Didn’t I have a lov-er-ly time…

Another to add to my list of fab festivals I have worked for. Had a great time at the Buckingham Literary Festival last weekend, interviewing three top bestsellers. First up on Friday night a packed audience were enthralled by the mega-successful crime king Peter James with whom I always have a laugh; and then the next morning  I “did” the wonderful  Clare Mackintosh and Louise Doughty –  who both went down a storm. I also had the pleasure of meeting Sir Anthony Seldon – what an inspirational chap he is. I loved Buckingham – never been before and it is the most gorgeous place. One for the calendar next year…

   

 

Just Jane: tribute to Carole Blake

carole-blog-post-medIn the absence of a Gazette column to post this week, I thought I’d share a Woman’s Weekly piece I wrote back in 2013. In memory of, and with love to, Carole Blake, who died so suddenly on 25th October and is missed by so many of us.

It made me sad to re-read it but it is also a happy memory of a great evening with Carole – to go with many more of some fab times. Here’s raising a glass!

The article reads…

Would someone please tell me where this year has gone? One moment we were all moaning about how winter was dragging and the daffodils were late, we sneezed and it was summer for a day or two, then I got distracted and found it was October and now suddenly everyone’s using the C word and preparing to take the tinsel out of the loft.

Time flies as you get older, they say. And it’s not only ten months that can pass in the blink of an eye. Three weeks ago I had the privilege of rolling up to top literary agent Carole Blake’s party held to celebrate her astonishing fifty years in publishing.

Astonishing because Carole looks far too youthful to have been at it that long – they clearly started ‘em young in those days – and surprising for me too, to realise that I first met her, screwing up all my courage to speak, when I was a wannabe novelist back in 1998. Which means I’ve been knocking around the book world fifteen years myself and I don’t know where that has gone either.

I arrived at the bash with Katie Fforde and a wild look in my eye.

We had flown back from France for the event – I’d been teaching at the fab Chez Castillon (Google it now!) and Katie had been working away at her 21st novel (she, too, has been going a while) – on a journey which was punctuated by minor crises, mostly of my doing. These began when I left my mobile on the floor at Bordeaux airport while trying to stuff my handbag into Katie’s suitcase (that one item of baggage rule has a lot to answer for) and went downhill from there.

“J’ai perdu mon telephone,” I stuttered frantically to the couple sitting where I’d last seen it. “Avez-vous seen it? S’iI vous plait.”

“Never mind all that, love,” said the husband. “Try the information desk.” Mercifully it had been handed in by some wonderfully honest being, and after a small panic over where Katie’s passport was and me leading us purposefully to the wrong gate, we arrived in Gatwick intact but with not much time to spare.

Katie’s face was a picture, therefore, when at passport control, she whizzed through and I got the cheery chap who fancied a chat. While I explained why I’d gone to France, why I was coming back, whose party it was and why I didn’t look at all like my passport photograph (it was taken nine years ago, mate!), I could see her expression ten metres away, frozen in horror, convinced I was about to be led away and we’d miss the revelry after all.

I’ll spare you the sagas of the taxis, my blisters and the curious incident of the laddered tights, but eventually we got there to find Carole, her usual cool, glamorous self, in a room brimming with warmth and affection.

The fizz flowed, the speeches were heartfelt. Fellow agent, the beautiful Isobel Dixon, recalled her interview at Blake Friedmann 18 years ago when she was offered a glass of wine and wondered if it was a test. I would say it probably was and she passed it by having the second glass – she’s been working with Carole ever since.

Colleague Conrad Williams told how he had learned from Carole’s example, the “centrality of lunch” and the bestselling crime writer Peter James, hailed by Conrad as the “Uber Client”, stated quite simply that he adored her.

Carole said she’d promised herself she wouldn’t cry – by that time I was fumbling for a tissue myself. And looking round the packed room I went on my own little trip down memory lane.

