It’s funny when a dream comes true; it doesn’t feel quite like you thought it might. The day of your debut novel publication is a bit like the last day of school or any other day that’s been hyped up to the max, in that when it arrives, you’re not quite sure what to do. I had a lot of lovely messages from friends, a nice call from my editor, and I caught a train to London and wanted to say to everyone ‘I wrote a book! You can buy it on Amazon!’ Shortly before I went to bed that night, my editor sent me a text to say that Missing Pieces was in the top 500 on Kindle. It was more than I’d hoped for.
The day after publication was better, for me. I was in London, and Paul and the kids were at home, which meant I got to have a lie-in, that most rare of treats for mothers. And when I got up, I went into Soho and headed for my publishers’ new offices. I met a dog. I saw my book on display in the reception area. I hung out for a while with the team who’ve brought Missing Pieces to life – Kate, my editor, Sam, assistant publisher, old intern Lucy and new intern Olly (who’d only joined that week but was already doing a fabulous job by taking his copy of the book along to a Rolling Stones gig and filming it). They’d bought me chocolate, and they gave me a finished copy of the book – my two favourite things.
Kate and I went out for lunch. We ate hake and drank wine and talked about how the book was doing and how edits on the next book were going and many other things. The sun was shining and Soho was bustling and I’d achieved my life ambition, after many, many years of trying.
The day after that was the party. Paul and I had hired an upstairs room in a Soho pub, and I met him nearby and we bought trays of cupcakes which we decorated with rice paper circles featuring the cover of Missing Pieces. I met Lia and Becky, two fellow writers who I met on Twitter and who I talk to every single day but had never met in person before. There were others, too. Women I’ve gathered online during this strange journey I’ve been on in the past couple of years. Who’ve supported me. It was an honour to put faces to those names.
Over the course of five hours, I talked to people I worked with years ago, people I went to school with, people I lived with at university, people I met in baby classes. One friend came despite it being her daughter’s first birthday. I ordered a salad for lunch and carried it from table to table for three hours, until it was cleared away, unfinished. People bought books and I signed them. Kate stood up and said some nice things about me that I can’t remember because I was preparing to do a reading, and then I did a reading, and had to try hard to hold myself together. Not only because the part I read aloud is sad, but also because I’d worked hard for this moment, and dreamed of it, and it was so important to me.
And all of a sudden, people were leaving and I’d barely spoken to them. It was like a wedding or a big birthday party in that way. Some people had travelled a long way, and I didn’t feel like I’d spent enough time with them. But it was time to go. I had dinner plans. I spent the evening sat at a table with three friends I know from school, who I also talk to every day, about everything from our children to our careers to our memories of our shared adolescence. One member of the group couldn’t be there, but she sent money for a round of cocktails. I ate a burger and a brownie and we talked non-stop. I was happy.
The next morning, Paul and I got a train to his parents’ home to pick up the children. We’d Facetimed them from the party the day before and Joseph had said ‘What are you doing again? Getting married?’ I hadn’t seen them for three days, and I breathed them in. And then they stripped off and ran through a water sprinkler with their cousins, and shrieked, and everything was back to normal. Except that I was an author now.