If it’s Saturday this must be Southport

6 November 2018 Stephanie

It may be the closest I come to feeling like a rock star (or a beat poet), but the autumn of 2018 has seen me ‘on the road’ with Bone Lines and it has been a remarkable experience. My home is in a state of chaos and neglect, my suitcase is merely refreshed rather than unpacked and I am properly frazzled – but I wouldn’t change a thing. From launch parties to panel events to literary festivals to book signings, I have been out there living my best ‘middle-aged author’ life.

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It began with a whole herd of Unbound authors taking over Waterstones in Nottingham on National Bookshop Day (even making a mention in the i-newspaper). This seemed to segue into my launch party in London – which was memorable for many reasons (not least a double booked quiz night in the bar below competing for attention) and I *think* I really enjoyed the whole shebang but I’m not sure I remember too much of it! I do know, however, that there was a truly spectacular cake and many truly special friends.

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All this, while still doing the day job (one design festival attended, one brochure and three case studies written, multiple responses to press requests and a set of yearly accounts submitted). However it seems I had also paid a deposit on an autumnal virus and with perfect timing I came down with the obligatory lurgy. I nursed myself back to health in gorgeous Cornwall, where I also managed to sign some copies of Bone Lines for the St Ives Bookseller, The Edge of the World bookshop in Penzance and the Roundhouse Gallery in Sennen. And, oh yeah, I squeezed in a radio interview with local community station, Coast FM. (As soon as I figure out how to edit and transfer the recording I will post that up here.)

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From Cornwall it was straight up to Bristol for a gig at the literature festival and the proverbial stroll down memory lane (in which I dragged my poor partner along the well beaten paths of my uni days, with, of course, a few watering holes as rest stops). This was a particularly enjoyable sojourn as I was taking part with six other Unbound authors in an event at the fabulous Arnolfini. This renowned arts centre had been a fixture of my university life in the city, and while studying for a degree in Drama I would dream of the creative turns my life might take, as I wondered around its glorious bookshop to see what purchases my student purse might stretch to. And now, there was my own humble effort sitting proudly on a table at the entrance of said same bookshop.

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It was back from Bristol just-in-time for the first stop of the Courageous Women,  Unusual Stories mini tour of North London (which I have put together with – yes, we do like to network – three other Unbound authors) which kicked off at Waterstone’s, Crouch End. A fantastic audience turned this into a brilliant evening, not least for catching up with some former PR colleagues who live in the area and came to cheer me along.

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A quick load of laundry, a few clean items in the suitcase and it was off to Southport, the seaside town where I spent my formative teenage years and discovered my Lancastrian roots. This really was the definition of a nostalgia trip as I managed to catch up with family and old school friends who I had not seen for nearly 40 years. Tissues at the ready and a whole load of Fisherman’s Friends for a voice hoarse from all the chatter and laughter.

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The wondrous Broadhurst’s of Southport, a venerable institution and a magical bookshop (do visit if you ever get the chance, it’s like something out of a film set), went all out for me, putting on the kind of heart-soaring display in the window that brings a debut author to tears of joy. The team there made me feel so welcome. Booksellers are a very special breed. Like librarians, they are among our true national treasures. Fortunately the shop was thrilled with the turnout – even if it was 80% aforementioned family and friends, but it was an unforgettable day for me. Especially as I recall strolling under the elegant Victorian arcades of Lord Street as a teenager wondering what my future would hold – and there I was on a much delayed return trip, signing my debut novel. Life can be as sweet as a stick of Southport rock sometimes.

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