If you don't have time to read this whole ramble, you can take a quick look at the Storify summary of my trip, put together by Bloomsbury Sydney.
Book 2 update: I'm painfully close to hitting 80,000 words. Pretty sure I can finish by February. Apologies for how rushed this blog entry is – the manuscript is my priority!
|The Booktopia team at Supanova|
On 9 November, I was up at 4am to get my flight to Abu Dhabi. After seven hours in the air, I caught a second flight to Sydney, which took sixteen hours. Fortunately I slept for most of the way, but I didn't land until late in the evening on 10 November, where Brendan Fredericks from Bloomsbury, who was to be my chaperone for the Australian leg of the tour, picked me up. As I arrived late, I fell straight to sleep and managed to neatly avoid jetlag, despite my body clock running eleven hours ahead.
It was thundering with rain in Sydney, much to my horror – I'd packed for summer weather. Brendan and I picked up coffee before heading over to the Bloomsbury Sydney offices on George Street, where I met the wonderful team. The Sydney office was only founded quite recently, so the team is tiny compared to the buzzing HQ in London, but it meant I could meet everyone personally – and considering how small the team is, they work bloody hard and do a brilliant job. After saying hello and eating croissants, I headed over to The Rocks with Brendan and Bethia Thomas, Digital Marketing Manager at Bloomsbury. The Rocks is a historic area of Sydney Harbour, established shortly after Australia's first European colony in 1788. One of the oldest places in The Rocks is Susannah Place Museum, an English-style working-class terrace built by Irish settlers in 1844. After picking up more macaroons (this was to become a random obsession), we went to our first bookshop, Pages and Pages, before having lunch at a quaint little florist-mixed-with-café called The Boat House on the beach. After lunch we went to Booktopia and Constant Reader, where I signed a few stacks of books and met the staff. Like the States, Australia still has a thriving indie scene, and it was great to see so many unique and interesting shops and dedicated booksellers. After a seagull-infested dinner, Brendan and I went on to the Sydney Opera House for a scintillating Game of Thrones event: George R. R. Martin in conversation with Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) and Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark).
The next morning, I was on Channel 7's Sunrise before I did a series of interviews. In the evening, the Bloomsbury team took me out for a meal at the Lotus Dumpling Bar in The Rocks. I've always been slightly puzzled by people's love of dumplings – in the UK they're just lumps of soggy dough – but I was soon introduced to proper Asian dumplings, Sydney style. Jetlag almost put me to sleep at the table, but not before the team surprised me with a lemon birthday cake baked by Jenni.
The next day, I visited a few more bookshops with Bethia and Brendan: Kinokuniya, Dymocks, Galaxy and Better Read Than Dead, where I got to meet some more readers, many of whom had been waiting for me in the shop for a long time before I arrived. In the evening, it was time for the Bone Season party at Bloomsbury Sydney. There had previously been an Australian launch at the Argyle Oracle, which I hadn't been able to attend, but this time I was present to sign books and meet people. The order for catering was "Oxford with a dystopian twist", which resulted in delightful delicacies like quails' eggs being passed around the room. I was thrilled to meet some bloggers, journalists and friends from Twitter, among them Krystal, Joy, Jaz and Simon. It was definitely my favourite night of the trip. Once again, the dreaded jetlag took me away a little earlier than I would have liked – I was to spend most of the trip battling against it.
Our first flight to Melbourne on Thursday was cancelled due to a "drainage issue" – this was the beginning of the end of my faith in Qantas – but Brendan and I managed to jump on another one. I was only in the city for a day and a night, but it left a big impression on me. It visibly revels in the arts, with experimental architecture and bookshops aplenty, and it feels more than a little European. The hotel we were staying at had a hilarious concierge, who opened the conversation by talking about twerking (which is, I suppose, one sure-fire way to make or break the ice). Our first stop was at Dymocks on Collins Street to sign a stack of books. We took a break for an amazing Vietnamese lunch – I tried the famous phở and sugar cane juice, both of which I loved – before heading to the next bookshop, Reader's Feast, where I got my hands on a hardback copy of Emily Dickinson's manuscript facsimiles. Finally, we headed across town to Avenue Bookstore, where I met some more Twitter friends, including Braiden Asciak.
On Friday, Brendan and I flew into Adelaide, where the sun was burning down. Brendan had made sure there was time for us to go up to the Cleland Wildlife Park, as I was desperate to see some Aussie critters. Cleland is an absolutely gorgeous place. I've never been too comfortable in zoos – you can almost see the animals losing their minds in those tiny enclosures – but this was far more open, with vast paddocks that you could just ramble through with the animals. I was able to cuddle a sleepy koala called Isaac, feed a small mob of kangaroos, see dingoes and pelicans, and watch tiny bandicoots bound around my ankles. Koalas are much bigger and heavier than I'd anticipated – I pictured them as tiny-teddy-sized, but they're pretty hefty, with long claws.
|Me with Michelle Fairley|
The next day, I flew back to Sydney before catching a flight to Auckland, where I was greeted by Abba from Allen & Unwin, who distribute Bloomsbury's books in New Zealand. I was only there for a day, and I was mostly confined to the hotel to do interviews, but I was stunned by how beautiful NZ is. I hope I can go back some day.
As always, I want to say a huge thank you to all the readers and bloggers in both Australia and New Zealand who took time out of their days to come and see me. It was nerve-racking to travel so far to promote the book, as a newly published author, but you made the 48 hours of flying worth every minute. Special thanks to Bloomsbury Sydney, and to Brendan and Abba for keeping me company.