The Roman god Janus, the god of transitions, gateways and doors, was usually depicted with two faces, one looking forward and one looking back. It’s an image that seems particularly apt for New Year’s Eve, the time of year when so many of us look forward to new beginnings, whilst at the same time looking back over everything that has happened in the year we are leaving behind.
In Prime Writers tower we took the opportunity to think about our favourite parts of 2015. Getting together to form the Prime Writers and making so many new friends as a result was top of most of our lists. ‘So much support and so many people to be inspired by,’ said Cari Rosen. Rachael Lucas agreed that ‘the support and friendship of my fellow writers’ had made her feel very lucky. Karin Salvalaggio said that the highlight of her year was having us all over for a Prime Writers lunch, so hopefully she’ll invite us back in 2016. Fionnuala Kearney called us a ‘fabulous gaggle of amazing writers,’ which made us all blush.
For many of the Prime Writers 2015 was the year we finally saw our novels on the shelf. Alison Layland put the feelings this inspires beautifully, saying that her favourite part of 2015 was ‘the lovely warm feeling of knowing my first novel is out there and being read and enjoyed by people.’
Helen MacKinven agreed, and had been overjoyed at ‘finding out there’s a waiting list in the library to read my book.’ Vanessa Lafaye said singing ‘Summertime’ with her choir at her book launch was definitely in her top moments.
Fionnuala Kearney summed up for us all the excitement of first seeing your book ‘out there’ – ‘to go into a famous book store on Dublin’s main street and see posters of the book; to see stacks of the book; to actually SIGN books! A dream come true and a genuine ‘pinch me’ moment.’
Rebecca Mascull said she had loved meeting authors, readers and book bloggers at the launch of her second novel, many of whom she’d chatted with through social media and never met ‘in real life.’ Rebecca says ‘I was so very grateful & humbled that some people had travelled so far to do that. A day to remember for many years to come.’ We’ve also liked meeting up with readers at events. Vanessa Lafaye said she’d loved interacting with readers and bloggers. Sarah Todd Taylor agreed, ‘working with children in schools, seeing their engagement with storytelling and building stories with them has been wonderful.’
For Kerry Drewery, the UKYA Extravaganza that she co-organised with Emma Pass was her best moment, ‘looking around the room full of people – authors, bloggers, readers – and realising the love there is for UK talent and the wonderful community I’m so fortunate to belong to.’ Claire Fuller picked an event at the National Trust house which had partly inspired her novel. ‘I couldn’t believe that I was doing an event about a book I wrote partly inspired by this house that I had looked around three years previously,’ she says.
The kind words of readers who have taken the time to write reviews and send us feedback on our books have been a huge part of what has made 2015 a brilliant year for the Prime Writers.
Andrea Bennett was particularly touched by a message from a Russian reader who said: ‘It is rare for a British author to capture my people honestly and with so much charm…I applaud you and thank you for writing such a positive perspective.’ Sarah Louise Jasmon loved ‘getting positive reviews from people I’ve never met.’ Jon Teckman recalls going for a walk on holiday and stumbling across someone reading his book. ‘Poor Sheila got a bit of a shock as I ran towards her shouting “that’s my book!“‘ he says, ‘but she was placated after I’d signed it not just at the front but also on the page she was reading (p.39).’ Beth Miller picked up a new reader courtesy of her friend when they were ‘visiting’ Beth’s book in Smiths (we all do that, by the way, not just Beth) – ‘while we were patting it, a lady approached us and asked for recommendations for children’s books. The kids went off to get their top picks for her, and then Anne also recommended my book. She was so convincing that the lady bought it straight away to read on her holiday, saying: “Ooh I can’t believe you’re the author.”‘
Foreign editions were a source of great moments for many Prime Writers. Sarah Vaughan recounted a fabulous trip to Paris for the launch of her book. ‘The part I loved the most was that my novel obviously resonated with French women who recognised some of the issues I tried to explore. I was so touched that many of them had baked their own delicacies for me: tiny choux pastries from a region of south west France or macarons, for instance, and that they wanted to talk at length about the emotions we all invest in food.’ For Jane Lythell, the joy came from seeing the cover art for the Norwegian version of her book – ‘I was sent it recently and I just loved it because the woman on the front looks exactly how I had envisaged my main character Heja. She’s an icy blonde hiding a torrent of emotions beneath her cool exterior. It was such a bonus to see that cover.’
Cari Rosen picked interviews as her best bit of 2015, saying: ‘I have loved doing more interviews about the (first) book after a new raft of reports on older motherhood. The story never goes away and I’ve really appreciated being able to talk/write about it in more positive terms than much of the stuff you read in the media.’
Our writing figured highly in our favourite moments, too. Peggy Riley said that ‘the best thing about writing this year was the writing itself, simply sitting down with the words, the consolation of the page, and line after line after line.’ Eliza Fripps said that a writing sabbatical to recharge her batteries had left her raring to go.
For Martine Bailey there was joy to be found in researching for her next book. ‘For my next historical crime novel set in a rural village, I couldn’t resist becoming ‘A Farmer’s Wife for a Day’ at Acton Scott Museum, Shropshire, the location for the BBC’s The Victorian Farm . I loved the butter-making, tending animals and laundry, but surprised myself by enjoying patchwork making and rag-rugging around the table most of all, chatting and listening to the piano on a dull rainy afternoon.’
Looking back, it’s been a year full of joy, new experiences and fabulous discoveries for the Prime Writers. We hope your year has been wonderful too, and as we all look forward to 2016, may we wish you all a very Happy New Year.