50 SHADES OF SCHNITZEL – My Frankfurt (Food) Diary by Ilona Chavasse

The Frankfurt Book Fair may be over, but many still bear the scars with their bulging inboxes and drooping eyelids. Ilona Chavasse, a Frankfurt Book Fair survivor shares her heroic account here.

Soon to be digested in The New York Times, The Bookseller, Vogue, and Frankfurt Village Voice.

 Day 2 – Wednesday

Oversleep breakfast, and several Hall 8 crappuccinos later, I am reliably informed that in the French pavilion good espresso is being given out on demand. Not for the first time I wish we were allowed to bring interns to Frankfurt. They could learn so, so much, and fetch coffee, too.

Here comes our Hungarian sub-agent (handsome, saturnine, serious – delightfully Magyar, in other words) bearing gifts. This could be exciting. It turns out my moaning last year about how no one brings goodies and treats that one actually wants to eat (would the abomination that is Norwegian salted black liquorice please stand up and proceed briskly to the exit) was memorable enough to prompt him to bring me two nifty little bags of Hungarian paprika. Score! These are not immediately edible, alas, and I’ve failed to note down which one is sweet and which is hot – the Hungarian labels are all Greek to me.

Onwards to the kiosk and the inevitable classic double Frankfurt sausage in a hard roll. It’s only 2pm, how could they have run out of kartoffelsalat already?

Ah, Jewel of India restaurant. So conveniently near the fair, so evergreen. The fun-loving, generous book scout who is in effect in loco parentis to her entourage of alarmingly young blondes asks the waiters to bring us lots of everything and keep the wine and beer coming. The bill is predictably eye-watering, and we stumble out on a cloud of love and good wishes from the management.

Day 3 – Thursday – fleisch and more fleisch, topped with meat

Fuelled by a largish mound of crispy bacon I sprint across the footbridge to the back of Hall 8 like a crazed and ungainly leopard late for a parent-teacher meeting. My contact is late, and I think mistakes my silence for disapproval – I’m in fact just trying to catch my breath.  The coffee is still so bad it feels punitive.

Many appointments later, my boss Vanessa has also given in to the Frankfurt frankfurters (did I mention you get a pair, with a hard roll?) and brings one pair over for me after getting a pair for herself. There’s a cunning little hole in the roll, filled with mustard! My mouth is busy pitching our extraordinary range of fiction and non-fiction, but I hope the gratitude in my eyes does not go unnoticed.

Dinner at a traditional regional eatery called Zum Grauen Bock… The beautiful, pencil-slim agent seated next to me and I (pleasant-enough looking, I guess, decidedly not slim) both want to try a bit of everything so agree to share our starters. In the event, we could easily share them with a small refugee camp, as the pickled herring turns out to be AN ENTIRE HERRING, soused in vinegar and lounging languidly in a lake of sour cream, caressed by fronds of pickled onion rings and wearing a decidedly come-hither look. My companion’s starter of liver dumplings could nicely feed a garrison emerging from a castle under prolonged siege, long after they’ve eaten all the rats and horses. The main courses begin to arrive like a pageant from a medieval bestiary: roe deer stew, suckling pig, knuckle of wild boar, roast swan, unicorn pie, schnitzel in cheese sauce, and the rest of the usual suspects, too.

Scanning the happy international faces around us, the bare wooden tables and the democratic condiment trolley, it suddenly occurs to me that context is all – for all we know we’re in the German version of Aberdeen Steak House. Extraordinary, how exhaustion and rich food combine to produce all the symptoms of intoxication, especially when leavened with beer.

Some misspent hours later (FrankfurterHof, nightclub, FrankfurterHof) it is far too far into Friday, and yours truly is finally off to bed, once again narrowly missing out on the chocolate pudding stashed in my mini-fridge.

Day 4 – Friday – from bad to wurst, sorry, sorry

Three hours of sleep later and I’m on my own at breakfast, having flatly refused to join the Commander-in-Chief at his table. Honoured, dear sir, but must regretfully decline, as not in a fit state for human company. I’m having enough trouble holding on to my own table, so cutlery is equally out of the question. As is solid food, really. No flash photography please, unless you want to see a lady be sick into her handbag.

