He was surrounded by admirers, as is his right, and regaling them with a tale. As I approached I heard him say the line:
“But nobody could believe she had ignored the obsequies of a Duchess!”
It was clearly the punch line to some joke or anecdote, though one pitched at a frequency so high and wild that, to my ears, it might as well have been a dog whistle.
I chuckled for a while at having heard Julian Fellowes say such a Julian Fellowes like thing – what were the chances of that happening? But on reflection I think that he probably just talks like that all the time. He probably mentions Duchesses and obsequies about as often as I talk about telly or football.
It was certainly a high point in what was a baffling morning. As for my reading at the festival – well, basically, it never happened. I turned up at the appointed time to find the café completely empty, except for the staff and for lovely Liz Harris who was the author due to appear after me. Basically the event hadn’t been included in the programme – so the publicity was limited to say the least. It was on the website and there was a poster on the café door – still, if the aim had been to keep it top secret so that nobody knew about it, then it was a roaring success.
Liz and I sat and nursed coffees in the silent venue through my slot and hers – when finally one or two people did filter through the doors they had come not to hear us read or talk about writing – but just to get a cup of coffee. We know this because we asked them – well, Liz did. “No,” they said. “We’re not here for the authors – we’re here for some cake.”
So it would have been a disaster, except for the fact that Liz and I got on like a house on fire and had a good old chat. One of the things we talked about was other disastrous reading events we’d done in the past. Tellingly, this one was not the worst experience for either of us. And that’s a thought would be authors ought to mull over as they seek publication. It’s not all champagne launches and glittering prizes. No – it’s empty venues and lumping unsold books back to the car.
After our non-reading at the café we wandered over to the author’s room at the theatre in Chipping Norton – which is a beautiful little town you should visit if you get chance. There we consumed brownies with other authors and agents and so on who were lovely and might well have been very important people, except that I’m too much of a rube to know. And after that I drove home through a spring day in the Cotswolds with scenery so idyllic it was like the Centre Parcs brochure for heaven.
So there we have it in a nutshell – a day in the life of a first time literary novelist. And, you know what, bizarre as it may seem, I quite enjoyed it.
Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God. You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.