Anyone for Launch?

I went to my second Book Launch, last week – and it was mine! I’d only been to one other and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but there seemed to be something missing from it. More on that in a bit.

When Sarwat Chadda (gentleman and all-round good egg) suggested – well, insisted – that I was going to have a Book Launch for Geekhood, I suddenly found myself doing a lot of head-scratching: the idea sounded like a good one, but what are these things actually for? As far as I was concerned, I’d had my cake and eaten it, in the form of getting a book published – so what was the real point to this? But I wasn’t given an awful lot of time to think about it, as Sarwat bundled me into Waterstones in the Plaza on Oxford Street to meet Ann, who’d held his Ash Mistry Launch. Within minutes, it was decided. I was having a Book Launch.

Cue more head-scratching. I started to think about what this was all about: I didn’t want it to be just an ego-polish for me; I’m fairly well-endowed in that department, anyway. So what was it for? And then it hit me: in getting this book together, I’m just the tip of a very large iceberg that extends beyond the publishers. Of course, without Stripes, it wouldn’t have achieved its coherency, style and the stonkingly super cover it’s got. On top of that, without Stripes, it wouldn’t have travelled across the country and made friends with Young Adults, like it did. But, on top of that, without my agent, it wouldn’t have been plonked on Stripes’ desk. And then there were the legions of bloggers and reviewers who’ve given up their time, for nothing, to trumpet its existence. Plus, as chance might have it, it was my Mum’s birthday.

Once I’d realised that this was a chance to thank everyone for their part in making Geekhood a reality, something else became clear: that missing element from the other Launch I’d been to: fun. I wanted this to be a fun event. I didn’t want to do a reading, as that would feel a bit indulgent and I didn’t want people standing around chewing on mushroom vol au vents – I wanted to have a giggle.

Luckily, Stripes are a bunch of children in grown-up clothes and they bounced with the idea as soon as it was mooted. They sorted out some FANTASTIC cakes and posters and general silliness. Chief Sillies were the Waterstones bunch; they really thought about the book and  roped in some guys from Games Workshop to come and run miniature-painting sessions and a LoTR RPG. Plus they issued a fancy-dress challenge to all-comers.

The stakes were pretty high and I had to at least match them. As a Geek, I was well aware of the work of the UK Garrison: a bunch of Star Wars Geeks who have movie-accurate costumes and are endorsed by Lucas Films to attend events on a charity basis. Basically, any money you give them goes to the charity of their choice. How cool is that? The Dark Lord of the Sith and his entourage were hired.

So, many emails and phone calls later, the Big Day arrived. I pitched up a couple of hours early to lend a hand but, within an hour of my ham-fisted attempts to display books, was told it might be better to have a cup of tea in the broom cupboard. Luckily, I was joined by Joe of the UK Garrison – a giant of a man who was to be Darth Vader for the night. Man, I thought I knew my Star Wars trivia; this guy had it going on in spades! (I didn’t know the model for Tantive 4 was actually bigger than the one for the Star Destroyer…)

And then Stripes turned up – Paul with his Alien Chestburster, Jane as Uhura, Chloe as Link from Zelda, Ruth as an Elf Archer… It all started getting a bit weird! When the two Stormtroopers turned up, I left them to change and went to put on my Hobbit outfit. By the time I came out, there were Geeks aplenty: Wolverine, Rorschach, ‘Kick Me’ Geekettes… more than I can remember. Faces I hadn’t seen for yonks suddenly appeared – a little greyer and with more lines – and faces I’d never seen before. And from that point on, it was like being on a merry-go-round: I signed stuff, chatted with folk, posed in photos, got strangled by Darth Vader, drew pictures, rolled dice – and all through this, there was a very humbling and genuine atmosphere of warmth and support; the kind you normally get at the end of a theatre show.

And then. The bit I’d been Dreading. The speeches. Now, as I’ve said before, I’ve done a bit of Showbiz in me time, stood on stage and churned out a bit of acting. But I’d rehearsed nothing. In a weird way, I didn’t want to – I wanted it all to be what I was thinking at the time. OK, I made a list of people to  thank – but that was it.

Anyone who’s done Showbiz with me knows just how nervous I can get. A few days earlier, I’d spoken to my son about it who, with all the wisdom of an eight year-old, told me that all I needed to say was: “Wel-come, Laydeez and Gennelmen! Let the party begin!” So, I started by telling that story, referencing him. And, as I did, there was a ripple in the crowd in front of me and my little lad came and sat at my feet, facing everyone. Like it was me and him. I don’t think my voice faltered, but there was a serious bit of cheek-biting going on and the threat of tears was very real. Luckily, humiliating my Mum by getting everyone to sing her Happy Birthday kind of pulled me back from the brink.

I got through the speech, bolstered by the feel of my son sitting on my foot. Perfect. Couldn’t have asked for anything more.

The feedback’s been brilliant. Apparently, we’ve raised the bar for Launch Parties and the word that keeps getting bandied around was the one I was hoping for: ‘fun.’

If you were there, you’ll know just how nuts it was – and you have my heartfelt thanks for coming. If you weren’t – I’m sorry you couldn’t get there – but let’s see what happens when we kick Geekhood 2 into the ether…


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