Technically, it’s still Winter. A minor technicality! But, in the book blogging world, it’s Spring! And that means one thing, the best thing – Spring Blogger Event! The annual get together for Team Books and The City at Simon & Schuster and their community of loyal bloggers. In a word, it’s exciting. In 3 words it’s cake, fizz and books!
This is my third time attending the Spring Blogger Event – and it’s my favourite book event of the year! This year, my lovely friend Kelly came with me again for the trip to London – she can’t come to the event itself, that’s strictly bloggers only, but she comes along to keep me company. We arrived in a wet and grey London just before lunchtime and made our way to Kings Cross to check in to our hotel. We then whizzed over to Leicester Square for a trip to the newly opened Lego Store (we have 5 kids between us, 4 boys so Lego is a high priority) and then to Chinatown for Lunch – well, it is Chinese New Year! (Note: Year of the Rooster, and I’ve just realised I’m a Rooster!)
Essentials out of the way, we headed back to the hotel for a coffee and to put our feet up for a few hours before the main event.
We arrived at 222 Grays Inn Road (home of Simon & Schuster) at 6pm and I reacquainted myself with the lovely Linda Hill as we were first to arrive! Bloggers slowly trickled in and I caught up with Emma and Julie and said “hi” to a few other familiar faces in the foyer before we were whisked upstairs for coffee and biscuits.
This year, SJ (Sara-Jade Virtue, Head of Special Sales at S&S and Project Manager for Books and the City) decided to confuse us all and switched the room layout around a bit which caused a lot of excitement! We all went in, were seated and were introduced to our 4 authors – Alice Peterson, Dani Atkins, Milly Johnson, Kate Furnivall – and Editor Jo Dickinson who was our compere for the evening.
The usual format for these evenings is that each author reads a chapter of their latest book in turn and the Editor asks questions relating to each book, followed by a general Q&A. Last night, it was different, and I LOVED the new format! Jo decided that each author should tell the audience 3 facts about themselves. Two had to be true and one was a lie – and we had to decide which was which!
They were as follows:
- Used to write erotic fiction before her career as a writer of Historical Fiction took off
- Once got swept out to sea with her young son in a small dinghy and had to be rescued by the RNLI
- Confronted a stranger for making lewd comments about her twin sister and her partner and was almost pushed in the river
- Once kissed Alan Rickman
- Once pretended to be a ghost for a wealthy American who paid her
- Has slept through 2 earthquakes – even while her children were being evacuated
- went missing in Copenhagen when she was 3 and the police were called to look for her
- Hates rollercoaster but has spent 5 months of her life at Disney World
- has seen a ghost cat (and it wasn’t Milly!)
- Once met Colin Firth in a lift and has named her dog Mr Darcy in his honour
- Met Bryan Adams and he was really dull and talked about juicing and raw vegetables
- Used to go to tennis with Tim Henman and he was her first real life crush
I won’t tell you which were fact and which were fiction as there’s no fun in that – you can guess! Feel free to tweet the authors and I’m sure they will reveal all!
Jo then asked the ladies a series of questions in conversation such as
- Where do they find ideas for characters? Kate finds her characters just appear like cast members waiting to be chosen, Alice likes to note down memorable things people say and uses any good quotes in her books. Her friends warn people when they meet her for the first time that she is a writer!
- How do you plot your books? Dani said she likens her writing to driving in the dark with no lights on (absolutely DO NOT do this). She said she knows her beginning and end and maybe a few key scenes when she starts but she just writes what appears in front of her. Milly used a similar analogy but with fog rather than darkness. None of the 4 ladies – all successful writers – plot! They wing it with style and very successfully! And save a fortune on post it notes, as Milly pointed out!
- Did you always want to be a writer? Alice wanted to be a tennis player, and was hugely successful, until injury forced her in to early retirement. She started to write about herself and her feelings as a form of therapy and was persuaded to send her work to an agent. Dani wrote and awful lot of awful stories (by her own admission) but one day she wrote “the one”. She knew it had to be read, and it was. Milly had a similar experience until she wrote about what she knew (which happened to be that her and two of her best mates got pregnant at the same time and were all “older mums” – hmmmm, that sounds familiar….), Kate wrote her mother’s story of fleeing Russia for China and knew that she wanted to tell the stories of people in History.
- As a writer, do you like Social Media? (In a room full of bloggers, it would not have been advisable to say no!) All 4 authors said they really enjoy the level of engagement social media gives and having contact with your readers. Milly said she feels it’s important to her as a writer to speak to your readers rather than just plugs for your latest book.
There were other questions and the answers were all really interesting. The main bit of advice was “if you want to write, write! Write 1000 words a day for 100 days and in 3 months, you’ve written a book. It doesn’t have to be the finished article, it doesn’t even need to be brilliant but just write it!” Milly, Dani and Alice then read extracts from their books.
Following the discussion, we left the room for the three things (0ther than books) that make book events with Team BATC special – Fizz, cupcakes and cocktails sausages! We then formed an orderly queue, collected our goody bags and met the authors where they had a chat with us all and signed our books.
After the event and back at the hotel room (following a McDonalds in bed, in my PJs with wine….classy!) I unpacked my goody bag – and squealed a lot! We all received a copy of Alice’s, Dani’s, Milly’s books along with chapter samples of Kate’s, Juliet’s and Sarah’s books. PLUS a copy of Paige Toon’s new book and copies of Patricia Scanlan’s, Helen Ellis’s and Catherine Bennetto’s books. AND we had a lip scrub, lip balm, pencil, notebook and some tissues! WHAT a goody bag that was!!!
I always enjoy the Spring Blogger event and I can not wait for the next one (I hope I’m invited back!!)
Alice Peterson’s book A Song for Tomorrow will be released on 9th Feb 2017
Dani Atkins’ book This Love will be released on 23rd March 2017
Milly Johnson’s book The Queen of Wishful Thinking will be released in hardback and eBook on 9th March and paperback on 4th May 2017
Kate Furnivall’s The Betrayal will be released later this year but her last book The Liberation came out in November 2016
Juliet Ashton’s The Woman at Number 24 comes out on 20th April 2017
Sarah Vaughan’s new book Anatomy of a Scandal will be released early 2018
Many thanks to SJ and all of her Team at Books and the City and Simon & Schuster for a fun, fizzy, frolicky evening!