Just sign here …and your name is?
There was a time when a blank sheet of paper really scared me. I honestly believed I’d never be able to fill a sheet of A4 with words. But I had to try. In actually fact it took me a whole afternoon to write two hundred and fifty words on my old Underwood typewriter and not one sentence came from my imagination. Even so it gave me a terrible headache. What I had written was what I’ve heard so many beginners say when they’ve read their masterpieces out at our writers’ club in Crosby. “It was all true!” It’s as if they thought that what they had written was so incredible that those listening might believe it was rubbish.
It took a while for me to draw on my imagination and at first I only did so because I seemed to have been given permission by the editor of the magazine I was writing articles for at the time. It gave me an overwhelming sense of freedom not only to discover I could make things up and embroider factual events but that fiction has a heck of a lot of factual events weaved into a novel. Which is good because although my eldest son does some of my research, I used to do all of it myself in the beginning and even now I enjoy doing some as well.
It seems a long time ago now since I did my very first talk. I remember standing in front of a group of people with my heart beating like a drum and feeling weak at the knees. I had never talked much about myself and my writing and I was worried about boring those gazing up at me waiting to hear what I had to say. These days I’ve done enough talking to enjoy sharing my love of writing and how I came to write my books not to worry about my listeners getting fed up of the sound of my voice. Even when some fall asleep before my very eyes.
My very first signing session had a similar effect on me except my fear was that no one would turn up. I would be left sitting there at a table in a bookshop and the bookseller and the publisher’s rep would decide it was a waste of time to promote me as no one wanted to meet me or read my book. I do remember being absolutely thrilled when the rep picked me up at my front door to take me on a tour of several Liverpool bookshops and stores. Some booklovers of a similar age to myself or even those in their forties will remember Wilson’s bookshop on Renshaw Street and Philip, Son and Nephew’s in Whitechapel. Today’s supermarkets had nothing on those booklovers’ havens. They had such character and I grief their demise. Having said that when W.H. SMITH’S took over the old Cooper’s building on Church Street it was a great place to visit for any dedicated booklover. How I miss that building!
Although sometimes I would just go and sign stock in a back room, there were occasions when I also sat at a table near the entrance. Just before Mother’s Day one year. I’ll never forget a man coming and buying a book for his mother. He returned twenty minutes later and bought another for his mother-in-law, saying to me, “I’m making you rich.” If only he knew what percentage an author gets of the published price he would have done a double-take and realised I’d have to sell a heck of a lot of books to become rich.
I remember the arrival of Dillon’s on Bold Street, I recall sitting in a corner by the staircase waiting for someone to notice me and buy one of my books, not ask me where they would find Maps. Not long after Waterstone’s made an appearance further up Bold Street, except it had pillars either side of the entrance.
In those days I remember even signing books in newsagents, one being in Central station’s precinct and another in Crosby village.
My nearest bookshop is in Crosby, for those that don’t know the village it is about 5 miles from Liverpool to the north. I have spent many a happy hour in Steve Pritchard’s bookshop there. In the beginning way back in the 1990s the Crosby Herald used to print a BOOKSHELF compiling the top ten best selling books in Crosby. I still have the cuttings when my earlier books were at number one.
Steve also had another shop and that was in Formby village a bit further north, nearer the coast. I remember my first visit to that Pritchard’s where Tony Higginson was the manager and how warmly I was welcomed. I have a photograph of me sitting outside in front of a window display of FLOWERS ON THE MERSEY. Tony still gives me a warm welcome, although Pritchard’s in Formby has gone and Tony is now the owner of Formby Books situated in The Cloisters, near Marks & Spencer’s.
This Saturday I will be visiting both Pritchard’s, Crosby, and Formby Books. Between 11-12 I will be at Formby Books signing copies of A MOTHER’S DUTY and at 1-2pm I will be at Pritchard’s in Crosby. Do come and say hello if you can. Love June.