What makes a book launch memorable? Well I’ve been to more than I can readily remember, but the ones that stand out in my memory were the ones where the writer included their family and friends in their celebration (because a book launch is as much about WooHoo! as it is about selling books). I went to a great one last Friday night at Dymocks in Bundaberg. We were helping launch Sandy Curtis‘s new thriller “Fatal Flaw”, and here’s a pic of romance author Helen Lacey and I holding our copies with Sandy – tiny dynamo she is.
While I was lining up to get my copy signed I had the chance to chat to Sandy’s grandson Alex, who was thrilled to be at the signing table, and Sandy’s own mum (great grandma) was seated nearby enjoying the glow of her daughter’s success. It reminded me of my very first book launch a decade ago. My mother is a seamstress and she created a gorgeous black velvet cocktail dress for me because the venue was going to be a recently renovated heritage building in Brisbane city – quite glam. In the lead-up, while I was stressing about invitations and copies arriving on time, she was nervous about what to wear, never having attended a launch before. After checking her dress would be suitable and, it being night-time, whether she’d need gloves, I remember her saying in a tentative voice, “So, a hat?” I’m ashamed to admit that I couldn’t help laughing, or saying, “It’s not mother-of-the-bride, ma!” But she’d never been to a launch before. How would she know? To her it was the glamorous culmination of a decade of my hard solitary labour. For all she knew, there might be paparazzi! Clearly, she knows better now.
I didn’t recognise it at the time, but my family had been endlessly supportive without ever really having a clue about what I was doing, or how all that coffee consumption in a room with the door shut could possibly end up as a real book in a real bookstore tucked between real writers like Michael Crichton and Clive Cussler. For them, the launch was their only window into my career, their only chance to show publicly that despite being astonished, they were proud of me. I’m glad now that I wasn’t so overwhelmed by excitement that I left them out of it. They were all there on the night, acting as hosts, mingling, making people feel relaxed, sharing embarrassing stories about me. But then my family and friends have always been the rock that my stability is based on. When you spend a third of your life inside a world that doesn’t exist, you need to be anchored when you step away from the computer.
Seeing the anchors around Sandy on Friday night reminded me that my own family and friends are still the most important thing in my life, a fact eloquently shared by an Internationally successful author friend who, at the birth of her first child said, “If something happened and I could never write again I’d find solace in my family. But if something happened to my child, I’d find no comfort in my writing.” I can only echo those thoughts, and feel unutterably grateful that I have it all: family, friends and career. But to put that in perspective, when my daughter gave me a scrapbook for Mothers Day the year she moved out (a poignant year for me) I knew I was holding in my hands the most significant and meaningful story I’d ever created. In the ‘brag’ section of my bookcase where my own published novels sit, it holds pride of place.
Society holds some writers up as being ‘special’, imagining their contribution to literature is more important than the children they’ve raised, the parents they’ve lost or the friend’s they’ve loved. But as a writer myself, I know for a fact, the people I love will always be more important than the books I create. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Having said, that, book launches are one of the few opportunities in our lives where we can celebrate both. And that’s what makes them so memorable.