Friday, November 04, 2005

Well, today's the day. The French launch of "The Firemaker" under the title of "Meurtres à Pékin".

It is being held tonight at Les Trois Epis - the biggest bookstore in Brive - on the eve of the biggest bookfair in France outside of Paris, La Foire du Livre. Last year it was visited by 120,000 people over the course of the weekend, which really begins tonight when the "Book Train" arrives from Paris carrying the publishers and journalists, and more than 500 writers, from the Capital.

Many of them are attracted not only by the bookfair, but by the fact that at this time of year the traditional fare of southwest France is readily available in all the markets and shops at better prices than in Paris. I'm talking, of course, about foie fras and the confit de canard - those high fat foodstuffs which, miraculously, don't even seem to dent the French reputation for having the lowest rate of heart disease in Europe.

Hmmmmm. Eat on.

La Patronne, of course, has done her usual excellent job of preparing the publicity for the book and the launch. She has produced a press pack, in French, which is downloadable on PDF from the new French website which she has just launched. It is viewable at:

It also contains a link to a downloadable podcast which I have just recorded in French. Actually, it's pretty much the speech I will be giving at the launch tonight - the speech which has obsessed me for most of my waking hours for the last week.

There were two important criteria to follow. It had to be written in a French I could speak. And it had to be something I could deliver without notes. Oh, and it had to be intelligible and interesting. Now you're beginning to understand why it has obsessed me for the last seven days.

I adapted it from one of the stories I normally tell in English when doing a book tour. I created a structure that I would remember in English, and then wrote it from within my limited pool of French vocabulary. So far, so good. But the delivery is another matter altogether - especially in front of a large crowd of native French speakers.

Ariane, my translator, and her husband, Gilbert (who designed the book cover), cast an eye over it and declared it more or less intelligible. I suggested, hopefully, that maybe I should have the speech in my hand to refer to when I deliver it. But they didn't think that would look very good, so I embarked on a course of trying to commit it to memory. Arggggh. The butterflies in my stomach were whipping up a storm already.

I spent all afternoon on Tuesday with my neighbour, Laurène, going over the speech sentence by sentence. She made some minor corrections to facilitate my delivery, and I headed off home to practise some more.

That night Ariane and Gilbert and Laurène and Roger came to dinner and insisted I stand up and deliver the speech to them. It was amazing just how stressful it was to stand up in front of a group of friends to deliver a speech in French. Somehow I managed to stumble through it, and of course, they were very encouraging.

But the proof of the foie will be in the stuffing of the duck! In other words, it'll all be down to how I do on the night. I spent Wednesday and Thursday on more practice, and recorded the adaptation of it for the podcast.

Now, on Friday morning, those butterflies have multiplied and got even more frenzied. I am just about to head off and get into my kilt - US tour revisited (one of these days I must get the damned thing dry-cleaned!). Well, if nothing else, it gets me attention - and that's what I need to sell books.

And I thought all I had to do was write them!

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