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The first time I came to London as a kid, the London Underground blew my mind with its posters, musicians, and how EASY it was to get around town. I think I was 12, and I begged my parents to let my little sister and me go off by ourselves in the Tube and meet them somewhere later. They didn't let us ("If you didn't show up, what would we DO?" said Dad.) But I've always wondered if some day maybe I'd get to make something that could appear on a poster down there. And it's come true! Early Twitter sighting by Ian Cairns:

I still haven't seen the poster (although I painted extra tentacles for it), but I've heard they're at Old Street, Angel, and Highbury & Islington. If you get the chance to tweet a photo of another one at me, I'd love to find out where it was! :)

I had a funny visit to Waterstones Piccadilly on Saturday. I stopped in (truth be told, to use the loo), but also to visit the new-ish Russian Section. Lots of beautiful books there - I'll definitely go back - and they have the Russian atmosphere absolutely nailed. When the female attendant spotted me looking at the children's books, she asked if I had any children. And when I said no, she nodded sagely, saying,

"Not yet. But you are still young." And then I knew she would talk about Pushkin. And she talked about Pushkin.

Latest purchases from the Russian section and Children's Book section

I made my way up to the children's section, where I bought some books and offered to sign some of the Oliver and the Seawigs stock laid out on the front table. The manager, Robert, (who looks like that Russian hacker guy from Golden Eye) didn't recognise me from my official signing, without the big frock or tentacle hat. That was to be expected, he gets a lot of visitors, but he thanked me warmly when I'd finished.

Downstairs, I noticed they had more Seawigs in the main floor showroom, so I offered to sign those, too.

"Sure! If you really are the illustrator," said the clerk. (He didn't ask, but I grinned and showed him my Society of Authors card to reassure him.)

Since I was dropping in unexpectedly, I didn't get a table or anything - of course not - and I happily signed, bent over a table of books. I heard a couple behind me, discussing what to get their six-year-old niece for Christmas. I looked up and asked them what sort of thing she likes.

"I don't know, maybe some sort of adventure story," said the man.

"Well," I offered, "these are adventure stories. If you buy one, I'd be happy to sign in it and doodle in it for you. If she's too young for it, it's a good book for someone to read aloud to her." I smiled benignly and turned back to signing.

"Ah," said the man. The couple carefully sidled away from me and continued looking.

"Sharks," said the woman to the man. "She loves sharks. I don't see anything about sharks."

Aargh! Did I tell her I'm coming out with shark book very soon? Of course not. She really didn't want to know. Anyone standing signing books in a book shop is most likely mad, and certainly not famous enough to have made good books. They probably weren't even my books. (How often does that happen, I wonder; someone posing, say, as Ian Rankin, and dashing off autographs with wild flourishes.) This is why one must wear a massive costume and travel around with publicists, of course.

But I will still do occasional signing forays into bookshops because I like picking up a book at a shop and suddenly discovering it's been signed by the author. It's a nice touch.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 17th, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
I had an embarrassing experience offering to sign books at a bookshop I won't name, very early in my career. Since then I"ve NEVER dared offer to sign books again unless they recognize me and ask me too! it's too painful!
Nov. 17th, 2013 03:13 pm (UTC)
Ha ha! Oh no, what happened?! :D Sometimes I'm not in the right mood to do it, but sometimes it seems worth doing. I still think this one was a good idea, but it came with slightly amusing cringe factor.
Nov. 17th, 2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
Nov. 17th, 2013 03:16 pm (UTC)
How often do you think people go in pretending to be authors, and signing someone else's books? I wonder if it's quite a regular thing, or maybe happens only once or twice a year in a big shop like that.
Nov. 17th, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC)
That's a really good question. Maybe we should ask booksellers on Twitter!
Alison Mutton
Nov. 17th, 2013 06:35 pm (UTC)
I think people automatically think that anyone doing anything creative in a public space is a bit mad, and *clearly* hasn't done whatever creative thing they said they did, because real people do not, for example, draw. I have come to this conclusion over a number of years demonstrating portraiture and the like at agricultural shows – number one opening gambit is 'did you draw that?' (when that's clearly what I'm doing) followed closely by 'do you mind if I watch?' (clear proof that they think I'm mad, only crazy people would sit in the middle of a huge hall full of people if they didn't want to be watched :P).
I once tried to demonstrate actual illustration, which I think is more interesting, but only ended up with people wanting to know why I was 'colouring in' and far too many conversations that made it clear people thought computers generated illustrations with the click of a button. On the whole people were more impressed with my recreating a photograph, and looked at me oddly at the thought I might be able to draw something without anything to look at. I think there needs to be some sort of global education programme acquainting people with the idea of illustration, and the fact that illustrators are not actually *entirely* crazy....
But congratulations on those fabulous posters! I hope they bring in lots more sales!
Nov. 17th, 2013 09:13 pm (UTC)
It's true about people being a bit freaked out by drawing. I forget that when I'm around illustrator/comics friends a lot, it seems entirely natural at the pub or at dinner to doodle things onto a napkin or handy sketchbook to explain a point, or to make a picture together. ...Actually, it's just adults, I've never met a kid who didn't respond very naturally to drawing in any situation.
Alison Mutton
Nov. 18th, 2013 05:56 pm (UTC)
Have you come across the people who get all freaked out by mechanical pencils and think you're the borg? It's quite funny, actually – people lean backwards in alarm when presented with a mechanical pencil, and I've had people actually scream at the sight of a kneadable eraser! =P (electric erasers appear to be okay, as though it's much better to have something with batteries because that proves the artist is not a freak of nature but has to have the tools to the work, or something. Plus whizzing them goes down well with young boys.)

Some time in the not too distant past, some famous writer (I forget who, I think he did thrillers) decided to sign some books in a shop here without asking the assistants, who saw him apparently defacing their books and practically had him up before the police. So I guess it's not completely unheard of for people to sign books that aren't theirs!
Nov. 17th, 2013 09:03 pm (UTC)
I believe that Charles Stross (autopope) once went to Australia and stopped into a bookstore where at that moment in time there was someone there pretending to be him, and signing books.
Nov. 17th, 2013 09:17 pm (UTC)
Wow!!! How shocking, I wonder what he did! That sounds like the start of a book; the imposter runs away and the writer gives chase... O___o
Nov. 17th, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
I believe he showed them his passport as a definitive measure, and signed his books. The dramatic chase, however, is a much better story...! :)
Nov. 21st, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
The fools! The fools! I'd have jumped at the chance to have a signed book! Have just bought Oliver for my 7 yr old (OK, really for me, too...) and was thrilled to see the knitting pattern for the sea monkey, which a friend has very kindly agreed to knit for me ( she's getting a copy too!) If you come up to Scotland, I'll happily bring my book ....er, my daughter and her book along for you to sign!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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