(I'll never get used to omitting an apostrophe from Waterstones!)
Last month a dream of mine was realised. I had an author event at Waterstones in Nottingham. I arrived early laden down with my banner, bookmarks, wine and delicious, themed cupcakes made by my daughter, Rose. I think they received even more attention than Arlette’s Story.
A few weeks earlier the hint of nerves had begun to bubble in my stomach whenever I thought about sitting in front of a crowd and speaking. But on one such occasion, I made a cup of tea and sat in the garden and thought about it. Why am I nervous? I know more about Arlette and her story than anyone else. I had created her. Not only that, but every time I’d blown out birthday candles over the previous decade and made a wish, it was to be a published author. My dream had come true and at Waterstones I wouldn’t be a spectator, I'd be on stage living my dream. From that moment on I became excited whenever I thought of my upcoming author event.
When the evening arrived, I took the lift with the events’ manager to the top floor and was shown into the Alan Sillitoe conference room. A large display of shelves stood at the front of the room and it was filled with my books. In the middle was a table with a jug of water and two chairs where I was to be interviewed and on the opposite side was another table and chair for my signings. I hope he didn’t notice me standing there with my mouth open!
With the refreshments laid out on tables at the back of the room, people began to arrive. Family, friends … and strangers. Yes, I was being supported by more than just loved ones! People had taken time out of their day to come and listen to what I had to say about a book I had written. I feel so much gratitude for all my readers and supporters. It felt wonderful.
At 6.30pm we started. The interviewer, Polis, was friendly and easy going so he made me feel relaxed from the start. We chatted, laughed and the conversation felt very natural. I read a chapter from Arlette's Story and loved every minute of it. Everyone applauded and then asked questions about research, my characters, Oradour sur Glane, and my any future books I’m writing. I handed out large laminated photographs I’d printed of Oradour, images of both before and after the massacre. People said this really helped them understand that moment in history.
(If you'd like to see photographs and read about what happened at Oradour sur Glane in July 1944, scroll down my blog posts.)
It was now time for selling and signing my books. I remember looking up from my table at one stage and seeing a queue of audience members clutching one or more of my books, waiting patiently for me to sign them. I felt humbled and proud and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
One person said she was buying Christmas gifts as she gave me four to sign! Another said her name was Arlette, so I signed ‘For Arlette. I hope you enjoy Arlette’s Story.’ Someone else said they’d seen a sign advertising my book whilst on holiday in France, and by a strange coincidence had read about my author event on Waterstones twitter feed after they’d flown home! Everyone there was so generous with their kindness and words of praise and support. I’m so thankful; it was an evening I’ll never forget.