On Thursday evening I attended my first Fantasy in the Court event, hosted by Goldsboro Books.
An informal, meet, greet, sign-my-books, have a drink event, there were dozens of fantasy authors and about a hundred and fifty fans mingling in Cecil Court/Diagon Alley for three balmy London evening hours.
It was one hell of an experience. Everyone was, uniformly, lovely. People were genuinely interested in each other, it was completely relaxed and there were no “me author, you fan” barriers to overcome.
I met Jen Williams, she of The Copper Cat trilogy, and fan-girled slightly. She signed The Copper Promise for me and drew me a lovely little dragon inside. She asked me all about Godblind and laughed, not unkindly, when I floundered through my plot as though trying to remember someone else’s book I’d read ten years ago while drunk. She taught me a really valuable lesson- even though I have an agent and a publisher, I still need an elevator pitch.
We then had a conversation about Labyrinth, initiated by my “Babe with the power” t-shirt, and The Dark Crystal and the relative merits of watching them as children and as adults and how much darker they are the older you get, which segued nicely into a chat about Ray Harryhausen and puppets. And I thought, “Verily, these are my people”.
Note: that’s not me and Jen
I met Ed Cox, he of The Relic Guild trilogy, who was brilliant and really encouraging and told me about how attending a convention led him to meet the legend that is Joanne Harris and get valuable advice from her and, crucially, a blurb for The Relic Guild when it came out. Wow. He signed my copy of The Relic Guild in bright green pen and introduced me, unfortunately only for a minute, to Tom Pollock, who was passing through to get a drink and talk to someone else.
And I met Adrian Selby, of Snakewood fame, who was great and really honest about his experience as a debut author. He isn’t on DHH’s books, but Harry Illingworth (my agent) read a review copy of Snakewood and loved it, and convinced Goldsboro Books to champion it as their book of the month. He said that has made all the difference and it’s really great to hear that Goldsboro’s influence can have such an effect.
He advised me – as Ed and Jen had both done – to attend as many conventions as possible. When I pleaded poverty he looked at me like I was mad and told me I can claim it all back – I’m building a brand and a network of business contacts. I just happen to be doing that while cosplaying as Arya Stark and drinking copious amounts of adult beverage.
It had never occurred to me that I’d be able to claim anything like that back in taxes, so that was an extremely important chat for me and, actually, serves as the perfect example to highlight exactly what he means – it is about building a reputation and a network to support my business. Getting Ed and Jen to confirm they’d read review copies does the same thing, and again was a result of me actually being there and speaking to them face to face.
They’re all currently being awesome at Nine Worlds in London, and I’m at home, but the lesson has been well-learned and I’m going to try and convince husband he’d love a weekend in Scarborough at Fantasy-by-the-Sea.
The other usual suspects were at Fantasy in the Court – Mark de Jager, attending for the first time as an author (he drew a skull in my copy of Infernal) and his wife Liz de Jager, who’s lovely, and Stu Turton, who are both authors with Harry and therefore my partners in alcohol-related shenanigans when I visit London for writerly stuff.
And it was just an awesome few hours in the company of awesome people, all of who are genuinely interested and interesting and very free with advice, hints and tips. There was a profound feeling of all for one and one for all, which I loved.
For the cost of a train ticket – which I’ll be claiming back – it was one hell of a fun evening and I can’t wait to go again next year. Until then, maybe I’ll see you at a fantasy convention…
Now reading: The Relic Guild, Edward Cox
Now listening: Low, David Bowie
Now watching: Killjoys season 2, Penny Dreadful season 2