East Grinstead's High Street features the longest continuous run of 14th and 15th-century timber-framed buildings in England, with The Bookshop being one of these, despite the fact that a German aircraft dropped a bomb behind it in 1943, killing the then owners and almost destroying the building outright. Luckily things were much more pleasant on Friday (21st August) as people started arriving from about 7pm for the Rainbow Orchid launch event.
We had Pimms, orange juice and snacks laid out, as well as six of the A1 boards that had been up at the Foyles Gallery exhibition a couple of weeks beforehand. John, the bookshop owner, had even gone to the trouble of getting a lovely orchid in as part of the shop decorations. I sat down to sign my first book at about 7.10pm, and signed the last one at about 9.15, only stopping briefly half-way through for a quick list of thank-yous and to present Harvey with a giclée print of the Breguet plane that he so kindly constructed a model of.
I was determined not just to sign books but to give everyone a quick sketch as well (which I didn't do at Foyles), which meant that everyone in the queue was enormously patient as I scribbled away as fast as I could on each book. The turn-out for the event exceeded all our expectations, with a really lovely buzz all evening. I don't know how many books were sold, but after the copies on the rack were sold, a big pile on my signing table went and the window display also had to be plundered to fulfil demand. Sadly some people didn't have time to queue, so I was left with a few books to sign on Saturday to be forwarded to their owners at a later date. I'm really sorry I didn't get to chat to everyone, and I'm really grateful to all who came - especially those who travelled any kind of a distance. Some came from London which was really lovely - it's not that far, but I know a psychological barrier has to be broken to come to events outside of London as well as a geographical one!
There was a marvellous mix of friends, people I hadn't seen for ages, people I'd never met before, and men, women, and children (girls and boys) of all ages. The evening zoomed by for me. My wife Elyssa and good friend Louise had made an amazing Rainbow Orchid cake (including raspberries from our garden) which I hope everyone got a piece of.
An enormously-massive thanks to Elyssa who worked so hard to organise this event (and also managed to take these photos in the second half of the evening), and to all those who immediately went into useful mode and helped with the drinks and food - I'm very grateful indeed. And special thanks to John the bookshop owner for providing his lovely bookshop for the evening and staying late to host us. You can see an album of photos from the evening here, and there are some up on the Tintinologist Facebook page as well (thank you Simon).
I've no idea what the problem was except that any page with a .php extension (whether it had php code included or not) would not load in. Streamline, my web hosts, did not actually get round to fixing the problem, it seems to have 'fixed itself' by Sunday morning. As it stands, my email is currently not working, so I apologise if I take a while to respond while that gets (hopefully) sorted out. (Edit: email was out until Wednesday night, with all email sent to me Sun and Mon being completely lost).
I had my talk later that afternoon which went okay. I wasn't totally pleased with it - I'd decided to concentrate partially on the journey from self-publishing to being published by a mainstream book publisher, and the changes to publishing in that time (from photocopying to the internet to print-on-demand), but most of my audience were already well versed in these changes and I did a lot of talking before bringing in my slide show, and felt things were perhaps a little stodgy up until that point. As soon as I started talking about the images and using those to spring subjects from, things livened up, so that's a lesson learned for any future talks I might do. I thought people might be bored by some of the minutiae of my story and art development, but actually I think it went over quite well. I'd also been very unsure about the cover I'd drawn to volume two, but getting a positive reaction from its first public airing has given me more confidence in it. It was also really nice to have Tim Jones from Egmont there to contribute.
For dinner we went to Lan Kwai Fong and had dim sum and noodles, surrounded by a little groups of comic creators at other tables. On ours we had Elyssa, Dave West, Neill Cameron, Colin Mathieson and Tony Hitchman, with Sarah McIntyre joining us from her table afterwards. After that we went back to the venue for Tony's annual comic quiz (this year's theme was robots) along with tea and some delicious Caption birthday cake.
Elyssa and I stayed at the Days Inn on the M40 services, which was cheap and, well maybe not cheerful, but certainly functional. Sunday was a lovely day with what was possibly the highlight of the weekend for me - Sarah's fascinating and very well presented talk on children's picture books and their relationship and crossover with comics (see her Caption report here). This was followed by another great talk by Asia Alfasi on her life and work in which she made some excellent points about the uniqueness of every creator - something I've always believed in (so many creators compare themselves unfavourably with their colleagues, forgetting that no one will ever do what they do in the unique way they do it). We had lunch with Asia, her brother, Sarah, Neill Cameron (who had been sketching everyone as pirates with dinosaurs) and David O'Connell.
