Archive for November, 2010

Oh, just things…..

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Well I don’t know that I would like to be in the jungle with the celebrities but I certainly would prefer the temperature over there – it is freeeeeezing in Hampshire! The central heating is on 24 hours a day here (don’t tell my husband) and I’m still having to wear at least two jumpers and my cashmere/angora wrap garment/thing – I don’t know that it has a name, it’s definitely not the most attractive piece of clothing that I own but it’s lovely and warm so fashion be damned. So British of me to talk about the weather but let’s face it – I’m good at queueing, prefer not to display emotion publicly and I wear a lot of Jack Wills – ergo I am British. That’s one of the most depressing things about getting older actually, every time I go into Jack Wills I feel a little further removed from their fashion. It’s very sad. Or it would be if I cared; I’m quite happy to embrace age and float towards the inevitable Windsmoor skirts of my seventies. Gone already are the days when I habitually wore the shortest skirts I could find; this happened because I discovered nice lingerie. Stockings and suspenders, etc. and you cannot wear those with short skirts. Or only in very particular circumstances anyway. Actually, I’m going to London next week and I’m going to visit one of my favourite shops in the world, the What Katie Did London boutique where I shall indulge my love of all things vintage. Well, not all things, bullet bras don’t really do it for me, but there’s an awful lot of lingerie and corsets that do. I doubt I’ll buy anything very much but I love the feel of the place; it’s like going back in time. It’s classy, the underwear is beautifully and artfully arranged and the staff are fantastic. They’re passionate about vintage lingerie, knowledgable and helpful. I really would recommend them if you’re after anything like that.

Anyway, the primary reason that I shall be in London is to attend Ali McNamara’s launch of her book “From Notting Hill with Love…..actually” which I’ve seen described as the cheekiest book title of all time.  I haven’t read it yet, I’m hoping to get a signed copy at the launch party, and I am tremendously excited! It’s the first launch that I’ve been to, other than my own. I shall write a full report about it next week. Watch this space!

I’ve just finished reading an absolutely brilliant book called “The Last Letter From Your Lover” by Jojo Moyes. I’d seen it in a bookshop and loved the description, I nearly bought it but at the time I had a stack of books to read so I didn’t. Which actually worked out to my advantage because a few days later Jojo’s Babyliss Big Hair appliance died right before a big event that she was going to. Cue potential hair disaster, she had my sympathy. So  because I’d just bought one and hated it (I should have known that NOTHING can beat my ghds) I offered to send her mine and I received three signed books in return, which was very lovely of her. And I have adored Last Letter, it’s truly one of the best books that I have read for a very long time. The subject matter is slightly delicate, it covers extra-marital relationships in an almost defensive way, but it’s sad, emotive, funny in places (look out for the real love ‘letters’) and absolutely gripping. I thoroughly recommend it. I can’t wait to read the other two books that she sent me.

And speaking of books, I made a rather big decision over the last week. I’ve gone back to working on a manuscript which I had all but forgotten about. I started looking at it again for a variety of reasons and I found myself feeling very positive about it. It’s no good in its current state, I’ve already cut huge swathes of prose from it, in fact the current word count is 91,000 words and I don’t expect that to change much for a while, even though I am continually working on it. I’m easily erasing as much as I write. But I’m excited about it. My characters are very real and vivid, some of the events in the book make compelling reading and I’m loving the opportunity to re-work it and make into the best manuscript that I can. So we shall see. It’s very similar in tone and content to Things He Never Knew; I obviously have a subconciously preferred area of fiction and writing style. Which is a shame because my mother doesn’t like it. Pretty much only positive thing that she has actually said about Things He Never Knew was that she was impressed by my ability to knit the plot together so neatly. To me, that’s like complimenting someone on being able to eat with a knife and fork. At my daughter’s birthday party she told me that she’d like to see me write “…something more literary…”. And that is a verbatim quote. I replied that I wouldn’t necessarily confine myself to my genre, but that I was quite happy with the area that I have settled into. I suppose it’s a natural thing – she would like to see me write to the best of my ability, but as far as I’m concerned, ‘best’ doesn’t mean literary. But then we’re back to harbouring grudges against chick-lit and not buying books with pink covers. ……my mother is nothing if not entertaining. Actually, in our last conversation she mentioned that she was going to start writing a blog. My mind can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like, I shall simply have to wait for the reality, but I promise you it will be linked on my blog if she ever does actually do it. It will probably be tales of herds of cats and her Aga woes and how the skip from the building work hasn’t been removed from the driveway yet so they can’t fit all of their cars in. She leads a hard life, you see.

I’ve just remembered that a VERY exciting thing happened to me yesterday!! I can’t believe that I didn’t mention it before. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has started following me on Twitter! This sent me stratospheric with excitement, as my husband, children, friends, neighbours and people that I met in the street will testify. I don’t know why he is (I say ‘he’, I’m sure it’s probably not) all I did was tweet about a signed photograph that I was given and the fact that it’s on my desk, making me very, very happy. I was even open about the fact that I adore him because he is so gorgeous and his political views are a secondary thing. Though I am broadly speaking in support of those as well. Yesterday went down as one of the best days of my life.

