So, here we are on the next step of Louise Phillips' Red Ribbons blog tour! Wednesday night was her big night, and when I say 'big' I am not exaggerating, her launch in Hughes and Hughes was massive! So completely well deserved!
We had a bit of a chat, before and during launch day. What I wanted from Louise was to see launch day through her eyes, so I asked her all sorts of annoying questions about how the day was going... she was good enough to answer. And while I was at it, she was quizzed on the book itself, Red Ribbons...
Tríona:"It's the beginnings of the day of your launch, how are you feeling? Excited? Nervous? Terrified!"
Louise: "I feel all of those things Triona and so much more. My head is rushing with so many thoughts that my mind can’t filter it all properly. I suppose it’s a bit like all major events in your life, you plan, you imagine, you think you know how you are going to feel, you tell yourself that when the time comes, just savour it, bank it in that place called memory, and while you’re at it, remember to enjoy yourself!
I have read in public before, I have spoken in public before, and yes I am often nervous, but I have worked hard to overcome these things, yet another skill base of being a writer that you must manage. But no matter how many times I prepare properly, I still get those butterflies. Now, it’s usually five seconds before I am called on to speak! But this morning, those darn butterflies are turning into armies of butterflies, they have minds of their own, and I’ve a feeling I ain’t going to be able to stop them. Practically everyone I know will be at the launch this evening, and that in itself is a pretty scary thought!"
Tríona: "Okay, so it's the beginning of launch day, tell me about another very important beginning, that of 'Red Ribbons' - where did the story come from?"
Louise: "It started with an ambition of mine to get inside a bad man’s head. This challenged me on two fronts. Firstly crossing gender – not as easy to do fictionally as you might imagine, and secondly, to enter the mind of a character so far removed from me as a person, that the only place I could find him was in my deepest fears."
Tríona: "Lunch Time! This evening is getting closer! What's happening in the Phillips household now? Getting hair done? Tweaking the speech?"
Louise: "Hair is booked for one o’clock. Melissa, the best hairdresser in the world will be chatty, that girl can make a dull day turn into a carnival! I’ve to pick up about a million things, including balloons, red and black ones with ribbons standing 7 feet tall. Three o’clock is the makeup appointment. I’m dreading this as the trial run wasn’t very successful. I don’t like heavy makeup, and strong lipsticks don’t suit me, but I was aiming for something that might be a little beyond my usual bland, neutral, ah that girl doesn’t wear makeup kind of look, but DISASTER. So I’m not sure what’s going to happen there – I guess I’ll just wing that.
My house looks like a bomb hit it, and I’m not sure why! Hubby is being helpful, but I can tell I’m stressing him out – I’m stressing me out.
Every time I pick up the piece of paper with my few words jotted down, by hands shake – NOT A GOOD SIGN!!"
Tríona: "Back to the novel! Okay, so you've begun the novel, but how difficult was it getting that first draft down on paper?'
Louise: "Maybe it’s a bit like giving birth; you only remember the good bits afterward
The first draft nearly killed me at times, but God did I miss all my characters when it was done."
Tríona: "Time to be leaving the house. Calm before the storm?"
Louise: "I’m now aiming for storm before the calm. It will be okay on the night!!! Clichés exist because they usually make sense, but I’m aiming for a u-turn on this one. It is late afternoon, and I already think I should have packed the bag of things I need before this!!!"
Tríona: "When your book was picked up by Hachette - that must have been amazing... but while it probably felt like the end of one journey, was it really the beginning of a new one?"
Louise: "It felt like a dream come true, yet another cliché, but sure every now and then it’s nice to use them. I had no idea what the next leg journey would entail. I knew nothing about agents, contracts, publishers, what was and wasn’t expected of me. I had done research of course, but the real deal is very different when it happens. Suddenly there are a million questions and the learning curve looks daunting. I had no idea of so many things; I had very few answers to lots of questions. But I learned fast, because you have to. Every part of the journey is different, from the early days of contracts and deadlines, to editing, copy editing, cover design, website development, all the way to writing the acknowledgements, and now the launch speech. It is all new and scary, but thrilling and ultimately what I’ve always wanted to do."
Tríona: "You're on your way to town, into Hughes and Hughes. Soon, very soon, everyone will be able to buy their own copy of Red Ribbons. How does that feel?"
Louise: "Oh God! And oh God again!! It feels like the most amazing thing ever. I’m a writer. I write stories. And now I’m a writer whose book will be read by friends, family, strangers, the girl from the shop where I ordered the Red Ribbons for the launch, my doctor, my butcher, my life, and then some more. How the heck can you get your mind around such a thing? But, if people read my book, and I’m sincerely hoping many do, and if they like it, well I love them. We all have tons of love in us, and I’m hoping I’ll work hard on my reserves, build them up to a nice big juicy healthy heart!"
Tríona: "The final draft, the book that went to the printers, how did you feel about it?"
Louise: "I felt proud. I know others might not like it, I know it may not be perfect, I know I will open it up at times and think I could have done that better, but right then, and now, I know I worked that manuscript to the very best of my experience, and I still read parts of it and think, my heaven, that was a story worth telling."
Tríona: "You're here! And so is your adoring public! Do you feel like you've won the X-Factor? (without any nasty Simon Cowell!)"
Louise: "I could do with a Simon Cowell to concentrate my thoughts! The staff in Hughes and Hughes have been brilliant, and I feel very confident that they know what to do. Everything should be in place, but I’m so used to doing things for myself, that the feeling of letting go is making the whole thing feel strange. I’m watching people arrive, and I’m nervous that not enough people will show up, and equally nervous if lots of people do. I don’t do celebrity, so it feels totally weird. Part of me wants to point to Niamh O’Connor, and believe it is her book launch and not mine. I already feel like I’m going to cry because I see so many familiar faces, and those I don’t know, I’m wondering should I know. People are being lovely, and supporting, and amazing, and I probably have a stupid grin on my face, even though the tears are very close."
Tríona: "Once the book is out there, with the public, what are your hopes for it?"
Louise: "I hope people love it. One person, ten people, a hundred people. I did a reading in Ballymun a couple of weeks before the launch, and the following week, twelve people had the novel on back order with the library! How utterly fantastic is that, twelve people putting their name down to read my book. I hope it creates excitement, I hope people tell me if they liked it, I hope to see it in shops at the airport, someone reading it on the dart, on the bus, curled up on their couch at home, put on shelves in faraway holiday places, on the beach. Each copy is a piece of me, I hope it does its job and then some. All the other stuff, PR, promotion, league tables, reviews, and everything else which goes hand in hand with publication, only matters if the story is right, as Stephen King says, it’s all about the story."
Tríona: "It's the end of the evening. It must have been one hell of a day. How are you feeling?"
Louise: "My feet are wrecked, high shiny black heels are dangerous!!! I’m elated. I’ve never talked so much in my life. I’ve forgotten who I’ve told what to. My hubby looks as wrecked as I do, my entire family look like they been through it all with me, because, they have. I’m hoping for so many things, but right now, I’ve made my brain stop. It has happened. The book is launched. It is a done deal, until of course the next leg of the journey gears up. For now though, sleep is very much on the cards."
Tríona: "So, what's next for Louise Phillips, published author?"
Louise: "Doing what I love. Writing. I’m back to The Dolls House the first chance I get. My aim is to have first draft finished by Christmas, now where have I heard that before??? January, I’ll be minding my beautiful granddaughter while my daughter finishes her masters, so everything else will take a back seat to that. Come February, it will all start all over again. Crazy but great!"