Friday, 26 October 2012

Book signings begin

Marcia in The Bookstop with (left) owner Natasha Church and  reader Jean Jones.

Today Marcia is signing books in The Book stop, Tavistock and I am in the Bedford Hotel writing this blog. As many of you will know, it was in this bookshop that Marcia held the first book signing some fifteen years ago. It seems far longer than that.

In the early years, she used to write two 'Marcia Willett' books each year and then there were the four years when there was only one but also another: a 'Willa Marsh' book. She is now working on her twenty-eighth novel (I regret I said yesterday that it was publication day of her twenty-eighth which was wrong - that should have been twenty-sixth: number twenty-seven is in production and will be out next year).

It has been quite a journey: a journey which included the Chadwick Trilogy. In recent years, publishers have been far from keen on trilogies and Marcia was delighted when Clare Foss of Hodder Headline agreed to go along with the idea. Then there was the sequel. How often have these gone badly wrong? You can hear the comments, can't you? 'What a pity she felt she had to write a fourth book about these people. It really is not as good as the first three!'

To make matters worse, when Marcia finally gave in to Jolyon - who had been tapping her on the shoulder for some years demanding that the next part of his story should be written - she was now being published by Transworld who knew almost nothing of the first three books. I hope you will all agree that The Prodigal Wife was a worthy fourth in what is now being dubbed the 'Chadwick Chronicles'.

The 'Willa Marsh' novels were published in the UK by Sceptre and resulted in Marcia having an excellent review in The Times. Considered to be more literary and rather less cosy, these resulted in an amusing exchange during question time after Marcia had given a talk.

'I have just read Sisters Under the Skin,' said this woman. Then there was a long pause.

'And?', asked Maria.

'And I always thought you were such a nice person,' was the rather devastating response.

Although no longer in print in this country, to Marcia's delight one of the most prestigious publishers in France, Autrement, bought them and have built up a cult following for Willa Marsh over there. They talk about her 'tenderness for old people and her spiky black humour'. Having published all four books, they have now bought The Children's Hour but will be publishing it as another Willa Marsh novel. Does this suggest that the two voices are gradually merging into one? I rather feel it does. What do you think?

In the early days, Marcia's books were usually published in May and the cherry trees across the road from where I am sitting would be in flower. Today there is definite feel of autumn in the air with the churchyard covered in leaves swirling around in the chilly wind. Even so, the bar here is full of ghosts: Cassandra and Kate, Quentin and Clemmie, Oliver and Unk, Felicity and many others. Now that The Sea Garden has hit the bookshelves I can say that some of these will be meeting here again where, in some ways, that journey started. It will, not, however, see the end of that journey - of that you may rest assured.
On the way home, we realised there was a need to buy some milk. In the village of Holne on the edge of Dartmoor is a community shop. I first came across this sort of 'village venture' when I was writing a book of that name a couple of centuries ago and, since we thoroughly approve of these shops, we diverted (not very far) in order to buy a couple of pints there. Hitched - using the other end of the rein - to the fence outside was this chap We had a quiet chat whilst Marcia was in the shop and it seems his owner was in there too, enjoying a warming cup of coffee. Note: she must have been riding bare back. Brave girl.
Next week we will be talking about the sad history of a lovely young girl called Jay.
Just thought I would share my frustration with you. This jackdaw is sitting on a neighbour's clothes post but he might just as well have been a cardboard cutout. Oh, or she lest, in this day and age of political correctness, I am accused of sexism.