Some events are just designed to be enjoyed. Weddings, Christenings, birthday parties – and book launches. I’ve been lucky enough to have attended a wedding and a Christening this year already (and hopefully a birthday party or two before the year is out), but yesterday evening I had the happy chance to attend a book launch, held in the lovely surrounds of Dubray Books on Grafton Street, in Dublin city. Book launches are huge fun – even, as often happened when I worked as a bookseller, you’re on the throwing end as opposed to the ‘standing around with a glass of wine’ end – and yesterday’s was no exception.
We were there to celebrate the book birthday of Susan Lanigan’s début novel, White Feathers…
…which is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a gloriously beautiful thing.
(Clearly I haven’t read the book yet, as I only bought my copy yesterday, so I can’t expound about its brilliance at the moment. However, I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful).
The book was launched by Michael O’Brien, the publisher at O’Brien Press and its imprint Brandon Books, and the fearsomely accomplished crime writer Arlene Hunt, both of whom gave lovely speeches which introduced the book and Susan herself with warmth and welcome. Arlene was one of the judges of the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair when Susan put her book forward for consideration, and it was she who found she couldn’t forget it once she’d read the extract. She recounted how, late one night after finishing her initial read-through of Susan’s entry for the competition, which was the proto-version of what would become White Feathers, she realised she had to learn more about Eva Downey (the story’s protagonist) and find out how her tale ended. It’s every writer’s dream, of course, to have that sort of effect on any reader, particularly a reader with the power to pull your story out of a slush-pile full of other talented writers and declare that it’s a winner.
Susan herself, despite declaring she was rattling with nerves, gave a most impressive reading from her novel, doing the shrill, harridan voice of one of her characters with aplomb (and giving her audience huge enjoyment), and giving no indication that she was feeling anything less than at her total ease. She was full of praise for her publishers, her agent Svetlana Pironko, and the team at O’Brien Press who worked hard on the book, including its beautiful cover art, and her passion was clear from every word she spoke. She talked about violence, and how it can take shapes and forms we do not expect, and how any human life, crushed in any way, is an example of violence. She spoke of how the very act of presenting men with a white feather during the Great War – which is one of the primary themes of her novel – was in itself an act of violence, and she spoke movingly of her desire never to see a return to the dark days of war.
There was a lot of applause and mutterings of ‘hear, hear’ from those around her.
After the speeches, Susan began to sign copies of her book – I, of course, skidded right into the top of the queue. Turnout for the launch was huge, and it was brilliant to be part of such an enthusiastic, happy group of people, all of whom were there to support someone whose hard work and talent had led them to a place of success, and I wasn’t leaving without a personalised memento of my evening. Susan – whom I’ve ‘known’ for a while from Twitter and blogging, but whom I’d never met in person before yesterday evening – was kind enough to put a lovely message on my copy of her book, which reads:
To Sinéad: In writing fellowship. Where I am now, you will be soon, very soon.
I think that tells you all you need to know about the kind of person, and the kind of writer, Susan Lanigan is. I’m looking forward to reading her book (I’m fairly sure there’ll be a review of it knocking about these parts in a few weeks), and I wish her huge success both now and in the future.
And now – to read!
If you’re interested in learning more about Susan’s book, and how to purchase it, you can visit the O’Brien Press website here.