It was 30 August 2023 and it had been a beautiful day - sunny, even warm. By 6pm, my friends and colleagues had started to assemble at Almo's Books in Carterton for my book launch. It was introduced by Steve Laurence, owner of Almo's and a Councillor for the district, and I was introduced by Andrew Denholm, publisher of the Wairarapa Times Age, Midweek, Memories, Property Press and more. I gave a speech and followed it with a reading. Here, I'm sharing my speech and some photos taken by local photographer Jade Cvetkov.
Kia ora katou and hello everyone. Welcome to the launch of Willow in Underwood in paperback.
Thank you very much for that introduction, Andrew. Can I say – it is an absolute pleasure to work for the Times-Age – writing every day is so much fun. Just so you know, if you’re thinking of joining us at the Times-Age, Andrew is a stellar leader, and my manager Andrea Hay is an outstanding boss.
I’ve been reading crime novels written by Canadian author Louise Penny which follow the adventures of that wonderful character, Inspector Gamache. One of the other main characters in her novels is an ancient, slightly mad, and very foul-mouthed poet called Ruth Pardo. Ruth says that ‘fear lives in the head, courage lives in the heart, and in between is the lump in the throat’.
My novels are a way of trying to clear that lump. I’ve written a half dozen now – and I’ve got outlines and rough drafts for another half a dozen ready to go.
When I read novels – say by Louise Penny, Liane Moriarty, Maeve Binchy or even Patrick Gale or Graham Greene - there are always characters who are obviously hurtling towards destruction – but I also keep finding characters who are ‘whole’ or who are on a journey to ‘wholeness’.
I’m aiming to write ‘whole’ characters one day but I’m very aware that this takes times and practice. As well as more of the courage and less of the fear.
If you’re familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he says that people who are successful at something are thought to have put in at least 10,000 hours of practice. I’m on the path towards those 10,000 hours with Willow in Underwood. It’s Book One of the Underwood Collection and it sets the scene for a trilogy that follows the adventures of three fairly unlikely and very diverse women friends. As an aside - in my opinion, Book Two is even better than Book One.
In Book One, the women come together in a small town called Underwood, fictionally situated on the coast of Cornwall in the South-West of England. Willow Parker, the main protagonist, has flown from California to Underwood after her aunt dies, leaving Willow her house. It comes at a good time for Willow – she’s able to use it as an excuse to escape from an oppressive family and the expectations of marriage to a rather nasty piece of work.
In Underwood, Willow befriends Mayou Wootton, a local businesswoman, and Emelia Carson, who is trying to make it as an author. Now stories can be multi-layered.
In each and every one of them is a small group of friends. They banded together, they had amazing adventures, and they overcame adversity. To me, that’s what Willow in Underwood is really about.
You can buy Willow in Underwood from Amazon either as a paperback or as an e-book.
And, as booksellers start to stock the book, you should also be able to find it on bookshelves. Booksellers looking for Willow in Underwood can find it on the Ingram platform, and it’s been uploaded to Neilsen Title Editor and Wheelers.
Be aware, because this novel is published in America, it uses American English – which was a steep learning curve for me.
Thank you so much for coming tonight. A huge thank you to Steve Laurence for hosting us here at Almo’s Books and thank you again to Andrew for his lovely introduction.
Kia ora rawa atu (many thanks). Ka kite anō (see you again).