Hands up (but only if you’ve washed them first), who feels like a party? Smashing. Please join me next Thursday evening— no make-up or underwear required because it’s a virtual party I’m throwing to celebrate the release of my book, aptly-titled What Happens Now? It’s live on Twitter, lasts an hour and I’ll be swallowing as much warm white wine as I can, so I’ll probably say something embarrassing towards the end and have to hold my own hair back in the bathroom afterwards.
I’ve been feeling glum about my novel coming out in such strange times. Bookshops are closed; Amazon is quite rightly prioritising other deliveries; supermarkets (where one in five books is sold in this country) are quite rightly putting out eggs and loo roll before restocking the shelves with new reading material. As with other industries, the book world is in disarray and publication dates are being shuffled like a deck of cards.
I keep telling myself I’m lucky to have such a trivial problem when others have it much worse. I write romantic comedies, not intubate patients, and this usually works as a mental kick up the arse. Still, 202,000 books were published in Britain last year, roughly 3,885 new books a week. You get one shot at this; miss your moment and there are plenty coming up behind. I spent a year working on my book, but since it’s released next week, it might just vanish.
In a heroic effort to be cheerful, my publishers suggested the virtual party. I was horrified at first. Live-stream myself for an hour? It was the saddest party I’d ever heard of, and I speak as one who spent most of her teenage parties crying in the loo. But there’s little point in sulking like a five-year-old whose birthday’s been cancelled. We all need to adapt and others in publishing are setting a shining example. One Day author David Nicholls has taken to throwing a virtual launch online every Thursday (the day books are published) where he tweets the releases while cracking jokes about virtual canapes and forgetting to defrost the cocktail sausages. Maggie O’Farrell launched her new book Hamnet from home, defiantly wearing the dress she’d bought for the launch before lockdown. I’m not sure what to wear for mine and the idea of putting on mascara seems absurdly decadent. But my plan is to pour a very large glass of white, keep the bottle close and chat to whoever’s watching.
My publisher has suggested I kick things off by discussing my “best and worst first dates” and there’s further talk of me reading a sex scene aloud. Since I often disgrace myself at actual parties by sweating hard and nervously blurting out personal details to strangers, I don’t see that this will be any more shaming than usual. Do come along, you’d be extremely welcome.
Something dishy about Rishi
First came his Yorkshire Tea picture, then another Instagram shot of Rishi Sunak working from home in a natty grey hoody. Was there something dishy about Rishi? I started surreptitiously asking my female friends — on both the Left and the Right — whether it was acceptable to fancy the Chancellor of the Exchequer. “Oh my God, me too!” they replied. A political mole from Number 11 says there’s similar sentiment being bandied about behind the scenes: “We’ve all gone squishy for Rishi.”