Sally Nicholls could probably persuade me to read almost anything. I’ve rarely seen anyone so enthusiastic about particular books and authors. We met up for lunch in Manchester on Thursday, as Sally happened to be in town for the Manchester Book Awards. As I don’t expect to be able to make it to London for the launch of her new book, Season of Secrets, it was really quite convenient that Sally was travelling north.
I found her sitting exactly where I’d suggested, on a seat at Piccadilly station, clutching a framed picture of the winning alternative cover for Ways To Live Forever, hoping that it would identify her as the one I was looking for. It did. Also the fact that she looks just like her photo on the website. Darker hair than I had imagined, but then you know me and my silly ideas of authors and their hair. I’ll make anyone blonde in my mind, if I feel the need to. Sally’s is beautifully dark brown.
We needed somewhere to have lunch, and from my shortlist Sally picked Café Pop, which is always a cool place to be seen. And then we talked and talked until it was time to put Sally on the train back to London. And I realise there are lots of books I must read, and some of them I will attempt. I promise. Sally waves her arms quite a lot when enthusing over the best books. But then she’s still on her Young Person’s Railcard, so she’s got the energy.
Sally didn’t win the Manchester Book Award. Sophie MacKenzie did. But she was happy to be shortlisted, and with the event on the Wednesday, which sounds like it included a lot of reader participation, with lots of competitions and stuff, like the alternative book covers. Before we met that morning Sally had visited two schools to talk to the children.
The Resident IT Consultant was pleased to hear I’d been talking to an Arthur Ransome fan. I gather Sally managed to have fairly Ransome-esque holidays when she grew up, which sounds very, very nice. Living in central London (although not actually on Waterloo Bridge, where she belongs in my mind), Sally wants to leave London and go and live somewhere with proper countryside. And since her first book has done really well, she can at least afford to do that, if she gets round to it. Ways To Live Forever has been sold to 17 countries, which is pretty good.
Between us we sorted out English GCSEs, and if I could only remember them, I know exactly what books Sally read for her A-levels. The Importance of Being Earnest and some more … We covered the problems of buying Christmas presents, and I got to admire the very lovely rubber stamp she’s been given to use when signing books. My book is in the post, I believe, so I couldn’t get it signed. Maybe I’ll have to make that book launch after all. (Sally is the first author I’ve come across to offer her floor to sleep on. I think she may even have offered someone else’s floor. I hope they’ve been informed.)
I’m looking forward to reading Season of Secrets once it turns up. One copy has already got lost, and I’m thinking maybe that’s what the thieves who stole the postman’s load the other week, were after.
Book number three is being written, but I didn’t ask what it’s about. Never sure if writers want to discuss unfinished books, so better avoided. And by the way, that’s not how Sally was dressed yesterday, and it’s not the seat at Piccadilly. But I do like the colour of her dress.
(First published as a blog post on March 13th, 2009)