There was the agent who wrote that she hated my first novel so much she couldn’t even encourage me, and the other poor chap I practically stalked while trying to flog it anyway. The smiling one-time boss of the publishers who eventually gave me a deal; the authors I was once so shyly in awe of – now my friends. The big book-seller who was so kind to me when I was newly in print and the editors I’ve only ever known by email – now here in the flesh. Looking at the guest list later there were more names from the past I sadly didn’t spot among the 300-strong crowd, all there to raise a glass or three to a long-serving pro. I need her to have another gathering when she’s been doing books for the full sixty.

The next morning Katie and I were back on the plane to Chez Castillon a little jaded but very glad we’d made the trip, and four days after that I flew home. The napkin that came with my complimentary salty things bore the maxim: “Time flies but you are the pilot.” I think we can safely say Carole Blake has earned her wings.

***

The Ab Fab ChipLitFest :-)

Well what a lov-er-ley time I had at this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival – a treat indeed. You would never believe the festival is only in its second year from its big-name line up and terrific organisation but it is and I’ve been lucky enough to be there for both of them. This time I had the enormous pleasure and privilege of being “in conversation with”  the super-best-selling Peter James on Saturday, who talked about his forthcoming Dead Man’s Time  (I got to read a review copy – bloody brilliant!)  fascinated us all with his police tales and amused greatly with his unique revenge tactics on Martin Amis (ha ha!). Peter is a dream to interview!

Jane and Peter Chip Lit 2013 small

(Thanks Liz Fenwick for the photo of us at the Crown and Cushion!)

As is the gorgeous and delightful Fern Britton. I met her for about a minute before we started our event around her latest entertaining novel The Holiday Home but she was as warm and relaxed as if we were old friends. What a totally lovely, natural and generous lady. The audience adored her and so did I. She had some hilarious stories too… (Was Chipping Norton ready for the word c*ck?  Certainly seemed to be…. :-)) We all laughed lots.

Fern and Jane

Thanks Jan Harvey for taking this one

So put next year’s dates in your diary now. Chipping Norton Lit Fest 2014 runs from 24th – 27th April and I’m excited already….

Guildford Day Two

The end of the second day of Guildford Book Festival and tonight was Peter James and Ann Cleeves. Fab interviewees both – and both with great news to share. Ann has been inducted into the Crime Writers Association Hall of Fame (I’m not entirely sure what this involves but I am deeply impressed) and Peter has knocked Fifty Shades off the top of the Bestsellers List. Respect!  Peter is,  of course, extremely shy and retiring (ho de ho) but I managed to coax a few anecdotes out of him. I’d never met Ann before but thought she was really lovely – how could she not be having created DI Vera Stanhope (a new series being filmed right now folks! If you love Brenda Blethyn – I do – don’t miss it). And that’s all I can muster right now cos it’s been a long day and tomorrow I’m off to HMP Send (not permanently).

But lots more to come at Guildford – On Monday I interview Judy Finnigan, Kay Burley and Jenny Eclair. Tuesday brings David Nobbs  – hilarious creator of Reggie Perrin. Do roll up if you possibly can.
xx till then

PS yes I did learn where I’ve been going wrong on the Victoria Sponge front with lovely Rachel Allen and Jim N was most entertaining…

PPS Photo courtesy of Morgen (thanks Love!!! :-))

And off to Guildford….

It’s begun – I am here in my Guildford for my annual stint in the interviewing chair and. as always, thrilled at the prospect. Last night was the launch do at the fab Radisson Hotel where I did an “in conversation with Kay Burley“, the country’s longest-serving news anchor – she’s been with Sky News since the start – who’s great fun.  (Her books are too – I’m going to be discussing those with her on Monday!). The audience loved her. I love seeing her too and getting the gossip! 🙂 I do hope she publishes a scandalous diary when she’s in her dotage…
Today I am off to the Electric Theatre to talk to Rachel Allen about her new book CAKE (I am hoping to finally learn how to turn out a sponge that is not either flat or lopsided) and this evening I get to introduce James Naughtie who will be talking about The New Elizabethans. I am addicted to Radio Four so this is an honour indeed. I’ll let you know how sexy he is later…
Guildford Book Festival is wonderful (potential sponsors please note!). It boasts terrific venues, big names, truly great writers. And deserves wider fame. If you are anywhere within striking distance, get yourselves along. And come and say hello if you do! Mad dash now but further bulletins in due course….

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