I attended my very first book release party on Tuesday. Not just any book release party, the book release party for my own book.
As well as food and drink, laughter and fun, books being signed and photos being taken, there are things that I learned.
1. Getting glammed up is fun.
I work from home as I write for a living. I don’t go out much because I’m a tired mum. When I do go out it’s usually for a curry. Getting glamorous isn’t my natural state, at least not anymore. When I was younger it was, but those days are long gone.
At 4PM, Miss Rose and I had appointments at the salon to get our hair done for the party so we could be at our most glamorous.
Miss Rose had requested Rainbow Hair so we went armed with a box of hair chalks and my goodness she looked incredible.
For me I simply said “I’m not glamorous… but I want to be!”
My head is not used to be primped at and pulled around so it was an odd experience but one that resulted in some gorgeous hair full of golden butterflies that Lilly Prospero herself would be proud of.
When I got home and did my make up, got the girls into their new dresses and me into mine, I actually felt pretty fabulous. I admired myself. I looked nice.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start making all this effort normally, leggings and slippers is something I am very comfortable with as a fashion choice, but every so often it’s fun to feel glamorous.
2. I am not a natural party animal.
In the build up to the party I was frantically busy. Media had to be alerted, food had to be chosen, decorations organised. There were meetings to meet at, interviews to conduct, invitations to send. The build up I felt quite natural at, I felt quite confident. Even on the day I felt alright, getting ready to leave was fun. But then it was actually time to go.
Driving my children and Jonathan McKinney to The Swan Hotel in Stafford, where the event was being held, was one of the worst driving experiences of my life. I was physically shaking. I felt sick. My eyes hurt, my head hurt. My hairdo felt too tight, my dress felt too restrictive, I struggled to breathe. I wanted to go home.
Most people headed to the most important party of their lives that they’ve been working so hard towards would feel like Jonathan McKinney felt; excited and happy. Me? No. I felt like I was dying.
Jon was calming and gentle. Focus on one thing at a time, he said. All I had to do at that moment was drive us to The Swan. It’s a drive I’d done loads of times, a drive I know really well. That was all that I was doing. Just focus on that.
3. Our products are bloody brilliant!
As we posed in front of our book covers, smiling as people snapped various pictures of us, I realised that actually these books are fantastic! People there were fans, people who’d read one or both books, and loved them enough to come and celebrate them with us and tell newbies all about them.
Our books looked good on the shelves around the room, the posters celebrating our books and quotes from inside looked brilliant. The Siren Stories mugs put out as gifts for the guests looked beautiful and the whole room was looking ready to do it’s job.
4. Our family are so very proud.
My parents, his parents, my grandparents, and his brother all came. Family showed up from miles away to support us. They were genuinely proud.
Jonathan McKinney and I both come from successful families. Our brothers are all in careers where people are able to go “wow” and “ooh” when our parents talk about their accomplishments. Until now we have been unpublished struggling writers, and none of that gives the required “ooh”.
It hasn’t stopped our families being proud, indeed my mum and dad have found reasons to brag about me my entire life, even when I’ve seen nothing there worth bragging about, they have always found something. And I’m a major screw up so they’ve had to be damn determined at times. But bless them, no matter what, they’ve always succeeded.
At this party I finally felt that their pride was justified. That my mum’s smiling face as she posed for photos with me was deserved. Sure, we’re not hugely successful yet and our debut novels are mostly unknown, but they’re there. We’ve achieved something huge. My mum can hold her head high now when people ask how I’m doing, and she can brag about more than my ability to eat an entire 15″ pizza alone in one sitting.
Our parents have published authors for children. They can be proud of us. And they are.
5. High heels are the invention of the devil.
I used to go out dancing in high heels until 4 in the morning. I used to wear high heels to work in an office. I used to wear high heels just for the fun of it because they’re so pretty. I own a collection of high heels so beautiful and sky scraping that Carrie Bradshaw would be proud.
I wore some comparatively low high heels to the party. Black, sparkly, gorgeous. They went perfectly with my dress.
One blister, one agonising ingrowing toenail, and one twisted ankle later I furiously removed the stupid things and stuffed them under a chair. Evil.
6. Working Mums are always on mum duty.
Miss Rose is usually asleep between 6 and 6.30 every night. She gets tired and she asks for bed. She thrives on routine and structure, her stories and sleep being an essential part of the day she looks forward to. She never asks to stay up late.
Adrenaline carried her far. We arrived at 6, the party started at 7. As things were set up she and Z charged around excitedly, posed for family photos, and played with the toys they had brought. As people arrived she was admired by strangers, cuddled by friends and family. She had been looking forward to this party for weeks, telling everyone she knew about it, and thrilled to finally be there.
At half past 8 she crashed and she crashed hard.
Grandma was deployed to step into the breach and get her home for a Grandma sleepover. But getting her out to the car involved her screaming hysterically, begging not leave me, and being carried out of the party so I could hold her in my lap and calm her down as she desperately sobbed and begged me to go with her.
Then there was Baby Boo. Throughout the evening I was stopping to give her cuddles and the occasional breastfeed, but she was, for the most part, remarkably contented being handed between her nanny and her grandma and various family and friends. She had photos, ate spring rolls, and generally loved every moment.
Then we went live on Facebook to announce the winner of a signed copy of Emily The Master Enchantress.
Then she started to scream.
If you check out the Siren Stories page and watch our video, you’ll hear Boo in the background, then witness me disappear as soon as Jonathan starts signing to book, and return moments later with a newly calmed Boo in my arms.
I spent most of the rest of the party sitting down, cradling her and feeding her. She had reached her limits too but, unlike Miss Rose, couldn’t be whisked away by Grandma.
7. Despite my fear, the party was a success.
As I looked around the room and snapped photos for social media, I realised something. Everyone was smiling.
Jonathan chatted to fans and friends with his trademark amiable smile, easy and engaging conversation, and generosity of spirit. Everywhere I looked there were smiles and enthusiasm.
The food was good, and it was eaten enthusiastically. The waiters carrying around drinks were friendly and charming, the drinks were delicious.
Everywhere I went people greeted me warmly, asked me to sign books and pose for photos. Nobody looked bored or like they wished they hadn’t come.
Proof reader Zoe was laughing her head off with her friends and taking selfies. Illustrator Sarah had managed to get there despite recent knee surgery and was drinking and chatting with a huge smile on her face. Friends were meeting for the first time and sharing thoughts on our books, bits that they liked most, parts that brought them to tears.
Despite my greatest fears, despite my head being full of fireworks of panic I was desperately trying to ignore, the party was a success.
8. I’m going to have to do it all again.
The releases of Lilly Prospero And The Mermaid’s Curse by me, and The Fundamental Miri Mnene by Jonathan McKinney will coincide again, and so forth will come another release party.
Will I be so nervous next time?
Let’s be honest, the likelihood is I’ll never get full used to this. My natural habitat is that of a hermit, locked up quietly in a room with a laptop, some jazz music playing quietly in the background, and a steaming cup of coffee at my side.
But perhaps somewhere beneath the fear of impending vomit will be the memory of the success of this party. The memory that fans, old and new, have wanted to gather to celebrate this occasion. The knowledge that the positivity we received has not gone away.
Next time will be another fabulous dress, another spread of delicious food, and another party full of books to be signed.
But for now I’ll ride high on the experience of last time, and put the fact I’ve got to go through it all again out of my mind. Because it was brilliant. And it’s not every day you get to attend a party celebrating your first novel.
I’ll never get a first book party again, I’ll never write a first novel again. So I’m glad this one happened with such a lovely evening to commemorate it.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!