But now I must go back to proper writing and trying to prevent my fingers from becoming frozen with cold. If it wasn’t such a cliché I might try typing in fingerless gloves, but I’m too afraid of looking like something from Withnail and I. If you see me with Deep Heat you’ll know it’s time to worry. But as it is I shall settle for turning the heating up (don’t tell my husband) and wearing my staggeringly unsexy cashmere/angora wrap/garment thing, and look forward to the hour tonight when I can let the alcohol warm me instead.

Tales from a Local Author Christmas Extravaganza

Friday, November 19th, 2010

First of all – I am BETTER! I feel incredibly different, I must have had a low-lying infection and been ill for weeks. I can’t believe the difference that the antibiotics have made. Well that and a few decent nights sleep. Which is just as well because it meant that I could fully enjoy last night! Wow! What an amazing time I had! I expected it to be good but not that good. It was more like a social drinks party than an author event. There were several reasons why it was so good; firstly Waterstones had put an awful lot of effort into organising the evening. This was the first time that anything like this had been attempted and they were keen to make it a success. There had been lots of publicity and general drumming up of interest going on. One of the other authors, children’s writer Ali Sparkes, had been on BBC Radio Solent that afternoon to generate interest as well. And the atmosphere was really good, the staff were lovely and all the authors were full of enthusiasm. There were ten of us altogether: Ron Clooney for the thriller genre, Alex Bell in the dark fantasy/sci-fi genre, Ali Sparkes, Andrew Norris and another lady who all write for children, Alex Hibbert who has written a book about his polar exploration exploits (and blimey, it sounds mad but amazing. He ski-ed 100 miles in ten days on NO FOOD. A storm destroyed the food supplies they had left which they didn’t know until they got there so they had no choice. All credit to the guy.) And apart from that there were a couple of local history authors and me of course, alone in the chick-lit genre, for which I quickly became very grateful.

We all met in the staffroom prior to the event for drinks and a chat and to get to know one another briefly. The choices of drinks were: water, tea, coffee, squash, red wine or white wine. I wavered slightly but then eventually went for…..guess what…..yes you are right – a small glass of white wine. Which went straight to my head after having not drunk anything for days. So I quickly had to drink an awful lot of water as being tipsy and signing books is NOT a good thing. And I know because I’ve done it. Not in bookshops I hasten to add, but at dinner parties and that sort of thing for friends. I expect to see them popping up on eBay in the future. I wasn’t the only one who drank wine by the way, at least 50% of the authors did, it’s obviously an integral part of being a writer. So after that we were given our lovely name tags and then all taken onto the shop floor, and as we were going up the escalator Ron said to me “So what do you write then?”

“Chick-lit,” I replied (because it’s just easier). And he responded with “Well the stuff I write is more sex-lit than anything else.” Which meant that I was unattractively snorting with laughter as I took up my position at our stand. Myself, Ron and Alex were grouped together right by the door, we did have the best position in the whole shop; where we were is where they put all their major authors for signings. I don’t know why, just the luck of the draw I guess. The others were grouped together in their various sections further back in the shop, which I gather didn’t really work well for them as they fairly quickly came forward to stand right by the other shop entrance, presumably to garner more interest.

We didn’t have a problem with interest though and that was because we had Ron on our table. The man is an absolute master at his art and incredible to watch. He drew the crowds like you wouldn’t believe and easily sold the most books in the evening. He’s a lovely person, a real raconteur with a fabulous sense of humour and those combined along with his determination give him his success. Or they did last night anyway. He literally grabbed any person that passed by, male or female, and said “Do you fancy a really good thriller?” and whatever their response was he had an answer for it. For example, a few people said “Oh no, I don’t like thrillers,” to which he replied “That’s because you haven’t read a good one yet. Here, look at this,” – hands them a book – “the first print run sold out in twelve weeks….” etc., etc. He wasn’t pushy or overbearing, despite being unashamedly selling his work. It was a real skill and beautiful to watch. Of course it made Alex and I feel quite inadequate as both of us were the more ‘hanging back’ sort, which didn’t matter because Ron would then go on to say “And here also tonight are Sarah Haynes with her chick-lit novel and Alex Bell with her dark fantasy writing,” which effectively did the introductions for us. But after a few minutes of watching Ron I decided there was nothing else for it and became a lot more forward – which paid off. I did something which I’ve never done before and approached a customer who was browsing the shelves. We had a quick chat during which I basically introduced myself and said “Look, even if my book’s not your sort of thing I know the genre pretty well and can probably help you find something.” And about fifteen minutes later she came to look at my book – and bought it! Out of all of Waterstones she chose Things He Never Knew. I was very pleased. It’s such a learning curve and I’m glad to have started to make some sort of impression on it.

Overall, I think I sold 7/8 books, which doesn’t sound like much but we were only there for two hours so it equates to one every fifteen minutes which is what it felt like. And I also didn’t have friends/family turning up so it was a case of relying on the general public to be interested. Which they were! I was glad to be alone in my genre because of the lack of competition. Everyone gets fiercely competitive at these sorts of events, it really is every man for himself, and rightly so – as authors this is our livelihood and reputation that we’re protecting. Which is why it was so decent of Ron to include us in his general spiel, although the only reason he could and did do that was because we were no competition to him.

