I am most devoutly sorry for standing you up last week – well, all right, maybe not devoutly, but you’ll forgive me a little bit of exaggeration as I am positively fizzing with excitement. Well, I would be fizzing if I were not about to fall over with exhaustion, thanks in part to sitting on the tarmac for three hours extra because the wind was coming from the wrong direction . . . (how churlish of it).
But let me explain . . .
I spent last week embarking on the next phase of my master plan for world domination . . . and before you start wondering if I have perhaps been editing a little too hard and am lost in some great fantasy epic, let me stop you right there and take you through the last few days, which started with a splendid weekend playing tourist in gloriously sunny and blossom-filled New York City. I’ve been going there since I was eight and I have never seen the city look so beautiful, which was good news as a chum and I had gone to celebrate a Special Birthday with someone who had never been to the city before and who left already planning her return visit. So: introducing Chris to NYC: tick. Art galleries: tick. Boat trip, Empire State Building, tick, tick. Restaurants: ticktickticktickticktick . . . NYC Bingo? Oh yes, that’s a huge tick. (I think Chris won with the chap on the subway with a flannel over his head, although Gilly came a close second with the over-Botoxed bus passenger).
And then to work . . . and I joined Mark Smith and Wayne Davies, founders of Quercus (and thus entirely responsible for my launching JFB as a Quercus imprint), Christopher Maclehose, founder and publisher of Maclehose Press, Q’s editor-in-chief Jon Riley, sales and marketing director Jane Harris and publishing director Richard Green for the launch of . . . pause for drum roll, please . . . QUERCUS INC!
Yes, it’s true! So watch out, America, for our fabulous Quercus, Maclehose and JFB authors will be coming to an American bookstore near you this very year!
It is hard to believe that Jo Fletcher Books has been in existence for only twenty-eight months, but by the time we celebrate our thirty-third month, I will be publishing my first books in the United States of America! (And yes, I am quite aware how many exclamation marks I’m using – but wouldn’t you?)
We spent the morning meeting our sparky new Quercus Inc. colleagues, and the Random House team who will be responsible for selling the books across the US, and then went off to explore Q’s New York headquarters, magnificently situated above the wonderful Rizzoli bookshop. For those of an architectural bent, you might like to know the façade of the six-storey townhouse exhibits a sober classicism that belies the elegant interior within, where cast-iron chandeliers, ornately decorated vaulting and a luminous Diocletian window create a serene setting for booklovers amidst the rush of Midtown Manhattan. (I knew that.)
And Roberto Costantini, author of Q’s fabulous thriller The Deliverance of Evil and our special guest for the ‘media lunch’ following, recognised it at once as the setting for Meryl Streep meeting Robert De Niro in Falling In Love (‘Right here,’ he said, standing in the very spot, ‘right here!’) I discovered the founder, Angelo Rizzoli, was a big-time publisher and movie producer (he worked on La Dolce Vita with Federico Fellini), and he opened the bookstore in 1964, since when it’s been featured in numerous films, including Woody Allen’s Manhattan.*
So where was I? Ah yes, coming up to the biggest coincidence of the week, at the media lunch, where we were entertaining a number of journalists from various trade and mainstream publications. Jon was already looking forward to it, because he’d discovered, coincidentally, that one of our guests was an old friend he’d not seen for years. So I certainly wasn’t expecting any more odd coincidences . . . until someone walked in and as I asked ‘Who’s that?’ I was already thinking to myself, He looks a bit familiar . . . but no— when a cry went up and next thing I knew, the stranger was hugging me and announcing, ‘Oh, of course I know Jo – although we’ve not seen each other for 14 years!’ And what a delight to discover ghost-story-writer Peter Cannon is now non-fiction senior review for Publishers Weekly! And in one of those moments that Douglas Adams would have loved, we discovered we were actually sitting next to each other . . .
So we had a very jolly couple of hours catching up on what’d been happening since Peter returned to the States after more than three years as part of the London fantasy/horror scene, which in turn had been a direct result of meeting Stephen Jones, editor of our forthcoming Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm & Gruesome, at a convention in NYC just before he moved to London. Which all goes to prove how important conventions are: you never know who you are going to meet . . . or who they will grow up to be!
Where was I? Oh yes, so Peter and his fellow journos and reviewers were all genuinely interested to learn at first hand about our launch list, which we start publishing in September, and by the end of the meal Peter was promising to get back to writing himself: a good job well done, I felt.
And our odyssey ended the way all good odysseys end: with a party. The Italian Consulate welcomed us in fine style, and with the great and the good of NY publishing we raised a glass to Quercus Inc and its imprints and, most importantly, to our authors!
As Mark so eloquently said: without our brilliant authors we’re nothing, and so I’m going to end today by raising a glass to all you wonderful JFB writers and editors – and (masterful segue, what?) to introduce you to Alison Littlewood, who stormed onto the scene last year with A Cold Season, her debut horror novel, a Richard & Judy pick and a paperback bestseller. She’s back with a wonderfully dark supernatural crime thriller, Path of Needles, in which an expert in fairy tales is called in to help after a sharp-eyed young police woman realises the murder victim has not just been mutilated, but has been posed in a very specific way – an uncommon variant of the Snow White tale . . .
So this week I’ll be handing you over to Ali, who will guide you through the woods. Just remember not to leave the path!
*See how much you learn here? There will be a quiz next week . . .