Thursday, 19 October was a memorable day. Winston Peters surprised New Zealand by announcing a change of government. A friend (the same age as me) became a grandmother. It was sunny in Wellington. And All Our Secrets was finally released into the world.
Luckily, the launch turned out to be nothing like the dream version I’d had a couple of nights earlier. In my dream, a friend arrived at 6pm to find the entire venue – a grim, grotty student flat, don’t ask me why – empty apart from several drunk people comatose in the corners.
In the real version everyone showed up*, the venue was Meow (as planned), and instead of drunks, the corners were occupied by stuffed kangaroos, fitting décor for the launch of a novel with a distinctly Australian setting. The evening was unseasonably warm (also fitting), and the buzz of Winston’s impending announcement added to the atmosphere. Just as with a wedding, all the dramas of the lead-up, including a passport going AWOL and a last-minute flight change, were soon forgotten.
Sixty-five or so wonderful people filled the venue, including our wedding celebrant, come to think of it, and friends from everywhere I’ve worked in Wellington, probably excited by the prospect of me writing about something more compelling than income protection insurance or a proven treatment for mastitis in cows. My mum, aunty and cousin had travelled from Australia as had my brothers and sister-not-quite-in-law. Even my former writers group was there, reunited for the first time in five years, and better still, making plans to reform.
The evening’s soundtrack was provided by my brother Damien and his partner Nicole (of the missing passport), with a special live performance I wish I could have paid more attention to. In homage to the Bagooli River, which runs through All Our Secrets’ fictional town of Coongahoola, they based their playlist around a river theme, playing classics like Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren and PJ Harvey’s Down by the Water.
My other brother Anthony (whose last-minute flight wasn’t delayed by fog, earthquake, or locusts, all possibilities I’d considered) did a great job MCing and speaking on behalf of publisher, Penelope Todd; Catherine Robertson delivered a very flattering speech (thank you again, Catherine); and I read from All Our Secrets without tripping over the words or the stage.
I spent the rest of the evening sitting alongside the two friendly Unity Books sales girls, signing books (in my terrible childish scrawl, sorry) for those who bought one (and, in my daughter’s case, those who didn’t. Tess snuck along her own copy from home, just so she could join the book-signing queue.)
A couple of weeks have passed since that night, but the excitement has continued with a constant stream of messages from people who are reading the book. A friend’s 13-year-old daughter even wrote a report about All Our Secrets for English, concluding “I recommend All Our Secrets to people who are interested in a murder mystery or just because you need a good book to read”. Thank you, Emily!
Thanks, too, to everyone who joined me at Meow and made the launch so memorable, to anyone who has shared their thoughts on All Our Secrets, and to those who bought a copy and helped push it up to number 2 on the NZ fiction bestsellers’ list last week.
I guess I’d better get cracking on the next one…
* Except Sean O. He waited to hear Winston Peters’ announcement before rocking up, bursting with excitement, around 7pm.