The useful thing about a raging migraine is that it makes the thought of food, any food at all, seem as appealing as a second ice pick through the eye, to add to the first. Bless you, o Spanish editor, who cancelled our meeting, my last for the day, which means I can lurch back to the hotel, lie back and not think of England, the rights list, the escalating crisis in Greece, or whether handsome daredevil  Felix Baumgartner managed to make his historic skydive from the edge of space to earth. (FYI he did it on the 14th of October. Breaking the sound-barrier didn’t kill or maim him, as was thrillingly a real possibility).

Bless you, too, o my Russian sub-agent, who came to mop my brow like a ministering angel. I promised you a fun, crowdy and rowdy evening of tapas, wine and song, but I’m afraid all you got was me in a darkened room. And you weren’t even the first.

Midnight at the Thai Dream around the corner. The nice Thai waitress brings us grapes, then hot towels, then crackers, then more grapes, then the address of a late-opening massage parlour, and then we finally get the message and vacate the premises.

Not too late for chocolate pudding, but I’m not feeling it tonight, just not feeling it.

Day 5 – Saturday – has everyone gone home but me?

Too tired for breakfast.  Anyway, Frankfurt breakfast – like sleep and sobriety – is for babies.

Late lunch-time and I’m off to the kiosk for the inevitable pair of frankfurters. Gosh, these are yummy. And very comforting somehow, like the frenemy you’ve had since first grade. Or like early-onset Stockholm Syndrome. Sausage is still plentiful, but they’re out of kartoffelsalat.

Dinner brings a slab of excellent steak I struggle womanfully to finish and real, honest-to-goodness cauliflower, at which the French publisher sitting across from me sneers with a Gallic, manly disdain. There’s also a coy little carrot swirl, and it looks so lonely I send it down to join the cauliflower.

The FrankfurterHof late on a Saturday night feels like the last night on the Titanic – those who didn’t quite make it into the lifeboats wander half-dazed around the cavernous main drag, drinking champagne and looking for people they know and can hole up in a grotto with. Champagne and wasabi peas for everyone!

 Day 6 – Sunday – the last hurrah, the final frontier

Regrettably, I forget to leave a tip for housekeeping when checking out, but I do leave a jar of pickles I never managed to open, and a chocolate pudding, in the fridge. Perhaps it will make a nice change from all that predictable money?

2 pm, and Angela alerts me to a hot food van just outside selling “dirty fries” – ie crisped in lard on six sides and tossed with salt and paprika  – and I promise myself that I’ll only eat a couple. Something happens between inhaling the first fry and reaching for the second one, because I suddenly come to, three minutes later, with no fries and no memory of eating them, only a sense of deep well-being emanating from my waistline region, and also shame.

I ring home from the airport and put in a request for two heads of broccoli. Steamed. Large.  Every atom of my being is yearning for green leafy vegetables, but there’s a delay and a Haagen Dazs stand by the gate. Come on, Haagen Dazs. At the airport. So would you.

Words cannot describe my airline mini-meal (do note the kartoffelsalat, and the fact that the pickle is bigger than the sausage – take that, Christian Grey!) but I did take a photo, and here it is.

Monday

Back to the office and the way in is the usual gauntlet of pastry, candy, and assorted Haribos. I limit myself to a single wafer-thin mint.

Ilona Chavasse is Rights Manager at Atlantic Books, and has been going to Frankfurt long enough to know what’s coming, so there’s really no excuse.

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What’s the fuss about Frankfurt?

There are a few code words for “leave me alone, I’m busy” in the world of children’s publishing, and indeed publishing in general. “Frankfurt” is one, and “Bologna” is another. But what’s the fuss all about, and how can you tell who’s truly frantic and who’s faking it?

For anyone not working in publishing, book fairs sound like civilized affairs, upmarket car boot sales with bunting, stalls full of books and possibly some homemade cake. Sadly that’s not quite the case.

Instead picture an enormous, soulless exhibition centre, often without any natural light.  Agents are allocated tables in the Rights Centre. Publishers usually have a bundle of plywood with which they must build their own stand. It sounds a bit Blue Peter but by the time the fair opens they have usually produced impressive sturdy-looking structures from which to display their wares. A few carefully-selected titles are highlighted with covers facing outwards; enormous posters of lead titles adorn the sides; harassed people scurry around within, conducting meetings, or hovering nearby. Indeed, “harrassed” tends to be a theme at book fairs. Appointment are scheduled in half-hour time slots, but everyone seems to be permanently running late. Moving from station to station can involve covering large distances while negotiating crowds, and, of course, bumping into familiar faces can also cause delays.  Now picture a publishing scrum.