And the people that I spoke to last night were lovely without exception. One man stands out in my mind because we had the following conversation, as he picked up my book:

“Chick-lit? What’s that?”

“Commercial fiction aimed primarily at women.”

“Why? What sort of stuff do you write about?”

“Generally the plots will involve love, romance, drama, emotions with a female central character.”

“Doesn’t mean men can’t read it.”

“No,” I agreed.

He studied the book for a while before saying suddenly “You could be the next Jilly Cooper.”

“Er, well, no, my writing’s probably less racy than that.”

“So there’s no sex in this?”


“Oh. Shame. You should put some in, it would sell better.”

“I’ll – er – bear it in mind.”

“Give it a bit more oomph.”


And then he said “I’d have bought it if had sex in it,” threw it on the table and walked away. I suppose it didn’t help that I was based right next to the erotica section which might have given him the idea in the first place. By accident or design I couldn’t tell.

So I had a very lovely evening with great company and the only bad thing I can say about it was that I had to miss “I’m A Celebrity…..” which I can watch on catch-up so it isn’t even that bad. The whole experience left me with a lot more confidence about book-signings and gave me a real idea of the best way to do things. And I suppose one of the most important things to take away from the evening is that I should definitely be writing more sex-lit. Watch this space.

my nametag

A note from my sickbed

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

This will be a short post because I am writing it from my sickbed. Well, not literally, as a few of you will know a bed with sick on it is possibly the LAST place on earth you would find me due to my emetophobia. I don’t much enjoy this time of year actually because it seems like every other day someone becomes ill with a D&V bug. About 40% of the status updates on Facebook read “So and so has been up all night vomiting” which sends a shiver of fear through me. And make me do things which I consider totally normal but when mentioned to a psychiatrist are not, apparently. Things like going out less in case we pick up any germs; being totally paranoid about my children touching any surfaces whilst we’re out – and don’t get me started on public toilets. If I need to take the girls to one the first thing I say is “DON’T. TOUCH. ANYTHING.” And I mean it. Literally. My grandmother refused to use them and we all thought she was being overly fussy at the time, but I completely see her point now. I also become obsessive about hand-washing, in the highest temperature water that can be tolerated. And this general paranoia spills over into checking and re-checking that food has been properly cooked…..all this because of a few winter bugs floating about – do you see why I need treatment?! I can’t even watch the bit on “I’m A Celebrity…..” where they have to eat ghastly things. I’m filled with unbearable nerves and tension from the moment the trial starts and I have to mute it. My husband gets very fed up with watching the television in silence. And just quickly – Nigel Havers – what a star!!!! Unexpectedly, he has just made the whole programme for me. I probably wouldn’t even have started watching it had I not been ill, but I have now and I’m hooked. He just makes me laugh so much, he’s a good sport and brillant fun. Who else would admit that they were “Yearning for female company…..yearning I tell you.” How candid. I hope he wins, I think it will be either him or Shaun Ryder.

Anyway, back to what is actually wrong with me – I have a kidney infection. Which isn’t too bad apart from the pain, which is atrocious. It’s like being in labour. On the plus side I do get to spend whole days in bed, reading, which I wouldn’t be able to justify otherwise. It was my eldest daughters ninth birthday at the weekend and I think the celebrations took their toll on me. It would have helped if she hadn’t got up at 5:15am, of course, but it felt a bit mean to send her back to bed on her birthday. It’s only one day a year after all and hey – who needs sleep?? Not my daughter, certainly. So we were up unwrapping presents, playing with balloons, drinking tea, eating croissants and pancakes at some ungodly hour on Sunday morning. Whilst my husband muttered obscenities to himself in the corner because we’d given him the task of constructing the Build-a-Bear wardrobe that she’d received as a gift. It was only because no-one would do it as well as him, of course, I said. It is not as easy as it looks, I was told. In not the nicest way, I must say. From there we went to the Build-A-Bear shop in Southampton for her party, which she enjoyed and I did not. So I went round the corner to Waterstones where I found this poster:

Poster at Waterstones, West Quay Southampton

Waterstones Christmas Event Poster

As it says, myself and a few other authors are participating in a Local Author event to kick-start Christmas shopping. I love signing books anyway and the fact that I get to do it with other authors is even better. 5:30-7:30pm at Waterstones in West Quay in Southampton on Thursday 18th November. It was touch and go whether I’d make it at the beginning of the week, but thanks to my lorry-load of antibiotics and excessive consumption of orange squash I shall be fine. I tell you, I don’t even dare drink tea or coffee at the moment,  never mind my beloved wine. That’s how bad it is.

I intend to spend the rest of today making the most of being ill and reading all possible coverage of the Royal engagement announcement. It’s so exciting! Though I do feel a bit sorry for anyone else having their wedding in 2011 or – horrors! – the same day … really can’t compete with a Prince.