Friday, March 28, 2008

Let the readings begin...

I feel like I've been working hard of late. I'm not complaining mind; it's been fun, it's just that it's also been incessant. (I didn't take Christmas Day or New Year Eve off for example...)

With the release of the book imminent I thought it would be sensible to grab a couple of days of downtime before the inevitable whirl of work kicks in and so I scheduled a short break to Berlin. The idea was to recharge my batteries before starting the book-readings.

I enjoyed Berlin a great deal but because I was on holiday my immune system seems to have decided it could take a break also and I've suddenly been consumed by a horrible cold. Oh well. I'll dose myself up with goodness and do the readings with as few coughs and splutters as I can.

My trip was arranged with precision to give me the maximum break out of the short time available. I was flying from London City airport precisely because it's about 20 minutes from my front door. I love City Airport. I keep meeting people in London who don't even know it exists. I thought I'd been really canny and that I would be back at home by 10am today. I was wrong.

The conditions weren't great this morning and as we came in to land the pilot decided he didn't fancy it and aborted the attempt pulling out of the descent at what seemed to be quite a late stage. It was all very dramatic. In an oh-my-God-I'm-going-to-die way. He must have thought it too dangerous to try again because he pretty quickly announced that we were going to Heathrow instead... which somehow ended up adding another three hours of travelling to my day. Harumph. Come on pilots... we'd rather risk life and limb than be delayed and have to cross London.

Anyway. I'm back. In one slightly chesty piece. And I'm looking forward to my trip to Cambridge tomorrow for the first reading.

If you can't make it to any of the readings but would like to buy a signed copy of the book then they're available through, but only if you pre-order. The link to the signed copies is here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Travels, Books, Stuff...

This is going to be a slightly unfocused entry... I'm playing catch-up with life at the minute.

My trip to the States was fun - largely because the people I was working with were fun. If they hadn't been it would have been pretty awful because it was all work, flights and long drives. I flew London to LA on Friday, went to work on Saturday morning and then flew from LA to Phoenix, Arizona and then Kansas City. On Sunday morning we drove a couple of hours out of the city and had another long day of work. On Monday we flew from Kansas City to Indianapolis. We worked all Tuesday before making a dash for the airport and flying to Dallas. (Tip, don't let a man called Tom programme your GPS... Toms think they know all about Tom Toms and you can end up driving an hour in the wrong direction and not getting to bed until 1am as a result.) We started early on Wednesday with a five hour drive from Dallas to Lubbock and then spent the rest of the day working. Thursday was one of the longest days of my life. I got up at 5am and left the hotel at 5.30. Another five hour drive saw me in Dallas where I boarded a plane bound for Boston where I scooted across the airport just in time to board another flight... this one to London. We landed at 5.20am on Friday. It feels like I went from 5am one day to 5am the next without experiencing a night time. Odd. And discombobulating. And you can see how liking the company of the people you're with - and the work that you're doing - becomes important in such circumstances.

I'll tell you more about the work another time. And I'll be visiting to carbon neutralise the trip some time this week. (I know, I know... it probably does more good for my conscience than the world but...)

I wasn't in any time zone for long so I never really acclimatised to the situation but I've still been a bit wobbly on the other side of it. I've been getting a bit yawny at around 4pm each day and managed to fall asleep bolt upright at my desk yesterday - albeit for only 10 minutes.

Having had only the weekend to recover I was straight back to work on Monday with the book event at Foyles. I'm really glad we did this event this way. It was done to create some video-podcasts about the America Unchained book for the Guardian website. The original idea was just to film me doing a sit-down interview with someone but I think those things can come across as quite dry and formal. Doing it with an audience - and taking their questions (instead of the questions dreamed up by your own publicist) made it more exciting for me and more fun all round. Given how tired I was during the afternoon it was good to have an audience to kick me out of it and give me the much needed adrenaline rush. The idea had been to assemble an audience of around 70 people. Normally when you do a free event there's a relatively large number of no-shows where people take tickets and don't use them... which almost never happens when they've shelled out actual money for them. With that in mind they oversubscribed it a little and gave away 100 tickets. I think three people didn't make it. Anyway, it was really enjoyable for me and a nice way to warm up for the impending book tour that starts soon. I'll let you know as soon as the videos from the night are put online...

The book isn't published until April 3 (but can be pre-ordered now, natch) and so I took a copy of my last A4 manuscript version with me to read from. But as it goes the publishers had rushed a hot-off-the-presses version to the shop so that the real thing was there. Seeing a printed book for the first time is always an exciting moment. Until then you don't really know how thick it's going to be, how it will feel in people's hands and so on. It's the moment at which all of the hard graft or writing is translated into something real. I'm very happy with it. It feels cared for and the colour photos lend it a richness that isn't common these days. Hurrah.

And then on Tuesday I saw rather more of them. A thousand of them as it goes. I went out to a depot in Essex to sign them for various book shops who've ordered some signed stock. It's events like this that destroy one's signature. Try writing the same thing - anything - over and over a thousand times...

Tonight I'll be recording an episode of Clive Anderson's Chat Room for Radio 4. It's about the week's news... I feel woefully under-prepared. I haven't really engaged with the real world this week - there hasn't been time. I'm sure some stuff happened involving a person and some other people and some stuff. Oh dear.

EDITED: To remove the gobbledygook random code that somehow made it's way in mid-word and also to say that Clive Anderson's Chat Room is actually on Radio 2 not 4 (I wasn't the only person who made this mistake, the audience's tickets all said Radio 4 too.) It goes out tonight (Thursday 20th) at 11pm and is repeated on Saturday also.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I'm back...

Flight, originally uploaded by Dave Gorman.

... and I need to sleep.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Before I go...

I'm flying to America later today. I'll be back in a week. And at some point I'll tell you what I was up to. It's going to be a hectic schedule that's for sure.

It's not so long ago that I was sat at my desk, spying the end of the book in sight and hankering after a big chunk of time off. It doesn't seem to have materialised.

I finished the book not long before the film was screened so I was thrust straight into promotion for that. And telly being what telly is, the film's broadcast seemed to remind a few people that I exist and the phone started to ring with a few offers of work as a result. Or maybe the offers would have come anyway. It's impossible to know for sure.

But anyway, the upshot is that I'm flying to the States tomorrow.

Before I go, there's another book related event I ought to mention.

The Guardian are going to host a few video-podcasts about it... which is lovely of them. My publishers suggested filming an interview with me and using that but I find those sort of things make me squirm. There's something insincere about an interview when the person asking the questions is really doing a PR job for the person answering them.

I thought the thing would have more energy - and honesty - if the questions were coming from, oo, I dunno... you. Yes. You.

So we're organising a small event for around 70 people so that you can do just that. Assuming you're one of the 70 people who attends it.

It's going to be on March 17th at Foyles Bookshop on Charing Cross Road in central London. People will need to get there for around 6pm.

We'll turn a camera on, I'll chat about the book for a bit and then there will be not just Qs but also As. I'll do the As if that's okay with you.

Then we'll turn the camera off and hang around for a glass of wine and a chat. I might pretend to be hosting a St Patrick's Day Party and you can pretend to be my guests if you like. (Not that we'll go on to the early hours or anything... it is a bookshop after all)

Anyway... as space is limited someone's decided to get organised with it, so the spaces will go to the first 70 people who e-mail with their phone number and a question that they'd like to ask.

(Nobody's going to show me the questions in advance, mind... they just want to make sure that we don't end up with an audience of 70 people who all sit there in silence because they all assumed someone else would ask a question. That would make for an awkward podcast.)

Why not come along and help me cast my first pod?