After 4 ½ years my second novel is finished and ready to take on tour. Couldn’t help wondering if I should get a t-shirt printed with a list of tour dates? It all feels a bit not rock n’ roll – sort of – although you really don’t want to hear me sing! I’m seriously excited about it. I’ll be loading up the car tomorrow and heading off to Bristol City Council, then to Exeter to meet a curious group of readers at my friend Thara’s place, and then on to Reading University for the CIPFA Summer School.
The tour will also take in the varied delights of Emmeline’s Norwegian Café in Abergavenny, the Society of Local Authority Chief Exec’s Conference at Old Trafford, a marvellously kitsch pub in Brighton, and then Nottingham, Mansfield, Leeds and Brum. And I’m still open to offers! In the run up to the book launch (October 22nd) and to Xmas, if there’s a group of 8 or more people, I’d be delighted to visit you.
Being an extrovert, the long hours of sitting alone writing have been hard work. I’ve done as much as I can to make writing into a team sport – and I can’t thank everyone who’s supported me in getting to this point enough – but in the end, there’s been a lot of me and my computer in the spare room. So, partly the tour is my reward to myself to get out and about, engage with friends and colleagues, to meet new people and to spread the word.
On the tour, I’ll be doing a bit of reading, talking about the big themes and sharing ideas on how the stories we tell ourselves and others affect our lives. It’s also about how (and if) we can create a world we want to see and what do we risk to make change in the places where we live and work.
As some of you will know, I’m on a mission to write entertaining stories (thriller-ish/grit-lit) about the messy edges of public and personal life. I love exploring what’s under the surface, how power and politics (small p and big P) affect us all and I wanted to write something hopeful – a big ask in crazy current times, and, a contested idea in itself. So I’ve created an odd bunch of characters; a feisty community activist drawn into the spotlight of local politics and given a poison chalice, a young girl in care looking for her missing brother, and an accountant with a gambling habit – and thrown them in the deep end to see what happens.
The title of the book We Know What We Are – comes from a Shakespeare’s Hamlet quote, “We know what we are, but not what we may be?” and also from a football chant sung by fans in many clubs around the country. It captures for me one of the questions that sits beneath the story: how does our identity affect the decisions we make? Do we really know who we are? Throughout the writing of the book, I’ve thought a lot about who I really am too.
The books themselves are beautiful things. The matt laminate cover feels soft to the touch and it’s just the right weight, heavy enough to reflect the time it’s taken to finish and light enough to Tube. The cover painting by Ben Kelly (L S Lowry Prize winner and Simon’s cousin) captures the dynamic of the story fantastically. The house is full of boxes of books that we might well be making in to furniture, but in the meantime I’ll look forward to meeting as many people as I can on my DIY tour.
Contact me if you’d be interested in a tour visit, and/or would an advance copy of the book and I’ll be blogging details of the launch and how to get the book shortly.