So I’m back. Did you miss me whilst my high-flying, globetrotting job took me to the financial capital of Germany for four glorious days? (Well, three sunshiny days and one rainy one – but, as a German bookseller with whom I shared a taxi said very sternly when I commented, ‘It vas advertised!’) I may have had to wait for several hours for my hotel room, but when I finally got in, it was huge: acres of glorious space I am quite sure I would have hugely enjoyed, had I not been leaving it at 8.30 every morning and staggering back in way past midnight after doing my social duty on behalf of my Beloved Authors. It was a bit of a shame about the black and white television, where the only English-language station turned out to be Euronews, a rather old-fashioned station whose idea of ‘rolling news’ is to run the same seven stories, over and over and over . . . nothing else, no special reports, no weather, just those same seven reports . . . I felt like I was trapped in a 1950s SF novel.
But that was okay, really, because I wasn’t there to find out what was going on in the real world; my task was to find out what was going on in the book world, which, frankly, is a lot more interesting.
One of the high points of the week – and I know this because it was one of Wednesday’s seven stories – was Arnold Schwarzenegger visiting the Frankfurt Book Fair to launch his new autobiography. Wayne Davies, one of Quercus’ founders, actually saw him, close-up, and was understandably excited; I got to bask in that reflected glory, because all I actually got to see myself was the motor cavalcade, which comprised mostly entourage and police, and lots of flashing lights, en route between Hall Eight (and the Quercus/Jo Fletcher Books/Maclehose Press/Heron Books stand) and the Agents’ Centre in Hall 6. Still, it was more than the rolling news people got, as they just had a cut-out picture of Arnie to illustrate their piece.
The other high point was meeting my very first German author for the first time – for, Beloved Readers, I am delighted to tell you that I have inveigled German fantasy superstar Markus Heitz to join JFB – and that is very exciting news! (Bad news for you: you’ll have to wait a few months for me to translate the first of the Aelfar books, but it will happen . . .) Because it was a special occasion I forewent the usual Book Fair cuisine of sausage-inna-bun and instead went with Markus and his UK agent Tanja Howarth to the Opera House Restaurant, which was every bit as glamorous as it sounds, before going on to the Piper Party (Piper is one of Markus’ many Germany publishers) in a decidedly unglamorous nightclub!
The previous night I had dined with Amish’s Indian agent, Anuj Bahri, and I had wanted to find somewhere typically Frankfurtian for him . . . so I consulted widely and fixed on an Apple Restaurant . . . unfortunately for me, it turned out to be miles into the suburbs, and doubly unfortunate for me, all the sauces were made with onions (to which I am fiercely allergic). So we contented ourselves with Apple Champagne followed by Apfelwein – and lots of talk, so distance and food aside, it was another splendid evening.
Now, doesn’t that make my life sound glamorous and exciting? It’s almost a shame about the 16-odd (some very odd) 30-minute meetings a day that filled the daylight hours . . . by the time you’ve said, ‘Hi!’ and ‘Lovely to see you again!’ and ‘You look great!’ and exchanged business cards, you’ve used up several of your allotted minutes, so then you have to rush to get in the ‘What are you actually looking for?’ bit before you can completely disregard it because all you really want to say is, ‘You must buy this!’ And when you’ve got a list with authors as impressive as JFB does, a lot of the time you’re still saying, ‘And here’s just one book more to consider!’ even as the next person is standing patiently, waiting for your attention.
The strange thing about these half-hour selling slots is that you can actually make some very good friends, even in so short a space of time. Maybe it’s got a lot to do with us all loving the same kind of books, and maybe it’s because we’re all suffering from the same economic uncertainties (except for those who publish The Hobbit, George R.R. Martin or The Hunger Games, of course, but even they have other authors they adore who are languishing, unbought, right now), but there’s quite a lot of bonding done in Hall 8.
So I have come back with a severe sleep deficit, a pile of business cards and a mass of notes to translate for my colleagues in Rights (which will result in manuscripts winging their way to the farthest reaches of Europe, to Asia, India, even Japan) – not to mention a bottle of very nice Czech wine, an amazing blue scarf and the most fantastic carved metal sculpture of Shiva, complete with trident, dreadlocks, and lots of other bits that I recognised from Amish’s retelling of the Shiva legend, The Immortals of Meluha, which we’re bringing out in January.
And that very nearly makes up for also bringing back the obligatory Frankfurt cold . . .
But all in all, it was a good Fair. Roll on London . . .