I’ve been anticipating the big launch of The Pet Shop forever now, and when Maxim Jakubowski and I decided to share the launch party — with him launching his exciting new novel, Ekaterina and the Night, it was a great opportunity for me to work with the King of the Erotic Thriller. We couldn’t be more different in our writing styles, and that made for intriguing possibilities.
I was actually feeling a little smug when launch day dawned bright and sunny. When I launched The Initiation of Ms Holly this time last year, I was a frightened, uncertain newbie. The Pet Shop was book number two. I was an old hand at this launch business now. I was ready for it!
There’s a price to pay for smugness. There was a broken printer, there were trains running late, there was Lucy Felthouse and the fabulous Ian stuck in traffic on the M1, there were windows shattering in the train Kay Jaybee was on, and there were problems with getting enough books for the launch.
Okay, most people think I’m the Queen of Calm (rolling on the floor laughing uncontrollably) but by the time we got to Sh! the calm had cracked, and poor Raymond, the Birthday Boy, was having to deal with The Wicked Witch of the West.
But Sh! is an oasis of love and calm if ever there was one. There were hugs all around, a nice cup of coffee, and Renee’s peaceful influence assuring me that all would be well. And I totally trust Renee!
Over at the Bluu Bar next door, where the pre-party was due to kick off, Mel Jones was already anticipating the thirsty convergence with a bottle of wine, several glasses and more reassuring hugs. While Maxim and I briefly rehearsed the reading from the prologue of The Pet Shop that we were doing together, Kay Jaybee showed up with Rebecca Bond, and more reassurance that all would be well.
Back over at Sh!, Sh! Sweeties extraordinaire, Jo Wierzbicka and Sarah Berry greeted us with hugs and congratulations, and I felt like I’d come home. The pink fizz was already flowing and the guests milled about amid riding crops and collars and vibes and corsetry. Lexie Bay and her lovely husband, Doug, arrived. In the Fab Footwear Parade, Lexie was the clear winner with ‘Sh! pink’ heels sporting a whole garden of tiny leather flowers. The competition was stiff with Jo’s ‘there’s no place like home’ ruby slippers. Not to be completely left out, I wore the leopard print Pet shoes, which bit my feet rather sharply when I moved just right. I suppose that was appropriate under the circumstances.
I was elated to finally meet Marilyn Jaye Lewis, who was here visiting from the States and will be doing a reading at the Last Tuesday Society on Friday. And it was great to have Rubyyy Jones in attendance, looking rather Pet-like herself in black and leopard print.
The party started with Maxim and me doing a joint reading of the prologue of The Pet Shop, as ‘The Boss’ and his secretary, Anne O’Kelly argue about the appropriate gift to give employee, Stella James, for a job well done. It was the perfect lead-in to my introduction of Tino, the Pet, who is possibly my favourite of all the characters I’ve ever created.
Before Maxim read, we had one of three giveaways that were spread throughout the evening. Maxim gave away two copies of the many fabulous anthologies he has edited, and I gave away two Holly/Pets coffee mugs. But the biggie, and much coveted grand prize, courtesy of Xcite Books, was a great gift package complete with gift vouchers from Sh!
Then it was time for the Queen of Raunchy Poetry, Mel Jones, to titillate us all with extraordinary filthy verse. And she did NOT disappoint. Later Mel’s partner in poetry crime, Alan Wolfson also read some steamy kissing poetry. (Alan was also in the running for the Fab Footwear Award with his truly exquisite amethyst shoes) These two lovelies co-host the Kiss The Sky poetry event every other Wednesday at the Kiss The Sky Bar in Hampstead. I have a special place in my heart for KTS because I lost my ‘appreciation for performance poetry’ virginity there. I could listen and watch for hours! Here all this time I thought I was a Philistine.
After poetry, Maxim took the stage (or in this case the pink setae) and read the gripping ending of his novel, Ekaterina and the Night. I have to admit, I would have thought giving away the ending would be a bad idea, but in this case, Maxim knew exactly what he was doing (no surprise there). This eerie, sexy, moving ending definitely made me want to read the rest of the book and find out how Maxim GOT us to such an exquisite finale.
Having finally made it through the traffic, Lucy and Ian arrived at Sh! with scrummy cupcakes in tow — none of which survived the resulting feeding frenzy. Once they had arrived, it felt like the party could begin. As the evening continued, there were questions and answers, book signings, snatches of fantastic conversation with lots of people I wish I’d had a lot more time with. There was more poetry, there were more readings and there was lots of milling around upstairs with the fabulous vibes, corsetry and books. I noticed more than a few people leaving with large pink bags of Sh! yumminess.
I thought by my second launch I’d be able to manage my time a little better, but not so. I’d had visions of photo ops with all my favourite people and quiet conversations happening in front of the collar and cuff display. What was I thinking? My lovely husband, Raymond celebrated his birthday by taking pictures and never missing an opportunity to promote me. Bless him! But what I really needed was to be TWO of me. That way, one of me could just take in the whole experience as an observer, taking note of the things I missed because I was signing books or being so excited to see someone I hadn’t seen for a while or answering questions. I would love to have taken in the nuances, experienced the whole wild amazing evening a little less fleetingly and held it all a little more clearly in my overwhelmed memory. Because it was wonderful! My book, my baby is out there for all the world to see! Maybe I’m not as much of an old hand at this as I thought, because Wow! Okay. Just wow!
Afterward there was a very late dinner, with nine of us squeezed together in the basement of Pizza Express reliving the events of the evening and catching up with old friends. Then it was back onto the streets amid the clubbers and smokers milling outside and the street venders selling sausages and grilled onions to those with the late-night munchies. We said our good-byes near Old Street Station to friends who had to catch the tube or bus or a taxi. Kay Jaybee, Rebecca Bond, Raymond and I had hotel rooms for the night, so it was back to the all-night hotel bar for a night cap amid a raucous hen party, all bedecked in sparkly headbands and surly looking blokes who had clearly taken advantage of the bar’s five for £10 beer special. Then, at last, it was off to bed.
I had the pleasure of having breakfast at the Breakfast Club near Hoxton Square with Kay Jaybee and Rebecca Bond the next morning. We talked writing and more writing over eggs and bacon, pancakes and hash browns and fresh squeezed orange juice. And lots of coffee! Amid the clatter of breakfast dishes and the buzz of lazy Saturday morning conversation all around us, we talked of our plans and schemed our future take-over of the world. It was the perfect way to top off a great launch.
I can’t think of the launch without feeling very grateful for all the support and good will that I felt. Thanks to Maxim Jakubowski for being a great ‘partner in crime.’ Thanks to all the people who wished me well via Facebook, Twitter, email and snail mail. Thanks to everyone who came to the launch party, and especially to those who braved traffic, exploding train windows and other hazards of long journeys to get there. Thanks to Mel Jones and Alan Wolfson for sharing their deliciously raunchy poetry. Thanks to Xcite Books for furnishing the food, drinks and give away. And a very special thanks, once again to the incomparable Sh! Ladiez! There aren’t enough hugs and kisses to express my gratitude to you sweeties!
Dozing on the train, in the unseasonably warm sunlight on the way home, I relived the highlights of the fantastic Book Launch Extravaganza once again and tried to remember more of the bright, bubbly details that rushed by so quickly. I imagine I’ll be sifting through all that lovely excitement in my head for days to come. A book launch at Sh! is most definitely the gift that keeps on giving.