Saturday, April 26, 2008

Book Readings... and the Tellyboxing of Genius

I fly to Galway tomorrow for the start of another week of book-readings. As well as Galway I'll be visiting Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee. The details/venues/etc are here. Hopefully I'll see some of you at some of them.

In the meantime... here's some rather jolly news. We made a one-off tellybox episode of Genius last year and it's no longer going to be a one-off. We're going to make a series of the show for BBC2 (as well as making more for Radio 4)

Of course, when we're going to make a new series we always need to have a fresh injection of potentially genius ideas... so get your thinking caps on and send them along. Don't post them here though and don't send them to me - I'm sure I'm the least organised member of Team Genius and I can't be trusted with important things like that. No, e-mail Team Genius at (including your name and telephone number) or visit the Genius website.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Robert Mugababe

I have a blind spot. Every time I see the word Mugabe in a newspaper headline my brain sees the word Sugababe first. I know that doesn't make sense. I know the two words aren't that alike and I'm not pretending there's ever a moment of tangible confusion where I read the whole headline as if it's about the girl-band (with hilarious consequences!) - it's more that my brain scrambles for a tiny fraction of a second before it arrives at the correct destination and I don't seem to be able to undo it. Odd.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Don't look at the sales... here are the sales...

America Unchained was published on a Thursday. I'm not sure when the book industry collects its weekly sales figures but they reveal them on a Tuesday. Which is why my publishers called me during the week of publication and said, "By the way, don't be worrying about the sales figures when they come out... you won't be in the charts because you've only got two or three days of sales compared to everyone else."

I took them at their word. But then last Tuesday my editor called me.
"Do you want to know the sales figures?" he asked.
"Not really," I said, "You told me I shouldn't worry about them this week..."
"That was before we saw them," said he. "It's good news... you're in the top ten!"
"That's brilliant!" I said. "And we've only had two or three days of sales!"
"I know!" he squeaked. "You're in at number nine. But," he continued, "don't get too excited about next week..."
"But we'll have a full week of sales next week..."
"Yes... but you've done a lot of press and a lot of readings,"
came the reply, "you won't have the same exposure next week so things might tail off..."
"Okay," I said, "that makes a lot of sense... I won't go looking next week."
"Just celebrate this week... it's a real achievement... well done."

And so on. Cut to an hour ago when I received a phone call...
"Do you want to know the sales figures?"
"Not really," I said, "You told me I shouldn't worry about them this week..."
"That was before we saw them," said he. "It's good news... you've gone up to number six!"

In other news... this is what Mark. E. Smith would look like if he wore my glasses:

For the time being, I think signed copies of the book are still available from but if they run out, you can always get the book from here.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Book plugging across the universe*... only going forwards 'cos I can't find reverse...

It's been a strange old week of promoting the book. I'm exhausted by the amount of press I've had... and delighted by it also. PR people have a habit of being very apologetic... they grimace and say, "I'm really sorry... but I'm going to have to ask you to do one more..." as if I'm going to be unhappy about promoting my own book.

I think some people think of the writing as the artistic bit and consider selling their wares a bit tawdry... but I'm not shifting souvenirs and merchandise I'm selling books and I can't imagine putting the blood, sweat and tears into writing it and then not encouraging people to buy the thing. That sounds like the masochistic route to me.

As well as readings I've been doing all sorts of interviews including one day where I think I managed 15 back to back. There's always a day like this. You visit the BBC and sit in a tiny studio (John, the studio engineer told me that I'd drawn the short straw and that my studio for the day was nicknamed 'The Wardrobe'.) while they connect you up to various regional stations. So you record an interview with BBC Wales, then BBC Lancashire, then BBC Bristol and so on. Some of them are live, some of them are recorded. I think I did interviews at 9am, 9.30, 10, 10.30, 11, 11.30, 12... then I went upstairs and did something face to face for a Radio 2 show before returning and doing 1, 1.30, 2, 2.30, 3, 3.30 and 4... then at 4.45 I got in a car and was driven to Basingstoke for a reading.

The only city we've stayed in overnight so far has been Leeds (which was lovely because I have a couple of longstanding friends there who I could have a bit of a catch up with.) I would have liked to stay over in Nottingham too because it's such a great city but the demands of breakfast telly meant I had to be back in London.

Exhausting as it is I really am delighted that there's this amount of interest in the book. Much as we like to grumble it would be much worse if nobody wanted to talk about it and I was calling the publishers pr office to check that they had the right phone number for me because I hadn't heard from them.

The hardest part of a day like that is remembering what you've already said to someone. Every now and then someone will ask an open-ended question like, "Tell us about one of the other places you went to?" and your mind goes blank as you can't separate what you've already said to someone else from what you might have already said to them.

The most enjoyable interviews have been the ones conducted by the audiences at the readings. There's always some overlap with the questions but by and large each night is different and it stops proceedings from being boring for me and hopefully means that the crowd go away knowing that they've had an event shaped by them. The Leeds event was huge - apparently the biggest that shop's ever organised and last night's in Hove was a joy too.

The schedule means I haven't had a chance to get online much during the week so I haven't been able to stay on top of things like this... so here's a quick round up of things that would have trickled through in smaller, daily entries if I'd had the chance...

WIN A HUBCAP (SEE PHOTO): There are four main characters in the book: me, Stef, Andy and the car. Only the car and I actually went all the way from coast to coast. I love that car. When anything fell off it I swiped it and brought it home as a trophy of my travels and travails. Most of them are on my kitchen wall. When the journey was over we nabbed the remaining hubcaps. I ended up with two of them. So I can afford to let one of them go. So I've given it up as a competition prize... which are running. I can't give you a link to the direct page because it seems to be embedded but if you visit their site you have a fifty percent chance of seeing a banner advertising the competition.

SIGNED COPIES AT PLAY.COM: In my last entry I gave this link to the signed copies that you could buy through They sold out quite quickly... but this afternoon I'm going to sign another two or three hundred for them so they should be on sale again pretty soon. Every shop I read at always asks me to sign some copies before I leave so there always signed copies available at those stores too.

GUARDIAN ARTICLE AND PODCAST: Even though the event at Foyles was filmed the Guardian website has used a small audio clip from the night and illustrated it with a slide show of my photos. I think the photos works quite well. It's here. There's also an article I wrote about the journey in today's Travel section, here.

TODAY AT BORDERS, OXFORD STREET: There's another reading happening this afternoon (Saturday) at Borders on Oxford Street in Central London. I've had quite a few e-mails from people telling me that the shop hasn't been especially helpful when they've called and asked about it... which doesn't bode well. But I think it's the kind of thing you can just turn up to. It starts at 4pm. Come on down.

CARDIFF, APRIL 29TH: This event has apparently sold out. But yesterday I was told that they're going to move it to a bigger venue so if you've tried to get tickets and been told it's full you might want to try the shop again: Tel: 02920 387 909
(If you have a ticket and are worried about the change of venue I think it's very close to the bookshop so it shouldn't cause too much confusion on the night.)

THE WRIGHT STUFF: I'm appearing on the show every morning this next week. There's a small live audience in the studio so why not come along. You can apply here... or you can call Eric on 0207 985 1927.

I think that's everything. I have Sunday off. And breathe.

*- Not actually across the Universe. Just bits of Britain really.