12 Feb 2014

Hi mom, thanks for coming

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By Gareth Crocker

Most people believe that an author’s life is festooned with glamorous book signings, extravagant gala events and meetings with one’s bank manager, during which one does little more than swim laps in one’s money vault.

The truth, of course, is somewhat different.

To illustrate my point, consider book store events. Typically, these take the form of a sort of ‘coffee morning’ at a nearby restaurant where a group of readers or a book club come together to hear about the book store’s latest releases. As the author on show, you are invited to discuss (read: sell) your latest novel. Invariably, you’re standing in front of a table stacked high with your novels and, once you’re finished unashamedly punting your work, your host invites readers to come up to the front to buy your book.

‘And Gareth will even … sign it for you,’ she squeals, barely able to contain her excitement.

Try to imagine then what it feels like when you realise that nobody in the room has even the vaguest interest in buying your novel, let alone having it signed. What follows is a rather harrowing five minutes in which you wait, alone and in utter silence, while absolutely nobody buys your book. You smile, of course, as if you couldn’t be bothered either way, but inside you’re praying for a heart attack. Or for a bomb to go off under your chair.

Of course, this isn’t the plot of a Bruce Willis film and there is no rescue forthcoming. Instead, you sit at the head of the world’s quietest coffee shop exchanging awkward looks with the crowd who, by now, are starting to take pity on you. Eventually, some kind-natured soul stands up and comes over to buy your book. When you offer to sign it for her, she gives you an alarmed shake of the head. ‘I can’t return it to the bookstore if you sign it,’ she explains.

Ah, right.

After she toddles off, you wait another three minutes or so before making the human cactus walk of shame to the front door. You don’t cry, of course. That’s what parking lots are for.

Fortunately, I am not alone in this rather public shame. This sort of thing even happens to the big names. I recently did a few events with the international best-selling author, Stuart MacBride, who told me that he was once invited to an event with the worst possible turnout.

‘What? Nobody pitched?’ I asked, shocked.

‘Oh no,’ he shot back, laughing. ‘I wish. It was far worse than that.’

‘What’s worse than nobody pitching?’

‘One person pitching,’ he replied, his face draining white at the memory. ‘Just imagine it. Two hundred empty chairs and one very strange individual who turned down my offer of grabbing a pint across the road. Instead, he insisted that I give my full speech just as if the room were brimming with ears. A part of me died that night.’

And then, of course, there is the soul crushing world of literary festivals. I was recently invited to speak at a fairly prestigious one where the wonderful and charming, Alexander McCall Smith, was the main attraction.

Soon after arriving, I discovered I was part of a three-member author panel that was booked to speak at precisely the same time as Alexander was scheduled to talk at the adjacent venue.

As I stared out across our conference room, I counted twenty souls amongst all the empty chairs. Twenty folk who, bless them, had chosen to come and listen to us as opposed to the wonderfully engaging and all-round amazing gentleman that is Alexander McCall Smith.

But then I noticed that seven people in the audience were, in fact, from my own publishing team. Ah, okay. So that leaves thirteen people who are genuinely interested in us. And then the two authors sitting beside me waved to their respective publishing teams.  Twelve people winked, nodded and gave their authors the thumbs up. That left one last person in the room who didn’t work for a publisher.

Well, I thought, at least one member of the reading public is keen to hear from us.

And then the author to my left waved to the lone guest. ‘Hi mom, thanks for coming.’

Gareth Crocker’s debut novel, Finding Jack, was published in New York to international acclaim. It was translated into several languages and featured in eight volumes of Reader’s Digest Select Editions with combined sales of more than a million copies. In 2012 Penguin Books published his adventure novel, Journey from Darkness, followed by the kidnap thriller, Never Let Go in 2013. Both Finding Jack and Never Let Go are currently being considered for films in Los Angeles. Gareth’s latest novel, King, has just been released. His upcoming novel, The Last Roadtrip, will hit shelves in October, 2014.



8 Responses to “Hi mom, thanks for coming”

  1. Candice says:

    I’m going to be honest… I didn’t read your blog. I did however just finish reading “Finding Jack”, from start to finish in one afternoon I might add, and I absolutely loved it! I was hooked right from the start. And I’m not sure if it’s because I have soldiers in my family or my love for animals is a strong one (they always seem to pull at your heart strings more than humans in books and in movies to begin with I find) but I could not put your book down. I also want to throw out there that I’m not typically an emotional person, nor do I like putting myself in positions where I ever want to make myself cry but boy was it worth it! I cried, I laughed, I cried some more, I whimpered, I gasped and I balled my eyes out at the end. This is now in my top 10 favourites and I will be recommending you to friends and family (to go out and buy your book, there’s no way I’m lending out mine), and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of them. Keep up the great work!

