I’ve recently returned to London from a tour of Australia (and New Zealand, if you can call 24 blearily jet-lagged hours in Auckland a ‘tour’): I visited four cities, took eight flights, participated in seven different events, appeared on three television shows and carried out more interviews than I care to remember. Travelling with a book to promote is demanding, exhausting, exhilarating experience.
The tour kicked off in New Zealand, about which I remember very little, apart from the fact that I spotted Bill Oddie in the hotel lobby. Sadly, I was able to see almost none of this gorgeous country – although my publicist was kind enough to get our taxi driver to take a scenic detour from the hotel to the airport to give me a glimpse of what I was missing.
From Auckland, I flew to Brisbane where, despite being winter, it was 28 degrees. I spoke to a sell-out crowd at the City Hall, travelled north to walk on the beach at Noosa and met a koala bear named Fingel.
From Brisbane I flew south to the main event: the Sydney Writer’s Festival. If you ever get the chance to go, do. It may be a long way to travel, but SWF is one of the best festivals I have attended: set in a wonderful location on the harbour, it expertly organised and very well attended. And it’s not often you get to brush shoulders with not one, not two, but three Booker Prize Winners (Marlon James, Richard Finnegan and Julian Barnes were all in attendance, as were a host of other inspiring folk, from Gloria Steinem to Kate Tempest).
To Melbourne, where I devoured an utterly delicious south east Asian feast at Ginger Boy, listened to the brilliant Hanya Yanigahara wax lyrical about A Little Life and had the surreal experience of standing on an escalator in a shopping mall, listening to the woman in front of me describing the plot of my own book to her friend (she got most of it right).
There was a little free time, including a wonderful trip (along with seventeen members of my extended family) to the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney. We hiked, drank far too much red wine, and travelled for a truly terrifying 310 metres on the steepest passenger railway in the world.
As you might expect, I’m usually a fan of trains. Not this one. With a 52 degree incline, it’s recommended only for those with the strongest of constitutions.
A strong constitution might be said to be a prerequisite for a book tour, too, although to me it feels like an immense privilege. Hard work, yes, but an inspiration too: so much of our time as writers is spent looking inward, it does an author the power of good to be thrust out into the world, to rub up against other writers, to peer over the precipice and wonder, what’s down there? And where to next?