My debut publication was not how I imagined it. I had been scheduled to talk on panels at the Bradford Literary Festival and Crime Fest and it felt like a real milestone to be speaking at these events, which I’d attended for years as a reader. It felt like a dream come true. I was inviting friends and family to my book launch and we were all getting excited. The book launch was an excuse to all come together and celebrate and I couldn’t wait.
But then it became blatantly clear that none of it was going to happen and I was going to have to cancel them all. The pandemic, which I’d been watching with mild horror since January, had hit Europe and was set to be the worst disaster the world had faced in decades. There was so much confusion and fear in those first few months of Lockdown.
It seemed like the worst time to be a debut author and to be published, but it hardly felt like I could complain, other people were so much worse off than me. I’d taken a career break from the police to pursue writing and if it didn’t work out I could always go back. Other people had taken a much bigger financial risk starting businesses and becoming self-employed. Businesses were going under and people were furloughed everywhere. UK was hit hard and every death was a tragedy.
My sister talked about a virtual book launch on 28th May but it seemed like a terrible idea. Writing a book suddenly didn’t seem that important or helpful in these dark times with everything we were all facing. I was used to being a police officer, helping people in moments of crisis, but now I was on a career break and on the side lines. I have friends who are paramedics and doctors and I wondered what I was doing. Shouldn’t I be helping, rather than sat safe in my house writing made up stories?
But I’d got it all wrong. It turns out that in these difficult times there is a place for books. They have helped us to escape, if only for a brief moment, and given us a brief break from the darkness surrounding us all. Lockdown has been hard, unprecedented is the word the politicians go to, and there is no manual on how to get through it. But caring for each other and our own wellbeing seem to be the only way forward. And books have their part to play, they have been a lifeline for me, a wonderful escape as they always have been when life has been hard.
My sister knew this and despite my despondent attitude she arranged a surprise virtual book launch on zoom for me anyway. And it was amazing to see all my friends and family on the screen all at once! We all raised a glass and celebrated the day and it was perhaps more special in a way, because despite everything we’d all come together to celebrate something. It taught me there are still moments of joy to be had, even now.
My brother-in-law made me a special cake and my husband bought me flowers for the first time ever! And I had a virtual zoom meeting with my agent, editor and publicist earlier in the day, so I was well in the swing of it by the time my sister set up the surprise zoom call with everyone.
The last few weeks since the 28th May have been insane, like nothing I’d ever imagined, even pre-pandemic times. Before I Say I Do has been reviewed in The Independent, The Sun, Heat, Bella and Woman’s Magazine! I never expected such widespread publicity, it’s been astounding.
People I haven’t spoken to in years have been messaging me about the book and it’s been wonderful to hear from them again and that they raced through the book and enjoyed it. Book bloggers reviews have been wonderful and hearing people so enthusiastic and touched by the book.
It seems that books do help, if they are nothing more than a distraction for a few hours, an escape into a different world. But I believe that they can give us hope and show us people facing challenges and overcoming them, something we can relate to more than ever now.
I have certainly been taking strength from books and from my friends and family. The pandemic has made me realise, more than ever, how lucky I am to have such amazing people around me and how incredible our communities are at coming together to support each other.
I hope a vaccine is just around the corner and it is incredible to think that people are working flat out to find it. And hopefully by the time my second book comes out I’ll have more of a traditional experience of being published, but I’ll never forget this first book launch, for all the good reasons and not just the pandemic.