Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Edinburgh Book Festival

If I ever stop sneezing and coughing long enough to get up from my sickbed and pack, I'll be off to Edinburgh on Friday for the Book Festival. My event is on Saturday, by which time I hope to have a voice. I've even made a PowerPoint presentation.

But what I'm really looking forward to is other people's events. On Friday night we are going to the London Review of Books on "The Future of the Book" -  an old warhorse which has gained some shiny new e-spurs recently.

And Saturday pm there's James Shapiro talking about his latest Shakespeare book, Contested Will. His previous book, 1599, was absolutely excellent, so I'm hopeful. There's a clash with my timings which means I can't get to Nicola Morgan's session but I hope to meet her in the Yurt. Ah, the Yurt! Worthy of a whole post in its own right.

It's a tent where writers, their partners and publicists can drink coffee or beer or whisky and eat sandwiches or buns and I am relying on it for Saturday sustenance. But it is so much more than a tent - more of a Bedouin mirage in the middle of Charlotte Square. It's one of the few places in the world where you feel you are living the writer's life that non-writers believe goes on every day.

In the evening it's Michelle Lovric and Katie Hickman on "Fictionalising Venice" - something I have been known to do myself from time to time. I don't know Katie Hickman's book but have read Michelle's absolutely remarkable The Book of Human Skin.

I'm sure there are all sorts of other delights I'll be missing but after two nights in an Edinburgh hotel, we're decamping to Linda Strachan's house. Then home via York, where we'll visit Shandy Hall. Now there was a writer whose festival sessions I'd have paid good money to attend.

And I think Laurence Sterne would have felt right at home in that yurt.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Just one more and then I'll shut up about it

How many agents does it take to launch a paperback?

Or it's my party and I'll smile if I want to.

In this picture, three from Rogers, Coleridge and White. Patricia White, on right, has been my agent for over 25 years and we are good mates.

Next to her, her assistant Claire Wilson, then moi, then Catherine Pellegrino, who is also at RCW. They all came to support me at Bloomsbury for the launch party of the Troubadour paperback.

It was a very nice party and I wish I had remembered earlier that I had my camera with me. Then I could have shown you my editor Emma Matthewson, who made a very nice speech and has edited all seven novels so far that I have written for Bloomsbury, Ian lamb, who organised the party and all my publicity and Susannah Nuckey, head of Children's Marketing, who surprised me with the lovely poster that has Troubadour on one side and all the Stravaganzas on the back.

So you just have to imagine those guys. And the lovely librarians, booksellers, journalists and book bloggers who came. Not to mention my family, who put up a good showing.

Normal non self-promotional service will be resumed in the next post - till another book comes out!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Troubadour giveaway

The paperback edition of my historical novel Troubadour comes out in the UK tomorrow with this rather gorgeous image on the jacket.

Bloomsbury are kindly offering ten free copies, which I shall sign, to the first ten people to comment on this blog. UK only I'm afraid and you do have to be a Follower.

If you don't score one, or even if you do, you can get a rather fine poster of the jacket, with all the Stravaganzas on the other side from

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Sentenced to read

For nearly twenty years a scheme has been quietly growing in the US called "changing lives through literature." You can read about it at

The Guardian ran a piece about it recently:

 It offers those who have repeatedly committed crimes the alternative to a prison sentence: they can instead join a reading group and discuss books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. Robert Waxler, whose original idea it was, reports a high success rate in terms of low percentages of re-offending.

What a splendid, humane initiative!

It just reinforces what we all know: that books really do make a difference. But I do wonder what it means for those who join reading groups voluntarily. If it can prevent people from re-offending what can it do for those who have never offended? Answers on a postcard please.