So what exactly is going on? Whether it’s the rights team at a publisher’s stand or agents selling translation rights, we’re all pitching books to editors from international publishers. Meetings are usually in pairs or small groups, and one person will be talking about the books they are selling while the other person will be listening (or politely pretending to listen).  On the English language side UK and US agents and editors meet and mingle and discuss new projects.

Editors hear hundreds of pitches each day over a course of several days and select the titles they are interested in reading.  Sometimes publishers may offer to buy translation  rights for their territory at the fair for titles they have already read or feed back on titles they are still considering.   It’s an opportunity to find out what’s happening in different markets and to catch up with the translation publishers who publish existing clients.  We also meet with co-agents who work on the ground in different territories and with scouts who will direct their clients in different territories towards the English language titles they believe will appeal to them.

Why all the preparation beforehand?
Planning for a fair is not dissimilar to preparing for a military operation, (I would imagine).   For anyone working in translation rights in the weeks leading up to the fair they will be collecting all this information and putting their rights guide together and probably tearing out their hair, perhaps on occasion someone else’s.  For children’s books at Curtis Brown we use twice yearly fairs (Frankfurt and Bologna/ London Book Fair), to focus on titles publishing within the next 6 months or so although we will also talk about new deals and titles which will be delivered soon.

Our preparation involves scrounging covers, blurbs, biographical info about the author, and publication details together with reading the manuscripts themselves. However organised we try to be, without fail there will be information that gets delivered at the 11th hour.  We might look a little wild eyed at that point.

Schedules are drawn up well in advance so anyone turning up for an impromptu meeting will be disappointed. The Rights Centre is strictly policed, but now and again agents are accosted by authors looking for representation which is rather unwelcome.  The book fairs are just not an environment for making these approaches; however perverse it might sound, it’s not where we’re interested in meeting authors. Our focus at book fairs needs to be on the authors we’re already representing.
It’s all about stamina and endurance and that’s even before the evening activities begin. Schedules run from 9am to 6pm with meetings back to back.  Some people might factor in one or two breaks but it’s considered pretty lightweight to have gaps in your schedule. If a meeting ends early it’s a moment to rejoice – well, if rejoicing didn’t take up precious seconds – and then it’s a choice between a comfort break, coffee break, or wolfing down a cereal bar before returning to the table for the next meeting.
As ever, the interest is always on what’s new or ‘hot’.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked a foreign publisher what they are looking for and they have said ‘something big’.  In order to create a frenzy around new titles, some agents will hold back projects and submit a book to UK publishers just before the fair in the hope that it will be acquired just in time to create a buzz and make it the hottest property around.  This can make life tricky for scouts as they monitor all the potential big books, many of which won’t be offered for in time for the fair and which may well get buried under other material in publishers’ reading piles. With so many manuscripts submitted before a fair a book can be competing for attention with far more titles than at any other time of year.

Bologna is the focus for children’s books, so not everyone in children’s publishing goes to Frankfurt — it tends to be those in more senior roles or those selling rights.  October, however, with its no-nonsense, post-holiday, pre-Christmas vibe is a busy time for everyone, just as March is a moment with a post-Christmas, pre-summer feel.  There is a real sense of excitement and promise surrounding the fairs, and a thrill of being part of a lively, vibrant industry permeates throughout publishing. Whether you’re attending or not, if you’re in publishing you’re in Frankfurt in October, it’s not really a book fair but a state of mind.

Nerves are the norm with Discovery Day on the horizon

Tomorrow, around 250 new writers will be turning up at Foyles Bookshop on Charing Cross Road to pitch their idea to agents from Curtis Brown and hear feedback on their first pages. I know for probably 248 people this is a terrifying prospect.

Talking about your ideas and your writing can be deeply personal, and knowing you have a limited amount of time and the ear of an industry professional is bound to be daunting. But it’s worth remembering that the stakes are not as high as you might fear – it will be an audience of just one and it’s unlikely to be the only chance you’ll have for an agent to read your material, so it should be seen as a trial run rather than a one-off opportunity.  No one is expecting stand up comedy acts or X-Factor performances, (in fact, we might find that a bit alarming). Rather, we’re aiming to have just a brief, informal chat which we hope will be useful.  Sharing your work puts you in a vulnerable position but if you’re a writer who wants to be read, then at some point you’ll need to take the plunge and where better to start than on a day devoted to discovering new talent?

