On the Road

24 August 2013

I’m on the road in September and October at a string of events to promote my new book “The Inn at the Top” (out on 26 September). I always enjoy doing them – it’s not often that you get a chance to engage with the people who actually buy your books face to face – but some of the horror stories I hear from publicists in the publishing trade suggest that not all authors share my enthusiasm, while others turn into (or perhaps already are) egotistical monsters who make rock stars and their entourages look like models of decorum and politeness by comparison.

One friend, a publicist with an Australian publisher, both of whom had better remain anonymous, has a motto “It’s always the poets” and can cite chapter and verse to prove it. One poet, arriving in Australia all expenses paid for a Writers Festival on the usual early-morning “redeye” flight, arrived at his hotel, the Hilton, at 9:30 AM and was told – understandably enough at that time of day – that his room was not yet ready for him. ‘Well in that case,’ he said, ‘I’m just going to get changed right here,’ and he began stripping off in the middle of the hotel foyer. Only when he was down to his underpants did the long-suffering publicist manage to persuade him to at least move to the Gents to complete the operation. He then spent the next couple of days complaining about anything and everything: his room, the hotel, the food, the weather (probably the first British visitor to Australia ever to complain about that).

In addition to a solo appearance to read from his new book, his publishers had also arranged for him to take part in two panel discussions. The poet turned up for the first one but then spent the entire hour with his eyes closed and his head resting on his arms, and did not open his mouth to address a single word to anyone. At that point  the publicist said ‘Look, you’re obviously not enjoying this experience at all. Why don’t we just fly you back home, at our expense of course?’

‘But I don’t want to go home,’ he said.  ‘I want to stay.’

The publicist relented but the second panel discussion was no better than the first. But then, in a moment of inspiration, the publicist realised what was wrong: they just hadn’t been stroking his ego enough. The Chair for his next appearance was replaced by their most oleaginous performer, who introduced the poet with the words ‘Our guest this afternoon is a distinguished poet who has written 18 books. I have a confession to make: I’ve only read 17 of them so far, but I just can’t wait to read the new one.’ As the treacle continued to pour, the poet’s whole demeanour changed. A smile appeared, like sunshine after a rainstorm, and basking in the Chair’s synthetic adoration, the poet opened his mouth in public for the first time since he arrived, spoke to the audience and read some of his work.

Despite the publicist’s motto, however, it isn’t always the poets. One prominent British newspaper correspondent arrived in Australia to promote his new book at another Writers Festival and was so foul to the young woman appointed to be his publicist, that he’d reduced her to tears before they’d even left the airport. Her boyfriend was with her and in the most mild way possible he remonstrated with the great man, saying something like ‘there’s no need to be like that, she’s just trying to help.’

The great man then announced that he would not be leaving the airport at all until he’d had a personal apology from the boyfriend for his ‘insulting behaviour’. My reaction would have been to have said ‘Fine, have a nice flight home,’ and left him there, but since that would have left a hole in the Writers Festival’s schedule, the publicist’s boyfriend was persuaded to make a fulsome apology, albeit through gritted teeth, and the great man was then free to carry on to the Festival where he proved to be almost equally obnoxious to everybody else he met.

However… if you’re within range of Yorkshire in September or October and come along to one of my events, I hereby promise not to a) remove my clothes, b) close my eyes and lay my head on my arms or c) demand a public apology from you for any bad behaviour, real or imaginary… and if you ply me with enough alcohol I might even tell you who the poet and the “great man” are!

The Inn at the Top Events:

Thursday 12 September, 12 noon, Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch, Cairn Hotel, Harrogate, (Tickets/ details: 07731 690163 / mbrownevents@hotmail.com)

Thursday 26 September, 6.45pm,Waterstone’s York, (Tickets/details: www.waterstones.com / 01904 628740)

Friday 27 September, 7.30pm, Richmond Walking and Book Festival at Richmond School Sixth Form Centre, Darlington Road, Richmond, N Yorks, DL10 7BQ (Tickets/details: www.booksandboots.org 01748 824243)

Saturday 28 September, 12noon-2pm, Castlegate Books, 13 Market Place, Knaresborough, HG5 8AL, book signing, (Details: info@castlegatebooks.com  01423 862222)

Tuesday 8 October, 7.30pm, Morley Literature Festival, Gildersome Conservative Club, Street Lane, Gildersome, Morley, Leeds, LS27 7HX, (Tickets/details: Morley Library or Lesley Gettings on 0113 253 9763)

Wednesday October 9, 7.30pm, Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms, Ilkley, (Ilkley Literature Festival event). Includes “Delicious two course supper followed by tea and coffee”. (Tickets/details: Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms, Ilkley,  01943 608029)

Saturday 19 October, 10.30am, Ryedale Book Festival, The Milton Rooms Studio, Market Square, Malton, YO17 7LX (Tickets/details: www.ryedalebookfestival.com)

I’ll also be signing books at several Yorkshire branches of Waterstones, more details soon.