It’s 5.30pm on a Friday evening and I’m sitting in the front passenger seat of the car in horrendous traffic. Cars inch along, bumper to bumper. My book launch starts in thirty minutes and I should already be there, setting out my cupcakes and readying my Sharpie. Neon brake lights sneer at me. You’re going nowhere. A Luas tram rolls by at Heuston Station and I consider making a run for it. Maybe I should just run all the way! I’m trying not to freak out. If I do, my husband, who’s driving, will too, not to mention the two kids in the back seat. Or maybe we’re all trying to keep it in check. This is a big night for us. We’ve all lived with this book to some extent or another for years.
I text my contact in Easons to let them know I’m stuck. If the traffic stays as is, I’ll be lucky to get there by 6.30. At least the store already has the wine, right? They can settle in without me, can’t they? The little voice, sitting quietly inside me is now awoken. Your FIRST launch, THE launch and you’re going to be LATE. You should have foreseen this and left three hours early. Poke. Needle. Torment. The butterflies in my tummy have turned to crawling spiders, their flutter of wings now the squirm of tiny legs inside me. I want to throw up.
All week, I’d been determined not to let the launch become a thing of stress. This whole adventure so far has been such an amazing thing, that to spoil it for myself by letting the anxiety in, would cast a shadow over the whole thing. I mean, I knew or at least wished that somewhere, somehow, this day would come, and its part of the job of being an author. I had focussed on staying cool, calm and collected. All notion of that has now evaporated. I imagine myself rushing into the shop full of apologies and hating every word that comes out, hating myself. The traffic inches forward and somehow by some small miracle, we turn onto the quays by the River Liffey and the road ahead is clear. Hallelujah. The book gods are looking down on me.
I arrive at Easons O’Connell Street bang on six o’clock and rush to Department 51, their fantasy/sci-fi/all-things-cool area that’s home to my book. On the way, I pass an easel with my book cover image. I can’t digest it. No time.
The four boxes of cupcakes have made it unscathed in our arms. Red Velvet. Made by me. Bonkers probably but I knew it would keep my mind busy and besides it’s a no-fail Nigella recipe. Get one of those into people’s hands and they’ll be smiling. It also reinforces my own stamp on everything. I’ve done it all on my own right up until this point. If I could have crushed the grapes for the wine, I probably would have.
I get downstairs without dropping anything and realise that I’m so relieved to be there on time and with the first of guests only arriving, that the spiders have crawled away and let the butterflies take control again. I can cope with them. It’s nervous energy rather than vicious dread. Though, I feel slightly numb. I look at the table further down – the Easons branded backdrop I’ve seen so many times (and only last week for Joe Hill), and in front of it a large desk, the same one he used, but instead my books are piled neatly on it, waiting for me.
Kate Bush is Running Up That Hill on my Spotify playlist and I’m reminded of the comfort of my writing desk and the wonderful place I disappear to when I hear this and other songs that transport me somewhere else. The book was borne of these songs. Its only right they have a place tonight.
My family and friends arrive and I realise that the room isn’t scary. These are my biggest supporters, here because they care. Earlier in the week, I tried to get a handle on the fact that my mother isn’t here (we lost her two years ago to cancer) and I guess I needed to deal with that ahead of tonight. Get it out of the way so that it wouldn’t rear itself. But the positivity in the room quenches it – and I’m getting through it.
I sign books – an odd feeling but a good one especially when its for people you care about. Everyone is lovely and kind. Even the minor hitch of the mic not working actually turns into a positive. Without it, it’s more intimate. I’m worried though about the reading. Maybe I should can it? I hadn’t initially planned to do one. That probably sounds very foolish but nerves can sometimes get the better of me – actually no – not even nerves – confidence or lack of – and I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. But then I changed my mind. I owed it to myself and the book to do it. If I couldn’t read from it, where was that going to put me if I was ever asked again? So I did it. And the world didn’t collapse around my feet. The warm applause is confirmation that no-one is judging me. They’re not here for that. That’s not what this night is about. I feel welcomed, protected, positive. Lucky.
I also feel it’s the beginning of a new stage. There’ll be more launches, because there will be more books, both in this vampire series and in my detective to come. What a great way to kick it off. What better place. It’s in this very store, I bought a speciality magazine about vampires when I was seventeen, my protagonist Evelyn’s age. It had Bela Lugosi on the cover and I devoured it as surely as any vampire every took sustenance. It was in its pages, I found the recommendation of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire and well, that would change everything, plotting a course to this very moment. So thank you Easons. You are the seller of dreams and the makers of their reality.
Let’s make a date for the next one. How’s April next year sound?