Belfast Confidential: An Evening with James Ellroy

Sunday, August 30, 2009, 3:44 PM

The Demon Dog of American Literature, James Ellroy, is coming to Belfast to put the spotlight on his newest masterpiece, the incendiary BLOOD'S A ROVER. The event, organised by the redoubtable David Torrans of No Alibis, will take place at Belfast's beautiful Waterfront Hall on Saturday 7th of November. Tickets will be available from the Waterfront's box office as well as No Alibis, priced at £12.00.

I have reason to be doubly excited by Mr. Ellroy's visit: I'll be conducting the interview on stage with the Dog himself. I'm not only bug-eyed with joy, I'm also a little bit terrified. I pray the master of the hard word will be gentle with me.

This is a real coup for No Alibis, and Belfast in general, so if you're in town and have the slightest interest in literature, crime or otherwise, you should bag yourself a ticket right now. It's a unique opportunity to see one of the planet's literary giants up close and personal.

I tell you this: Ellroy will be the biggest thing to hit Belfast since Semtex. The Waterfront will tremble at his presence. Offence and outrage are guaranteed. Don't miss it.

Labels: , , ,

Catch a(n Amazon) Rising Star and Put it in You Pocket...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 10:21 PM

Now that Declan Burke has put the Crime Always Pays blog out to stud, someone has to come up with cheesy puns for blog titles. It might as well be me.

Anyway, it's been a while - just over three weeks, in fact - and a busy three weeks it has been. Most of my time has been taken up by finishing the sequel to THE TWELVE (a.k.a. THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), and giving it a very quick spit and polish before sending it to my agent, and a couple of critique angels. Now I am filled with dread, wondering what my agent Nat is going to think of it. Nat Sobel does not mince words, so I am bracing myself.

There has also been a rather splendid development, which I would like to illustrate with the following image:

THE TWELVE has been selected by Amazon UK's reading panel as one its eight Rising Stars for autumn 2009. Once every six months or so, Amazon chooses eight debut novels as part of the Rising Stars initiative to highlight new authors. I am delighted to be one of them. And there's more - at the end of the promotion, whichever book has the most good reviews will be deemed the winner! So, if you've read THE TWELVE, please do me a solid, and click here right now to see my Amazon page and submit your review. And as an extra favour, you could spread the word and encourage other people you know have read it to do the same. My book is the first to be featured, and the page includes a brief Q&A with yours truly.

In other news

More press reviews of THE TWELVE have been coming in, including the Sunday Tribune who said it was "A stunning first novel", while London Lite said it was "an unqualified triumph."

It may have escaped your attention, but the USA publication of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is fast creeping up. I've temporarily taken down the dedicated website for it with a view to revamping it in the coming days. I will have much more to say about that in the coming weeks, including getting all gushy and excited about the accompanying American tour where I will cross the entire continent just a few days, and meet lots of people I've been dying to meet for ages, including a certain Betsy Dornbusch, and hopefully Aerin Bender-Stone. Which is nice.

I'll make another blog post next week in which I will officially reveal a very poorly kept secret about an event in Belfast this coming November...

Labels: , , , , , , ,

A Busy Week: Interviews, Debates, Readings, Signings, Meetings and Tours

Monday, August 03, 2009, 10:19 PM

As per my previous post, I visited London last week for a few days. This was a spur-of-the-moment thing; I could have done the interview at the BBC World Service just as easily from Belfast, but I wanted to make the trip and do the interview in person, and meet some of the good folks who have been working on my behalf. I hadn't intended to cause a fuss, but all of a sudden meetings and dinners and office tours were being organised, and it turned into a very busy, but very worthwhile, trip.

At various dinners, office tours and visits to the pub, I met, amongst others, my editor Geoff Mulligan, my other editor Briony Everroad, Harvill Secker publishing director Liz Foley, my UK agent Caspian Dennis, my lovely and very patient publicist Kate Bland, and marketing director Roger Bratchell, as well as a host of other marketing, editorial and sales people far too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say that I was met with hospitality and warmth wherever I went.

I learned more about the publishing business over these three or four days than I have done in two or three years of following all the agent and editor blogs out there. Don't get me wrong - I still believe the wealth of information out there on the Internet is a key factor in my getting as far as I have. But actually meeting the people who are working on my book, finding out how they deal with the press and the retailers, how hard they have to strive to get me out there on the shelves and into the reviews - well, I have a whole new respect for what they do, and a whole lot more gratitude.

I'm a good example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing, and I have gone into publication expecting a fight. All those blogs out there tell us writers we have to be ready to push and push, and as a result, those of us lucky enough to make it over the transom might wind up on a strange combination of the offensive and the defensive. For example, and I shall confess a big lump of naivety here, after the brilliant review I received in The Observer, I felt a little let down when it wasn't immediately followed by a plethora of reviews in other publications. It wasn't until I met the good people at my publisher that I realised those reviews have to be fought tooth and nail for, that there are dozens and dozens of books duking it out for those precious column inches. Then I realised how incredibly fortunate I've been to get the reviews I've had; there are any number of authors who would gladly give a significant body part to get in depth reviews in both The Observer AND The Guardian. And I also now know how very lucky I am to have gotten so much shelf space in the chain stores, like Eason's and Waterstone's, not to mention the fabulous placement I've had in the airport branches of WH Smith's.

Another valuable lesson has been having realistic expectations in terms of sales for a debut trade paperback. I am told my sell-in is fantastic, enough to make many more established authors envious, and the sell-through is very good from early indications. But something I didn't know, and this may be UK specific and/or particular to the thriller/crime genre, but next year's mass market paperback release is where the real show is. This is where the publisher wants the sales, the hard numbers, and consequently this is where the marketing budget is focused.

Anyway, some photos:

(l-r) Geoff Mulligan (editor at large), Yours Truly, Liz Foley (HS publishing director), Caspian Dennis (my UK agent), Briony Everroad (editor)

And here is my publicist Kate Bland outside Foleys bookshop on Charing Cross Road, where she took me to sign books:

And finally, in this particulr branch of WH Smith's at Stansted Airport, I was #1! I was #15 in a couple of others, but let's just focus on this particular branch, shall we?:

One of the big surprises of the trip came when I went to the offices of the Abner Stein agency in Kensington to meet my UK co-agent Caspian Dennis. I had no earthly idea who else this agency represented, and my jaw must have made quite a noise when it hit the floor upon seeing some of the names. I won't mention them, but we're talking the biggest of the biggest of the big among contemporary authors, as in none more big, like mastadons of modern novelists. I am in quite extraordinary company there.

And finally...

There were a couple of interesting radio bits and pieces recently, and I have saved the audio for anyone interested. The first is the aforementioned BBC World Service interview, which can be listened to here at this link, complete with sound effects during the reading.

The second, and most interesting, was a debate that aired on BBC Radio Ulster just over a week ago on the Sunday Sequence programme, in which the presenter Robbie Meredith discussed the ethics and politics of The Twelve with journalists and authors Henry McDonald and Ruth Dudley Edwards. It's about ten minutes long, and well worth listening to by clicking here.

Labels: , , , , ,