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The launch of When I Met You

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words how grateful I am to every single person who ventured out on Thursday night to Waterstones in Richmond to help me celebrate the launch of my fourth book ‘When I Met You.’

But given that I’m a writer, perhaps I should at least have a try? Words being what I do an’ all innit bruv.

Firstly, there are the obvious reasons. Wine had been bought, books had been ordered in, I’d been to the hairdressers for a hair ‘do’ (which I’d had a crisis of confidence about because I kept thinking I looked like Roy Orbison).

It would have been more than a tad awkward to be standing on my own in front of a mountain of books, making small talk with my agent and publisher while trying desperately to pretend the shop wasn’t empty. When the photo below was taken this was essentially the situation. Notice not only how ‘Roy’ the hair is but also how gritted the teeth are. I had arrived early at the book shop with my boyfriend, Ross, and my children and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t occur to me to send them out into the cold to drag total strangers in off the street. At this point the three of them made themselves scarce, browsing books, arranging glasses, basically anything to avoid the nervous maniac in the red dress.

But, fear of social embarrassment aside, the more poignant reason I am so grateful to people for coming, or for just posting links to Amazon, on Facebook, or twitter, or for buying/reading the book or just generally being supportive, is this. Writing a book is a wonderful thing. Like anything creative, the whole process is enormously satisfying. I love writing stories, and seeing them appear as actual physical books which people can pick up and read is incredibly rewarding and feels like an achievement. But, let’s face it, it’s a slightly weird thing to do too. Unlike other jobs, there’s no office to go to and no commute (this is actually great, as is the fact you can work in your pants should you feel like it. Often I do.)

Writing a book is a totally solitary activity and for a year or so you spend hours and hours creating en entire world and people who aren’t real but who seem completely real to you. If you hit a problem, or aren’t in the mood, there’s no one to have a natter with over a cuppa in the staff kitchen, no one who can help you solve plot problems as you go along, no one you can gossip about your characters with, who truly understands the contents of your by now distracted mind. In fact, until you have a finished draft of some sort that people can read it’s all just in your head. I think this is why so many writers love twitter. It’s the equivalent of a bit of office goss and a way to meet kindred, book obsessed spirits.

And then, one day, suddenly you do have a finished draft which you duly send to your agent and publisher and this stage is just terrifying really. What if they don’t like it?? Worse still, what if they hate it and all this time you’ve been thinking you’re on to something but you haven’t been at all? You get the gist. In a nutshell you become an annoying insecure wreck.

But, with a bit of luck they do like it and some months later, after the inevitable edits, you have an actual book and a date on which said book is going to make it’s debut into society. And because you are the book’s mother you are desperate for it to be liked and for it to be popular so that with a bit of luck you can go through the whole bizarre process again. So then you need to tell people about it because these days the shelves are very over crowded and it is increasingly difficult for your publisher to get it into any shops. My last book sold so many more copies as downloads than it did paperbacks and so word of mouth isn’t just important it’s vital.

So what then? Well, it’s down to you to spread the word and so a book launch is arranged and people are duly invited. But of course it’s January, no one’s drinking, the weather is more conducive to huddling under a duvet in a coat than going out. Can you imagine my angst?

And yet, I needn’t have worried because on Thursday there was the most amazing turn out and THAT is why I am so unbelievably grateful and touched and why your support means the world. It was great. People arrived, my heart rate returned to normal and it was a lovely, buzzy, fun night. Sadly I don’t have loads of photos as I was too busy slugging back the wine, chatting to people and ruining perfectly good books by scribbling my awful looking signature in them.

But here are the few I do have on my phone. This is one of my amazing agent, Madeleine Milburn, who said a few words and is such a joy to work with. I love her to bits. She be the best.

This is my brilliant editor, Sally Williamson, who also said some lovely things and who was there along with the rest of the Mira team. Thanks to Alison in particular for all her hard work and efforts in making the launch such a success.

Then this is the moment when I was given some beautiful flowers and when, just for a second, I felt, in a brilliant way, like I had just won a medal for ice skating.

And then it was my turn to speak and I think the following snap truly shows what a shy, retiring wall flower I am ?!

Then, this is my Dad, Michael, who us Forte’s like to refer to as ‘Mickey F’ and who got a special thanks because he was instrumental in helping me come up with the idea for this book. He’s an all round legend.

And as were loads of you, but like I say I only have a small selection of photos. But here are the ones I do have – here’s the beautiful Charlotte Woodward.

This is the moment my kids, Lily and Freddie, met Dick and Dom and forgave their mum for being a general stress head -

And these are my friends Flash and Matt. Flash is a rock star and lead singer in the band King Lizard. Because of him I have been to my first heavy metal gig and because of me he has been to his first women’s fiction book launch. This pleases me.

And lastly, here is me and Alessia Small, one of my oldest friends who was on top form and who looks bloody brilliant in her hat.

So that is a taste of what was a great night and now my book is out there, vying for attention, trying to make it’s merry way in this big, wide, book filled world. So huge thank you’s to the fab team at Cherish PR, to Sophie at Waterstones, to the amazing bloggers who have read and reviewed the book,to  authors such as Fionnula Kearney who support each other, Clic Sargent for the wonderful work they do, and to all the people who couldn’t make the launch due to life/work/ childcare/illness etc but who have said they will read it and spread the word. You’re all the best.

And here’s the link to When I Met You – a story I am immensely proud of and which I hope you enjoy with all my heart

Peace out. I’m off to start work on the next one….. Chaaaaaaaapter One

Jemma xxx

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