It was also great to see Ellen Lindner and Stephen Betts, fresh from their trip to India and I was slightly bowled over to meet Jason Little whose work I absolutely love, having followed his adventures of Bee online for quite a few years now. At first I didn't believe it was him as it was so unexpected to meet him at Caption, far from his home in Brooklyn. I also had a great chat with Al Davison about his martial arts experience - which is an astonishing story (we both do karate, though that's not his main martial art).
I met so many great people, I always do at Caption, and I have not mentioned half of them. I'm aware that sometimes these reports can just turn into a list of links. This was the first time I was out with The Rainbow Orchid and I sold a good number of copies over the weekend. Thank you so much to everyone who bought one - the support and positive comments I'm getting mean so much to me and I take every one to heart. Elyssa and I had a brief walk into Oxford to stretch our legs and have an ice cream, and then we drove home in much better time than our journey up. Enormous thanks to the Caption committee for yet another terrific weekend.
But we won't dwell on that! The evening was something of a blur, but a pretty fantastic blur if my hazy memory is anything to go by. It took place at the Gallery on the third floor of Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road, London, where a marvellous job had been done by Egmont in making up some stunning A1 boards of various bits of Rainbow Orchid artwork and sketches, which all went to give as good an impression of the book as was possible.
I got there a little early to be interviewed by Alex Fitch for his Panel Borders show for Resonance FM, and by the time we'd finished the gallery was starting to fill up with friends, colleagues and other invited guests, not to mention a strong showing from both Egmont, my publisher, and Blake Friedmann, my agents.
I'm going to avoid listing everyone who came, because a) there were quite a lot of people, and b) I'd hate to miss anyone out. But I must say how enormously grateful I am to everyone who showed up, especially those who travelled from a fair distance outside of London - I was genuinely flabbergasted and touched by the support on show and that is my main memory of the evening.
Tim Jones gave a very flattering speech about me being at Egmont and I'm afraid I gave a fairly vanilla list of thanks at which I was unable to convey my true appreciation of everything everyone has done to help get me this far with the book. I'm sure I left out a few people, but one person I'm absolutely sure I didn't mention, and who certainly deserves the most praise, is my wife Elyssa. Believe me, especially recently, if it wasn't for her there probably wouldn't be a Rainbow Orchid to be published - and that goes for volume two especially.
You can see a very nice gallery of photographs of the evening over on Facebook, and there are a handful of people who managed to be far more industrious than I and get their reports up the following day, including Alex Milway, Murray Ewing, Sarah McIntyre, John Freeman, Joel Meadows and Julian Friedmann.
I believe my Panel Borders interview will be available as a podcast next week some time, and you can also see a short clip of me being interviewed by Iyare of the Fantastic Realms vidcast on the evening.
While I'm writing, a couple more links... some nice Rainbow Orchid reviews at the Financial Times, Comics Bulletin and Down the Tubes, and a short video version of Linda Wada's interview with me from April.
And not content with one book launch, I am having another on Friday 21st August at The Bookshop in East Grinstead - see here for details. Anyone is welcome to come along. And in the mean time, I'll see you at Caption in Oxford tomorrow!
I also now have t-shirts available, and not forgetting the lovely giclée prints that have been up on the shop for a few weeks now.
There's a very nice interview with me, conducted by David O'Connell over at his Scribblehound website. I say it's nice because David asked some interesting questions that I really had to think about! And I should also mention all the events I've got coming up - but I'll just point you towards the new events page for that.
I will pick out two - if you visit Foyles gallery this week (from Tuesday, at the shop on Charing Cross Road) then you'll be able to see an exhibition of artwork and sketches from the book. And I'll be doing a talk at Caption about The Rainbow Orchid and some thoughts on self-publishing and being published - that's on the the Saturday from 5.30-6.30 pm.
And finally - don't forget you can sign up to the free Adventurers' Society and print out your very own membership card. If you see me and bring it along, I will stamp it with the official Society stamp!