For writers, there can’t be more sympathetic crowd than a bunch of agents.  After all, we know how writers feel and hear their concerns on a daily basis. We’re familiar with the crippling anxiety that kicks in after pressing the send button and delivering a manuscript, and the torturous time spent awaiting a response. We’ve seen even the most experienced writers tackle nerves and beat back butterflies before speaking in public so we know that what we’re inviting new writers to do tomorrow won’t be easy. However we genuinely want to help – to give honest and realistic feedback and positive advice to new writers at the beginning of their journey.

Pitching face to face to an agent is unlikely to be the starting point for most new authors, but it is a useful exercise and whenever I talk to groups I always harp on about the importance of the covering letter, which is where a new writer first interacts with an agent.  A live pitch can be transferred into a covering letter and, as I’ve mentioned before, a strong idea, with the right title will really stand out if expressed in the right way.  We won’t be offering anyone representation on the spot – we couldn’t, based solely on the first page – but we hope the day will provide useful tips, encouragement and practical advice.

And there’s more to Discovery Day, too. Aside from the pitching stations there will be small “surgery” groups in the Foyles Café (a draw in itself), where new writers can ask general questions about publishing. And there will be a panel event in the afternoon with author Salley Vickers and debut novelist Tim Glencross. We hope it will be an opportunity to connect new writers with industry professionals and to celebrate books, debuts and independent bookshops.

If you can’t make it on the day then join us on Twitter and follow the day via our new site which we’re super proud of!  Not only do we now accept submissions online but we’ll be providing resources here for writers in our New Writing Room.

Discovery Day will just be the beginning …

A Risky Business

Warning: This blog post contains disturbing content.

Of course there will always be copycats – success spawns imitation and we see this in children’s publishing all the time, with jackets, marketing campaigns and even publishing party venues.  On the one hand it can seen as a response to the market, on the other hand as a chronic case of bandwagon-itis.  Sometimes it’s harmless but today I felt pretty queasy on discovering that there are children’s publishers toying with the idea of introducing ‘erotic YA (young adult) fiction’.

There have been plenty of jokes about a children’s version of Fifty shades of Grey and anecdotes about a lift in sales of books for young readers with the word grey in their title.  I joked about it myself in a previous post, but they were JOKES – funny because the idea was hideously wrong.  I’m not suggesting that YA books shouldn’t address sex or sexuality, and of course there are scores of teenagers reading Fifty Shades anyway, but to publish erotic fiction specifically for teenagers, to encourage them to read novels where the emphasis is on the physical aspect of relationships is not just a cynical and irresponsible move, but also entirely unimaginative.  It is a complete oversimplification to assume that success of a book in one genre heralds the rise of that particular genre. Following The Hunger Games there was the inevitable deluge of YA dystopian novels and publishers acquired legions of them drastically overestimating consumer appetite. As a result there are many authors whose careers are now looking pretty post apocalyptic with only a few survivors.

Thankfully there are children’s publishers who are more interested in setting, rather than following, trends. I had a cheering lunch recently with the managing director of a major children’s publishing company who expressed support for risk taking and experimentation.  This is encouraging at a time when many publishers are exercising extreme caution, and it shows an awareness of the unpredictability of the market coupled with a willingness to try and fail rather than not try at all.

In reality, a large number of acquisitions are risky – predicting sales and drawing up costings based on sales of similar seeming books is just fancy guesswork.  How books perform can be a surprise to those involved – books which sell for tiny advances can take off while enormous advances may fail to earn out.  Take the example of two books I’ve read in the last few weeks: one sold for a six figure advance and has sold just 650 copies (according to the Nielsen Bookscan);  the second was a modest deal with a passionate editor and while on paper it didn’t look likely to make a splash, it has sold 30,000 copies in the UK alone.  In an uncertain environment, publishers should be certain that they trust the  judgement of the editors they appoint. And those editors should be empowered to make decisions to acquire books they really believe in. They should be given the opportunity and tools to make them work, and the confidence to adapt and change tack if they don’t. Or at least that’s how a utopian children’s publishing world would look to me.

What’s in a name? Tackling titles and staying calm.

