favour forward and going down that route to support small-press published authors and others this month.
I’m also delighted about a couple of other things with the potential to bring my book to readers’ attention: I’ve been invited back to BBC Radio Nottingham tomorrow to talk about Sugar and Snails one year on from publication (I wonder if I’ll be as nervous as I was for my first radio broadcast last year) and on Saturday I’m doing another signing session in Bakewell in the centre of the Peak District. I’d envisaged this as the end of the line for publicity, until my shortlisting for the Polari Prize suggests there might be other possibilities. I don’t know what just yet but, given the difficulty of getting bookshops to stock small-pressed published books, it’s rather exciting to find mine and the other five sharing a page on a prestigious London bookseller's website.