The National Centre for Writing in Norwich hosted a wonderful launch event for Lines and Shadows at its Literature House, Dragon Hall, on the 27th July, and I thank them very much for their excellent hospitality. An enthusiastic audience from as far afield as Singapore listened to readings and a Q and A between myself and my publisher, Sam Ruddock of Story Machine Press, then fired one or two challenging questions of their own. Top marks for the hardest to answer goes to a retired engineer who asked me about my research into reinforced concrete. The one which flummoxed me completely was, ‘Who would you want to play The Artist in the movie of the book?’ In the interests of fairness (and being open to all offers from film and streaming companies) I shall keep my opinion to myself, but if you’ve read the book, I’d love to know your thoughts. It’s always one of the most entertaining conversations we have about our favourite books.
I’m happy to report also that we didn’t drink all the wine but we did sell out of copies of the book! Thank you to all who bought and to those who ordered, signed copies will be with you soon.
After the event, a lovely dinner with friends at the Norwich Giggling Squid, whose patience with our serial ordering, and moving a table for twelve from inside the restaurant to outside, and failing to go home even as they stacked furniture around us, was exemplary.
Some Less Welcome Publicity
We have had some drama as well as the celebrations. One copy of the book, an early purchase by a reader who wanted to take it on holiday, found itself abandoned in a hotel on Rhodes when wildfires threatened the resort and this reader was forced to flee with only what she was standing up in. A forlorn message from Rhodes airport requested a replacement copy.
Happily for this family, all ended well and I was happy to replace the book free of charge. I think I can safely say this is the first time one of my titles has featured in a book burning, and I can say so with gratitude that I am free to make a joke about censorship where many others are not. A shout out here, from Norwich City of Sanctuary, for the wonderful work of PEN International and for all writers who find themselves unjustly silenced.
This incident also made me reflect on a theme in Lines and Shadows which is not directly addressed but is there between the lines, and that is the climate crisis. The book is set on a shoreline which has always been threatened by extreme weather and also looks at how the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction overshadowed the 1960s. Today we face another existential crisis and, as writers, we’re bound to address it in everything we do because it concerns humanity in everything we do. I wrote the book to entertain, of course, but I believe good entertainment can also make room for life’s big questions and I hope I have managed to do that too.