Writing a children’s book – you think that’s hard part? Now try coming up with the right title.  If you find yourself tearing out your hair, howling at your computer screen or flinging your keyboard across the room, you’re not alone. Title tantrums may plague even the most composed of authors. You’ve toiled for hours, months, or years, agonising over sentences, entering into the psyche of your characters, and creating an entire world. And now you’re supposed to reduce all of that to a few puny words.  Even God found naming tiresome and delegated responsibility to Adam; creativity has its limits. So it’s easy to see how a title can terrorise an author. The pressure to describe your book, to capture its tone and spirit in an engaging, appealing and completely original way may be too much.

Well, the good news is that you don’t need to secure the ultimate title, at least not initially. Few titles tick every box so instead just aim for a couple or at the very least just make sure it’s easy to pronounce. While a great title will pique interest early on, so will a great idea and a great book.   A title can be revisited, revamped and rearranged and in all likelihood it will change altogether and even change back as I discovered with one of my children’s authors this week. In fact if you’re too wedded to your title it can be an issue – I’ve heard of a publisher lowering their offer because an author refused to consider using a different title.  In some territories a title might not translate well – words or sentiments might not resonate in the same way and the publisher will work with an author to find the best alternative. The title of your manuscript may not end up being the title of your book so be prepared to adapt: and crucially in the words of the superbly titled THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, “Don’t panic”.

When choosing a title you might want to think about which of the following categories your choice will fall within:

1. One word – If you go down this route make sure it’s something that really packs a punch and captures the spirit of the book.

eg. CHOMP, FLIP, SAWBONES

2. Descriptive – it pretty much does what it says on the tin.

eg. GHOST GAME, SPY SCHOOL, THE LUNATIC’S CURSE, THE ABILITY

3. Eponymous –  Naming books after characters can work well if you have an arresting name for your character but remember it won’t mean anything to a reader on its own so consider adding something to their name to describe the story further

eg. VIOLET MACKEREL’S BRILLIANT PLOT, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, THE OGRE OF OGLEFORT, STITCH HEAD: THE PIRATE’S EYE

4. Longer, intriguing and slightly quirky – these are rather popular at the moment but do make sure it is relevant to the book’s content.

eg. THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT, MY BEATING TEENAGE HEART

And here’s what not to do:

  • The title should convey something, but not everything, about the book. Make sure it’s relevant to the story but don’t try to fit the whole story into the title, stick to just one aspect of it.
  • Avoid tongue-twisters or anything too obscure
  • Avoid anything that has been used too much or old fashioned words ‘daring’, ‘magnificent’ ‘Chronicles’, ‘Adventures’, and the word ‘eternal’ can be off-putting
  • Don’t be too clever – puns can be tricky to translate

If you can’t come up with something dazzling don’t despair – your idea of mediocrity could be deeply stirring for someone else.  Just to show how subjective a ‘great title’ can be I asked my colleagues at Curtis Brown to share  favourite titles.  You’ll see from the list below that there’s no obvious pattern here – the appeal lies in the music of the words with every reader humming a slightly different tune.

Sheila Crowley:  The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

Anna Davis: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Jonathan Lloyd:  Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer

Vivienne Schuster: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Gordon Wise: No Turn Unstoned: The Worst Ever Theatrical Reviews by Diana Rigg

“I love me, no I love me” – Why authors shouldn’t self-review

Everyone’s talking today about crime writer RJ Ellory who has admitted to posting flattering reviews of his own books on Amazon under pseudonyms and criticising rival authors (h/t to @sheilacrowley ). Frankly, I’m flabbergasted (albeit a little delighted to be able to use the word ‘flabbergasted’ in relation to publishing’).  While this isn’t the first time an author has manipulated Amazon’s review system, the part I find so bizarre about the RJ Ellory fake review scandal is that he is far from an unknown, struggling author desperate for praise and recognition, fearful his publisher will drop him at any moment. He was Orion’s book in the goody bag at their party a couple of years ago for goodness sake – you can’t get a clearer expression of publisher pride than that. He has won awards, has been selected for the Richard & Judy’s book club and his books have sold more than a million copies – he’s hardly struggling to make it, driven to desperate means to gain attention as all else has failed.  At least that would be a little easier to understand.  Even harder to understand are his posts themselves – consider this one about A Quiet Belief in Angels:

“Whatever else it might do, it will touch your soul.”

