The Backstreets of Purgatory is launched into orbit

Standing room only at Waterstones on Byres Road

Ok, there is perhaps a slight exaggeration in the title of this piece but it pretty much describes how I’m feeling. It’s Monday and life should be back to normal but I’m still floating somewhere above Cloud 9.

On Thursday 19th July The Backstreets of Purgatory had its official launch party at Waterstones on Byres Road in Glasgow.

Book launch poster

What a fantastic night. Even with the chaos engendered by a wholly predictable technological failure. (Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have left it until midnight the night before to check that the computer and the projector were compatible, and yes, perhaps I should have checked earlier that there were in fact power leads for said projector.) The problems could have been overcome because I’d had the foresight to put the Caravaggio presentation on-line so that the audience could check their phones as I spoke. Only I was so emotional and in a flap that I forgot to mention it. The day was saved, however, by my glamorous assistant holding up A3 prints of the slides and waving them in the audience’s face.

 

To be honest, I’m not sure how many people were listening to me anyway because there was Irn Bru, cake and Tunnocks Teacakes to be had. I know the draw of Tunnocks Teacakes. And cake. I am in no way offended.

Cake
The best cake ever

It was standing room only by the time I got started. It was an absolute joy for me to have an audience full of family and friends, and to meet some of the people I’ve only ever met on-line or spoken to on the phone. I still can’t believe how far some people travelled to be there. I can’t tell you how touched I was. And I was thrilled that Carlo from the University Café came along. The interview I did with him was one of my first blog posts here.

After the presentation on Caravaggio, I intended to do a reading from chapter 13, Judith and Holofernes. In keeping with the nature of the proceeding thus far, I discovered that I’d left my copy of The Backstreets of Purgatory in my room. Fortunately, there was a stack of copies for sale. (I put back the one I borrowed when I’d finished. Hopefully without trace of my sweaty shaking hands. Sometimes I think it is harder to do a presentation to a room full of friends than a room full of strangers.)

Slide11
Judith and Holofernes by Caravaggio

A great Q&A followed the reading. Laura Rorato from the University of Hull (who, unlike me, is a real Caravaggio expert) had some exceptional questions although I didn’t answer a couple of them I didn’t want to give away the ending of the novel. We’re going to do a more in-depth interview when we have the chance.

Waterstones Book launch pic
A fantastic receptive audience

The overwhelming feeling for me, from Thursday night and from the whole experience of publishing with Unbound, is the warmth and generosity surrounding the book which comes from all the amazing people who supported it. It is brilliant to know that The Backstreets of Purgatory already has a substantial readership because of Unbound’s model.  I hope that now that it is on general release, it will find some new readers too.

 

Image credits

Photos by Alastair Cunningham and Alistair Braidwood

Judith and Holofernes by Caravaggio from Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

The Backstreets of Purgatory in the sunshine

The special limited editions of The Backstreets of Purgatory have already reached some readers and it has been such a thrill to hear from people who are enjoying the novel. I love seeing it out in the real world. Here’s a selection of the photos that I’ve been sent over the last day or two. Looking good in the sunshine.

 

A few limited editions are still available from Unbound. The official publication date for the hardback is July 12th 2018. It will be available on Amazon and elsewhere. I must admit, I can hardly wait to see it in an actual bookshop. Sounds facile to say it but honestly, it is a dream come true.

Date for your diaries (if you are nearby): Thursday, July 19th, 7.30 pm at Waterstones on Byres Road in Glasgow. BOOK LAUNCH!! RSVP in the comments or via the contact form. The more the merrier!!

(Look, lots of exclamation marks. That’s because I’m just a tiny bit excited).

Launch Invite Final small

Tears for the Mack

Four years ago, I watched in horror the news stories reporting the fire at Glasgow School of Art. A few days ago, history repeated itself with a vengeance. After years of painstaking restoration, the Mackintosh building was due to re-open soon. But after the devastating fire of June 17th what little remains of this magnificent building is under threat of collapse or demolition.

Already, there are discussions all over social media and traditional media about the future of the building. Disagreement about its future because of the structural risk the gutted shell poses and the potential costs involved if rebuilding were to be considered. Arguments about whether there are better ways to use the money that it would cost. People are angry that this has happened again and are naturally seeking to apportion blame for this terrible event.

Watching the pictures of the burning building and the neighbouring buildings, it seems to me a miracle that no one was hurt or killed. After the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, we can at least be thankful for that. But while it cannot compare to that terrible, terrible event, this second fire in the Mackintosh building is a devastating blow for Glasgow. Considered by many to be Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the art nouveau building was a working art school, a landmark, a tourist attraction, part of the rich cultural heritage of Glasgow and a source of pride for the city. I know there will be many people with connections to the Mack who will be shedding tears for it.

The art school features in my novel, The Backstreets of Purgatory. I don’t want to make this post about the book but I do want to mention something that is bothering me, which may be trivial in the scheme of things but feels important to say nonetheless. The original version of the opening chapter was set in the Mackintosh building. After the fire in 2014, it took me a while to be able to rewrite it but, by the time I did, restoration was well under way and the future looked optimistic for the building. I had my main character make a throw away comment about the fire. He isn’t supposed to be the most sensitive of people but now his remarks seem even more crass and sad than I originally intended. Had I known, I would have written it differently.

But, of course, there was no way of knowing.

Art school window

At the moment, it is too early to predict what the future holds for the Mackintosh building. Who knows, perhaps we will hear the stonemasons and the carpenters working on it again. Perhaps the stunning iron work and the stained glass will be remade. Or perhaps, this time, the Mack will be gone for good. Either way, these are sad times for it.

 

Featured Image: The Mackintosh Building, Holly Hayes, flickr

Image: Classic Rennie Mackintosh, Ross G Strachan, flickr

 

Essential Media Tour Kit for Novelists

Whisky and flamingos

It’s rare that I use this blog to give advice to other writers but on this occasion I’m certain you will forgive my presumption. Are you about to go on a reading tour? Are you on the festival circuit? Do you simply like to be flamboyant from time to time? Yes? Then I counsel you to fix yourself up with a Novelist’s Media Tour Kit (like mine) (okay, maybe not exactly like mine because I’m pretty sure mine is unique).

I’d love to say the inspiration came from me but, as with most of my best work, it wasn’t my idea. When The Backstreets of Purgatory reached its funding target (two years ago already!) my friends assembled the essentials for a media trip (should such an event arise) so I would not flounder in debut novelist’s hell. Next week, I head to Unbound headquarters to sign the special editions of my novel before they are sent out to my supporters and all I can say is thank goodness, thank goodness, I’m well prepared for my venture.

Let’s take a look.

media-tour-kit-1.jpg

Of course, neither the tiara nor the flamingo pen Continue reading “Essential Media Tour Kit for Novelists”