After hosting a number of delightful tales from lockdown from several of my Honno sisters, it’s now my turn.
Initially, the brief was to describe what we had missed about book fairs specifically. This would tie in nicely with the upcoming Honno Authors Book Fair in Narberth on Saturday 7 May. It soon became clear however, most of us have written a book – or seen one published – during lockdown and that became the focus of most of the pieces. As there were no physical launches, and because there were few – if any – book fairs, our books were left to languish in boxes.
Around the time my third novel, Wild Spinning Girls, was published, just weeks before the first lockdown, I’d ordered two boxes, imagining myself attending several book events. They’re still sitting in the corner of my study. Unexpectedly (and with the requisite startled surprise on my part!) the book was shortlisted for The Wales Book of the Year 2021. Sadly, there were no book outings to show it off at. It was disappointing but I consoled myself with the knowledge that at least I’d been able to have a small physical launch. So many authors were about to be denied this.
One of the things I have found most exciting about being involved with books fairs is the great British public. From the start, it was the people who made book fairs for me. Discovering, from behind my books and postcards and promotion paraphernalia, that people wanted to talk to me about my stories was eye-opening. Gregarious by nature and interested in people; in their views and opinions, I chatted and signed books; dedicated them to individuals who seemed genuinely delighted. Initially nervous, I agreed to appear on a few panels and discovered I enjoyed them. And I realised: this is what I do now. I write books, people read them; I do author stuff and I don’t want it to end.
Only it did.
A great many writers struggled during lockdown. I was lucky, I’m an old hand at my own company, and in any case I already had an idea for a story that was to become my lockdown novel. Although it began life as one of those ‘What if?’ moments several months before the word ‘pandemic’ became endemic in our language, the bulk of the story was written in hibernation. And it became my saviour; a book I adored writing, not least because it was something of a departure. However hard I tried to write it in my usual third person narrative, my central protagonist’s voice insisted otherwise. Perhaps because I was writing under the shadow of the pandemic, I felt blasé and brave enough to acquiesce to her and take the risk.
The majority of this book is written in first person present and it’s been an interesting challenge. It’s also a small, intimate story, taking place over a single month; another departure for me. And unlike my previous books, there is no ghost with a compelling story of her own. The ghosts in Only May lie peacefully in the chapel graveyard, or else they haunt May in the shape of lies and secrets; and in particular, a lie at the heart of her family.
My fourth book for Honno will be published on 19 May. And I shall be at the first Honno Authors Book Fair with pre-publication news and information.
As a group of women writers we are very excited about the forthcoming fair. After two years, we’re back – Honno authors – hosting our very own event and we can’t wait to see you – old friends and new. Readers, browsers, the curious and the questioning. You can even ask me where I get my ideas from. . .