I find this quite disturbing.  What else might it do? It sounds like there could be some dangerous side effects involved  –  don’t worry if the book explodes on page 324, if you experience dizzy spells or become strangely susceptible to Amazon reviews because it will also touch your soul so it will all be worth it.  Could there be a bolder claim? At least if you’re going to post fake reviews about how wonderful your work is then at least make them a) appealing and b) believable.  A lot has been written over the last month or so about book criticism, how Twitter is too nice and no one can post negative reviews anymore. But we shouldn’t forget that the onus should not only be on the critics to be reasonable and not insulting, and authors either to be thick-skinned or not to set up google alerts about their books, but also on readers to make smart decisions about which reviews to pay attention to. There are some friends whose recommendations we’ll greedily pounce upon and others we’ll politely shelve.  Shouldn’t we operate in the same way online too and treat reviews and recommendations with more than a pinch of salt?

Soup, Statistics & Young Adult Novels

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of young adult novels, The Comeback Season and You Are Here. Her third novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight published in the UK in January 2012 and has been translated into twenty seven languages.

Her middle grade novel, The Storm Makers, published in the US in 2012 and her new young adult novel, This Is What Happy Looks Like will be published in 2013.  Jen is a senior editor at Random House US imprint Ballantine Books and her first book was bought when she was an assistant at literary agency, ICM.

I asked her a few probing questions and she has kindly responded (and is still speaking to me).

ST: So, Jen, you have worked at a literary agency, and now you are both an editor and author – which is the best position to be in and why?

JS: I think they’re all great in their own ways, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing the industry from a few different perspectives.  It’s given me a nice 360-degree view of the whole process, which has been incredibly valuable.  I loved learning how things are done at an agency, and I’m incredibly passionate about being an editor, especially because I’m lucky enough to work with so many wonderful authors.  But I suppose being an author is probably my favorite, just because it’s always been such a dream of mine.  I think they’re all great positions to be in, though.  The very best books are a result of teamwork – probably more so than people outside of publishing even realize – and I’m very proud of the books I’ve helped to create in all three roles.

ST: How many times have you been asked the question, ‘Do you believe in love at first sight?’?

JS: Too many to count!  I guess that’s what I get for calling my book what I did.  I’m also frequently asked what the actual statistical probability of love at first sight is – so often, in fact, that I feel like I should probably just make something up at this point.  (How does 24% sound? ST: Too low!)

ST: Is it true that as an impoverished student you lived on soup during while studying at St Andrews? If so, what kind of soup was it?

JS: It is indeed true, and the answer is vegetable soup.  Which sounds really sad, but it was actually quite good, and besides…there were crackers too!  I also wore mittens in my dorm room throughout the winter (and the summer, actually, because we’re talking about Scotland here).  It was all very Dickensian…

ST: How useful do you think your Masters in Creative Writing was?

JS: There’s always a lot of debate about these programs, but I think the degree of usefulness really depends on the person.  For me, I was looking for time and space to write…and very little else.  I’d already had a job for three years at that point, and so I liked how unencumbered I was that year; there were literally three hours a week where I needed to be somewhere, and the rest of the time, I was left to wander around and write (and eat soup).  There wasn’t a huge amount of instruction or supervision, which I really liked about the program, though it did mean you had to be fairly self-motivated.  I know some US programs are more structured, and I’m sure there’s a right place for everyone – but St. Andrews was definitely perfect for me.  I was looking for time to write, and I was looking to do it in a beautiful place.  So I don’t think I could have found anywhere better.

ST: You’ve just appeared at the Edinburgh Book Festival – what was the best and worst moment?  

JS: Yes, and I loved it!  What a cool experience.  It was such a great festival, and there are so many highlights, but my best and worst moments are probably the same.  I gave a talk in front of 175 school kids, which is a really big audience for me.  I get pretty nervous before these types of events, and with school groups, you’re never quite sure how things will go, but it ended up being a whole lot of fun.  They asked great questions about the book and the writing process, and afterwards, it was fun to get to meet a lot of them as they came up to get their books signed.  So that ended up being a real highlight too.  (That, and seeing people like Gordon Brown, Ian McEwan, and Chris Cleave in the author’s yurt — I was definitely a bit starstruck!).

If anyone knows the actual statistic for the probability of love at first sight please let us know!

You can read a round up of reviews for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight here.