Re-launching my first novel as an ebook has been a pretty low-key affair with regard to celebrations – a glass of bubbly and a rash of texts and emails, and that was about it! But back in February 1989, LOUISA ELLIOTT’s entry into the world was like a fairy-tale come true.
Carmen Callil, then Managing Director at Chatto & Windus, hosted a very special party at her home in London. As a first-time author it was wonderful to be embraced with such warmth by Carmen, my editor Alison Samuel, agent Caradoc King, and a host of directors and well-wishers from Chatto and Pan and APWatt. There was champagne and a beautifully-iced cake to wish LOUISA ELLIOTT good speed on her way into the world. The evening passed in a blur of introductions, conversation, lovely food, heady drinks, happy faces and warm congratulations.
Surrounded by my family, I was floating on a cloud of enchantment, scarcely able to believe it was happening to me. Looking back it ranks with my wedding day for sheer euphoria, all the good wishes flowing in one direction, like warm air under silk petticoats.
The clock spun round, and it seemed no time at all until midnight was striking and it was time to say goodnight. Next morning, still floating, Peter and I left our hotel like newly-weds. The sun was shining as we walked hand in hand across Kensington Gardens, our hearts dancing like the daffodils – a good month ahead of those at home in York.
Coming out onto Knightsbridge, we reminisced about the first months of our marriage, some twenty years earlier. Then, we’d passed Harrods on a daily basis – me on my way to work, Peter to nautical college in the City. As penniless newlyweds Harrods was not exactly our local shop, but on LOUISA ELLIOTT’s launch day, with new money in the bank and the great department store before us, we decided to venture in.
Mesmerised by the artistry of the food halls, I could have gazed for hours, but Peter reminded me we were supposed to be looking for bookshops. Scanning the store directory, he spotted Harrods’ book department on an upper floor and ushered me towards the nearest escalator.
There, to my amazement, we found LOUISA ELLIOTT, resplendent in blue-and-gold, and displayed in a prominent position. What joy! What an unbelievable, dream-come-true moment that was. That my first sight of my first novel – actually on sale – should have been in Harrods, of all places, made me quite dizzy with delight and disbelief!
But for real, glowing-all-over pride, the tour of York’s bookshops next day topped even the Harrods experience. LOUISA ELLIOTT was in every bookshop window, the silhouette of York Minster on the posters proclaiming that this novel was not just about the characters, it was about York. Seeing the book for sale in the city where I’d spend five years doing research, was where heady joy was transformed into deep-seated thankfulness.
I looked back on the five years of the book’s creation – years of ups-and-downs in which following the dream had often seemed like folly – and I knew that the dedication had been worth it.
Twenty-four years later, I’m still amazed by the way that book left my hands and took on a life of its own. One critic called it Dickensian in size and scope – another likened it to Thomas Hardy – and maybe it is in the way that love and high ideals are shadowed by some harsh realities. Certainly Louisa’s story is far from being ‘a romance’. Like York itself it offers a three-dimensional view, and remains a surprisingly modern tale with a 19th century setting.
As a print book LOUISA ELLIOTT has touched hearts around the world. I’m delighted to say that this timeless story is now available worldwide as an ebook.