My Long Hot Summer

PUBLISHED 2012

Road trip

“What happens on a book tour?” is a question an author often hears

A book tour is very hard work – especially if your are going round the world with only two suitcases and need to look your best – all the time. You get up around 5am for breakfast TV appearances, then rush on to radio, lunch in some grand restaurant with a top journalist who may well be critical, then on to the afternoon TV shows and the early evening ones. In there are no late shows, then around 7pm, you start the next leg of your journey.

Before a tour, you prepare your tour wardrobe, get your hair done and have a meeting in your publisher’s conference room where everyone agrees the six most obvious questions that you will be asked. These questions are NEVER asked, but the same three questions a day come at you all day and the smart thing to do is to give different answers each time, if only to keep yourself awake.

However, you do meet fascinating people, such as interviewer, Oprah Winfrey.

In 2012 I had a breathless summer, organized by Jaz, my publicist at Canongate, which republished LACE, a novel about sex from a girl’s point of view, that I wrote 30 years ago. Jaz was considerate of my great age (80) and thoughtfully provided cars everywhere. As well as being interviewed by the media, I did three, one-hour stand-ups, in question-and-answer form with the audience and to my surprise I enjoyed them immensely.

The first of the on-stage standups was hosted by Lauren Laverne, someone I admired as a radio host and TV anchor. Lauren is as funny as she is beautiful and thoughtful. She very kindly lent me her makeup lady, so I wore false eyelashes for the first time since the ‘Sixties’. Then we also wore false hair, white makeup, pale pink lipstick, flat boots and shoes instead of heels, waistless dresses by Mary Quant or Biba and tights – newly invented – which meant we could fling away a horrible elastic garment called a girdle, which held your stockings up and your stomach in; you bulged over the top and bottom of this updated chastity belt, so your thighs looked the size of Wales.

Lauren Laverne introduced me by email to Caitlin Moran, who wrote non-fiction, book of the year: “How to Be A Woman.”

At my next stand-up, I met the very funny Clare Balding who kept a big live audience roaring with laughter for over an hour at the Shoreditch House Literary Salon, hosted by the witty and urbane Damian Barr.

The third stand-up was Girls Night Out at The Wimbledon Bookfest, with an old friend, Penny Vincenzi, who also talked about her enjoyable blockbuster.

“Old Sins” was re-published by Arrow. Penny spent quite a bit of her year to date doing research in Paris and the South of France, then she went to New York for more research. Well, someone has to do it.

Penny never knows what’s going to happen when she’s writing a book. In my novels I need to know EVERYTHING, even what everybody’s wearing. I spend happy hours constructing time/action charts that look like a railway timetable, so that I know everything that’s going to happen, and when. How very different from my own life.

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