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Friday, August 30, 2002

There are lots of nice messages from people in the UK, along the lines of

Dear Neil
This is not a question, but a very big thank you on behalf of all of your UK fans. You are a hero! Not because you are a great guy who writes great stuff, and who we all admire, but because how you treat your fans goes beyond the call of duty. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Foyles event in London. The turn-out was great, some 550 people you said, and you waited and signed for all of them, even though you were clearly very tired. You even made time with each of us for a chat and to include a sketch as well as signing. The sight of the massive queue must have been daunting, but you dealt with the situation magnificently. Thank you Neil.


and

Hi, just writing to give you a bit of a 'fans' perspective on the Foyles event, I'm the guy who bumbled about with his girlfriend at the end of the event whilst you signed a Delirium doll for her. I've got to say it was a fantastic night and worth all the trauma. Trauma unfortunately caused by queueing on the wrong side of the room for 5 minutes before realising that we weren't in a queue at all, we were actually at the head of an unfortunate gathering of people who had mistakenly thought that we knew what we were doing. This was a very undesirable turn of events for us as we had to catch a train at 11:30, and as the time went on despairing thoughts began to swim around our heads, thoughts of sleeping in a puddle outside of the tube station entrance for instance. These thoughts, coupled with an intense desire not to go home empty handed, led to my affected demeanor of suave intellectualism turning into a very real demeanor of whiny panic. Until we finally arrived at the desk.
Despite all of this it was one of the best nights we've ever had. When I said your talk was inspirational I really meant it. I didn't think it was possible to create anything if you worked like you do, sketching out the boundaries and then pouring the rest of the story inside. Thank God you can though, otherwise I'd be screwed. Couple that with the King quote about writing a little each day and y'dun me proud I swear.
Well thanks for what could possibly mean the start of my career, or at the very least the start of the 'do you remember that night when my career could have started' anecdote.

p.s. My girlfriend really wanted to give you another hug! If you weren't famous we'd take you down the pub so we could all complain about not being famous!


which are really nice and make me feel a bit guilty for not really carrying on with the account of the UK trip.

So, let's see. Flew back from Dublin to London and from there by train to Canterbury. The train toilets were vandalised, and it arrived very late, so we plunged into a taxi to the University where I was ushered into something that looked a lot like a Very Small Cupboard and did an interview with Brian Morton from BBC Radio Scotland, up in Glasgow. From there to Waterstones for a terrific signing. After the signing Dave Mckean took us (us being me, Roz from Bloomsbury, and James the Rep) to a wonderful restaurant called Lloyds and we chatted until too late, and then Dave drove me at incredibly high speeds down tiny windy roads to his house.

Met by Clare, Dave's other half, who told me she'd just seen me on TV from Edinburgh. She also told me how much better I looked in real life than I did on TV. This worried me, a little. Dave showed me the art for THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS, which made me happy. Slept.

Wednesday was the Harrods signing, which was the one that people who wanted to say hi or had lots of stuff to sign came to, on the whole. There were interviews, and lunch with Sarah Odedina, my editor, who had just got back from Brazil. In the evening I met most of Bloomsbury -- the kind of small, good publisher where everyone knows everyone and they publish books and authors they're proud of that were almost extinct when I stumbled into the world of UK publishing twenty years ago. Normally they get taken over by bigger publishers, and then they get taken over by conglomerates. Bloomsbury has Harry Potter, though, and does not need to worry about being taken over by anyone, which is very heartening. Dinner in the deepest underground recess of the Bleeding Heart restaurant in Bleeding Heart Yard, with lots of booksellers and a few journalists.

Lucy Chapman from Bloomsbury was slightly surprised, when in conversation with the former manager of the Walsall Ottakers, to discover that an unlikely signing anecdote of mine was quite true. (It was one about the nice man who told me to let him know if I ever needed anybody killed, it was the least he could do). It wasn't a very unlikely signing anecdote as these things go. The one about the signing at the old Outer Limits shop in LA that stopped because of the shootout between the police and a carload of transvestites is much more unlikely. (I missed all the excitement that time. I was signing.)

Thursday kicked off, once the interviews were done, with the Forbidden Planet signing at lunchtime, which went on until around 4:45. Then a couple more interviews, rapid sushi (hah!) and into the Foyles event, at Congress House in Museum Street. Around 600 people were there in all, including Foyles staff and Lizo Mzimba, who was to interview me. I read first -- then Q & A with Lizo followed by a few questions from the audience, then signing until nearly midnight.

It's odd. I used to be scared of audiences -- I'd say no to live TV because it was in front of audiences, things like that. I remember once getting stage fright when David Gilmour took me out on stage in front of an empty auditorium -- just the potential for 50,000 people was intimidating. These days I really don't have any kind of problem with standing up in front of a thousand or so people and just talking -- I get a tiny buzz of nerves and adrenaline, which I welcome because it keeps me awake and alert, and that's all. You get used to anything. (Or almost. I asked David Gilmour afterwards if he ever got stagefright, and he said he didn't. His now-wife, my friend Polly Sampson, reminded him that he'd been terrified, taking his guitar in to the nursery school to sing their son a Happy Birthday To You....)

More anon.

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