Friday, August 30, 2019

You Know What I Did Last Summer

by Abir

This year, summer for me began on the 24thof May, when I handed in the final edits for the fourth book in the Wyndham and Banerjee series, DEATH IN THE EAST. Looking at my calendar, I can’t believe how much has happened in the intervening months.

Kiev - of course I tried the chicken
June was a month of book events, starting with the Arsenal Book Festival in Kiev, where the Ukrainian version of my novel A NECESSARY EVIL was being launched. 

Kiev was a revelation. The city and its people were far more European in their outlook than I’d expected, and the welcome was wonderful. Being an ethnic minority, I’m often slightly nervous about venturing into new places which aren’t maybe quite as open and accepting as the UK, but I was amazed at how friendly everyone was: not just at the festival, but in bars and restaurants and on the streets too. I even got to appear on Ukrainian TV to talk about my books.

The make up lady - got her work cut out for her
I'm told these two are the Ukranian Oprah

Since my books started being published a few years ago, one of the most wonderful things has been the amount of travel I’ve done to places I’d not otherwise have had the chance to visit. Growing up during the tail end of the Cold War, the thought that I might one day be sitting in Kiev, on the banks of the Dnieper river, drinking Georgian wine with the wonderful locals, was almost unimaginable. And yet, thanks to writing (and a wee change in global politics), there I was. 

Wife takes a photo of yet another church

As usual though, even at the best of times, I can still manage to mess things up. When agreeing to do the Kiev festival, I hadn’t realised that I’d also agreed to do a talk in Aberdeen, Scotland, essentially 20 hours after the end of my last event in Ukraine. I wasn’t about to cancel, so instead I had to find a way to get from Kiev to Aberdeen in time for my talk there. This involved a train in the middle of the night, two flights (from Kiev to Munich, then Munich to Edinburgh) and hiring a car for the last 100 mile drive from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. I’m happy to say I made it with almost an hour to spare, did the talk, went back to my hotel, collapsed onto the bed and slept the best (and longest) sleep I’ve had in years.

Aberdeen wasn't quite as sunny as Kiev

A week later, I was back on the festival trail, up to Bradford in the north of England for the Bradford Literature Festival. Bradford is a strange place – once, on the back of the textike industry, it was one of the richest cities in the world. Now, as the work moved to cheaper locations around the globe, it’s fallen on hard times. It’s also a very diverse city, with almost half its population being of ethnic minority origin. As a result of the relatively high degree of poverty in the city, ethnic tensions can run high. Yet the book festival is one of the most interesting in the UK, bringing a really diverse gathering of authors, artists, politicians and other speakers from around the globe. And the food was brilliant too!

The final highlight of June was an invite to the Houses of Parliament for the publication of an all-party report into authors’ earnings. The report made for grim reading. Authors in the UK on average now earn less than minimum wage solely from writing. While it’s always been tough to make a living from writing, things are getting worse. I wish I could tell you that the committee came up with some recommendations to improve things, but in my opinion, there was very little in there of practical benefit. Given the dog’s breakfast our MPs have been making of Brexit though, it’s not really much of a surprise that their haplessness extends to things like authors’ incomes too. Still, the bars at the Houses of Parliament are brilliant, and the drink was free, and I drank….a lot.

July saw the UK paperback launch of my third book, SMOKE AND ASHES, and I was thrilled to see it chosen by Waterstones (the UK equivalent of Barnes and Noble) as their Thriller of the Month. This meant the book was featured in window displays and front tables across every branch of Waterstones in the land. 

It was wonderful to see and I spent a lot of time touring the country and going into branches with cakes to say thank you to all the staff. Since the launch of my first book in 2016, Waterstones have been wonderful to me. I might not have a career in writing if it weren’t for their brilliant booksellers.

Much of July was also spent on media opportunities. My friend and fellow author Vaseem Khan and I are launching a podcast from next month, called the Red Hot Chilli Writers. It’s recorded in my mum’s kitchen and features guest celebrities, reviews, rants and good news. It also has regular appearances from some of our friends…and also my mum. July was spent recording some of the interviews and the first few episodes. I’ll update you all when it goes live next week, so please, tune in!

August has been a month of change. For the first time in fifteen years, my wife, kids and I moved house. We moved out of London to lovely, leafy Surrey. Coming from working class Glasgow, moving to a genteel, middle class English town has been a big change for me – I feel as though I’m selling out - but I have to admit, I’m enjoying it!

Now, with September almost upon us, and the kids going back to school next week (thank the Lord!), I’m looking forward to a bit of normality. I spent much of whatever free time I had over the summer, ruminating over plot ideas for my next book, and earlier this week, I finally put pen to paper. I’m going to try and have a first draft done by January, but that’s going to be tough, given that November will see me on the road for two or three weeks around the time of the launch of Death in the East, but as usual, I’ll tell my editor that I’ll hand it in on time, and then completely miss my deadline and panic. So normal service will be resumed!


Brenda Chapman said...

That's quite the summer Abir - congrats on all your success!

Susan C Shea said...

Boy, when you decide to become An Author, you do it right! And isn't Waterstone's wonderful? In London, I not only bought books - do writers ever exit a bookstore without them? - but got one of their tony bags with the gold embossed seals.

Abir said...

Cheers Brenda!
That's very kind of you!
Abir x

Abir said...

Thanks Susan!
Waterstones are amazing! I love them!
Abir x