Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My First London Book Launch - at The Chocolate Museum

And now I'm back on Australian soil having had the most varied and interesting five weeks overseas. The first few weeks in Norway were a whirl (and will be covered in my next blog post) while the highlight of my final week in England was catching up with old friends, and attending my book launch at The Chocolate Museum, a lovely atmospheric venue (which served the best coffee with chocolate zest I've ever tasted) and which had an upstairs and downstairs where our book-loving guests could mingle with other writers, friends, bloggers and reviewers.

Waiting to begin... Me (Beverley Eikli), Janet Gover, Choc Lit MD Lyn Vernham, and The Chocolate Museum's Isabelle
Janet Gover reads an extract from Flight to Coorah Creek

Since I was a little girl in Australia and used to read aloud to my younger sisters the series of books I'd written entitled: The School for Witches", I'd dreamed of having a book launch in London. It took a long time to get the first book published (Lady Sarah's Redemption which was published by Robert Hale in 2009) and a few more years before I was actually in London with a book just released. This was my latest and favourite Regency-set drama and intrigue-filled romance, The Maid of Milan, published by the wonderful Choc Lit.
Now it was my turn to talk about The Reluctant Bride, my first book with Choc Lit, and The Maid of Milan,
that was being launched.

Choc Lit's enterprising Luke Roberts came up with the fabulous idea of having the launch at The Chocolate Museum and once I'd firmed up my travel arrangements, a date was set and the word was out. And a very popular event it proved to be, which is no wonder since so many Choc Lit authors were in attendance.
     My goodness, it was fantastic to see so many of them, as well as others from the writing world. Not to mention some old friends of mine whom I'd not seen for 30 years.
I sent my 8-year-old off with a camera. Naturally she wasn't interested in taking shots of people.
Below, in yellow, is my old room mate, Jenny Latham with whom I shared a room at Ames House in Hampstead when we were 18 years old. My time at the old converted mansion at 26 Netherhall Gardens, Hampstead, is branded on my memory. Donated by its owner in 1901 to 'protect the morals of young working girls in London', it housed 24 of us, including a model who'd just made the cover of German Vogue magazine, to a range of young students including myself who was studying costume design during the day and working at Smiles Cafe in Picadilly at night. My Saturday job was to dress up as Smiles the Bear for children's parties. I've had a few odd jobs in my life but this was one of the most dangerous as I was really far too short for the enormous furry bear costume with the Big Bear boots I had to wear to stumble up and down the stairs from the kitchen to the entertainment room.
    Well, I never expected to see Jenny at my launch! The last time we met was during our bicycle and youth hosteling trip around the south-west of England over 25 years ago! What a trooper! I'd been told she was too unwell to travel.
     Also at the launch were my old friends from my childhood in Lesotho, the Chapmans, who'd also travelled a great distance to be at the launch. 

Catching up with old friends from when I was 18 in London (Jenny Latham in yellow) and old friends from Lesotho Days when I was a child, Mark and Pat Chapman and son Adrian Chapman

Janet in the foreground, while in the background Choc Lit publicist Holly La-Touche stands by the door and Luke Roberts looks after the books.

Jenny and me having a chat with Henri Gyland in the background
 Below are my other two friends from my old Hampstead days - both of whom I've not seen for 30 years, Hugh and Robert. It's amazing how easy it is to pick up where one left off when one's reuniting with friends from one's formative youth.
Eivind photographed the two of us while Hugh Jaeger and Robert Porch (friends from Hyelm in Hampstead days from when we were all 18) photographed him photographing us.

Yes, it's hard to believe it's been 30 years since we painted London red as 18-year-olds. Well, we actually didn't ever really paint the town red but we had a lot of fun. We were rather good 18-year-olds, although I do remember one night which put me off Dubonet and ever thinking about smoking for the rest of my life.

Me, Jenny and Jenny's daughter, the lovely, pro-active Camilla, who organised the surprise reunion.
 I wish the book launch could have gone on a good deal longer so that I could have talked to more people. There were so many I felt I really knew through long email correspondence though we'd not met, and others I'd not seen in years whom I'd have loved to have really caught up with, and still others whose names I knew and wanted to meet properly.
     All in all, it was a great evening, and Luke and Lyn and Holly and The Chocolate Museum's Isabelle and Alessandra did a fantastic job to make it one that will remain a wonderful memory forever.

And after an enormously fun evening, Eivind and I took the tube home - and the inevitable selfie.

During the launch Lyn gave me the audiobook of The Reluctant Bride. My first audio book!