    • gcrocker says:

      Hi Candice,

      Thanks for taking the time to drop me a note. I really do appreciate your comments. Sorry for all the tears, by the way. Finding Jack seems to have really struck a chord with readers which gives me great joy as a writer. Please do keep reading my work and stay in touch. Top 10? Wow. High praise, indeed. Have a wonderful day.


  2. Sabina says:

    Hi Gareth,

    After reading Finding Jack and Journey from Darkness last year I was eager for more and quite disappointed to find out that your other two books are not available in Australia. After a while of checking all bookstores I got fed up and had the books shipped from the UK.

    I really enjoyed Never Let Go – what a great idea! Honestly, I sometimes wonder how writers come out with stuff like this AND pull it off. I liked the way everything meant something, something deep, there truly wasn’t any piece of information just to fill up the story. A quick question – I have noticed some names have been used in your previous novels (Edward for a man and Jack for a dog) so I was wondering if there is more to it? 🙂

    I love, love, loved King and read the book in one sitting, pulled in from page one and just couldn’t put it down. I was crying my eyes out over how some people simply do not care and animals get treated badly even though they deserve right the opposite… but – even before getting to the end – just Eli’s effort to save King warmed my heart and gave me some reassurance of the goodness in people.

    So thanks again for the great read and a quick question from an eager reader – are you working on anything at the minute?

    • gcrocker says:

      Hi Sabina,

      Well picked up on the name thing. Yes, it’s a little quirk of mine to reuse names. Not sure why I do it, really. It’s pretty odd. Thank you for your kindness. I’m really pleased you enjoyed King. I think that’s my most underrated book. I have a soft spot for Eli and King. I’m just released a sort of autobiography called, Ka-Boom!, and it’s just pure fun. I’m today beginning work on a series of novels. It’s literally day one of that project.

      Wishing you all the very best,

  3. Susan Duffield-Lodge says:

    Hi Gareth,

    First of all I’d like to tell you that I am an avid reader. No. I mean AVID reader. I’m voracious when it comes to books. I have never, until now, gone to an author’s website or written a comment about a book that I’ve read.

    I can’t even begin to describe how your novel ‘Finding Jack’ touched me. I can’t remember reading a book, EVER, that moved me like yours did. I sometimes read so many books in a month, that a month further on I have trouble recalling what they were about. I won’t ever forget this one. Ever!

    I am still crying — and yes. I am a bit of an emotionally expressive person, but more than that I am such an animal lover at heart. I have two Labs myself; Kate, a 5 year old yellow lab, and Mousse, a 9 year old chocolate lab. They are my treasures and my soul. (my husband has accepted the fact that he comes after them in all things).

    I cried at the end of reading your book for so many reasons. It brought back all of the losses I’ve had in my life, I mourned the loss of all of the heroic dogs who fought and represented their country in a time of war and were so easily discarded. I cried because I felt like I’d been given a gift. A precious gift of absolute clarity, purity and beauty.

    I’m sure you’ve been told a million times what a fabulous gift you have. Let me be that one million and ONETH (okay, is that even a word?) person to tell you that you are truly blessed. I’m honoured to have read this book, will cherish it always, and can’t wait to read your next labor of love.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Susan (Stratford, Ontario, Canada)

    • gcrocker says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thank you for an extraordinary message. Sorry for the belated response – I didn’t even realise all these messages were coming through on my website. You are very kind and I appreciate your note. Wishing you all good things from a sunny South Africa.


  4. Tricia Clark says:

    Hi, Gareth.

    I picked up “Finding Jack” at a local book store. The name intrigued me (Jack is my husband’s name), as well as the content. Gotta tell ya, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but “Jack” was one of the best reads I have come across…ever!!

    My husband is a Vietnam veteran, and he has a story about a dog saving his life. The dog looked a lot like a yellow lab, but was much smaller. It was a local mutt, and used to hang around the camp. The guys adopted him, and would save rations to feed the dog. One night when the base was being bombarded by enemy gunfire, the dog kept nudging at my husband to get out of his bunk (he was off duty). Finally Jack got up and grabbed his rifle just in time to get out of his bunker which was hit by shells. The place was destroyed, Jack and the dog got to a safe place.

    Upon leaving Vietnam, unfortunately, the dog had to be left behind.

    Thanks for writing such a great “untold” story.

    Tricia C.

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