It’s not formally anything to do with the long process of getting a novel from manuscript to bookshop, which is the story I have been telling in a few recent posts, but nowadays authors are encouraged by their publishers to play an increasingly large role in promoting their wares. This includes ‘having a social media presence’ – naturally not to the extent of Katy Perry or H. Styles, ahem, but still, popping up on FaceBook and the like, or writing a blog with news of lit festival appearances and talks and suitable snippets about personal life or research trips. It’s actually quite interesting to do, mostly because of the challenge of being informative and informal without droning on endlessly about oneself and one’s lovely life to the extent of alienating existing and potential readers rather than achieving the opposite.
I prefer actually meeting people in real Time and real Life though, and book groups are great for this. Last week I went to speak at my friend Neffy’s group down in deepest Herefordshire. I talked about The Kashmir Shawl to a dozen of her bookish neighbours, ate a huge dinner and drank wine, and stayed on afterwards to visit other local friends – all in the name of ‘work’.
This week’s ‘work’ activity has also centred on promotion, and so has nothing to do with the actual current business in hand, which is battling with the new novel. I feel guilty about taking so much time out from writing, but guilt is the default setting for writers anyway so I’m just going with it.
Yesterday we were at Wilton’s again, for THE ILLUSIONISTS shoot. (The book’s out in March. Did I mention this??) The project is only a 90-second promo video, but still it requires a unit of creative director, film director, cameraman, technical director from the theatre, an assistant and a runner, a stills photographer, an actor and an actress – and me (make-up and costume, dogsbody, coffee girl). Lighting the hall took forever, but nothing was left to chance. We thickened the air with vapour from a smoke machine to make Victorian murk, gingerly turned the handles of the antique Wimshurst machine (crucial to the plot) and walked the actors through their moves over and over again. Then suddenly it was action. Amazingly the director REALLY does say ‘Camera, action’ and ‘Cut’, and ‘Quiet set, please’ and all the other things you somehow only imagine in relation to Heaven’s Gate.
It was hours of hard work for all the crew and the actors, and fascinating for me to observe. Best of all was being part of a team, and seeing very young and talented people giving their work 200% of their attention. From what I could glimpse on the director’s monitor the finished video’s going to look wonderful. Today everyone’s in the studio where we’re doing the close-ups of faces and hands and making shadows move – the process of precisely replicating yesterday’s lighting from the theatre is technically arduous. Coffee runs for me.
The author’s job is an increasingly varied one…