How did I get a beautiful quote for my book from one of the best writers in modern British History? It was thanks to Barry Stone.
Whatever happens with Andalucía, whether it sells thousands upon thousands, or not much more than the few hundred I’ve already reached, at least I have that quote from Pat Barker, winner of the Booker Prize.
“Told with courage, humour and love, Andalucía weaves past and present with great skill so the pace of the narrative never falters. There is a zest for life on every page of this book which I found both moving and inspiring” – Pat Barker
To think one of my books, indeed the most important and beautiful book I will ever write, would have such a stamp of approval, such a quote on the front cover – well, I could never have predicted that. Pat Barker even came along to my event and reading at Durham University the other week, along with the wonderful writer Fadia Faqir, another supporter of mine.
It’s all down to Barry Stone in truth. Barry, a local writer from Holywell just up the road, agreed to read the manuscript of Andalucía, loved it and gave me a quote:
“Tender and potent: a beautifully crafted narrative, rich with love and free of sentimentality. Triumphant! A story for every family that has been menaced by cancer” – Barry Stone
He accepted the cup of tea I’d made him, then asked which star name I’d targeted for a quote for the front cover. I didn’t tell him what I was thinking; that he was the one. He might not be a household name but he’s written a wonderful book, Barking at Winston, self-published it, sold thousands through perseverance, through charm and word of mouth that followed peoples readings, then had it snapped up by Constable, a leading independent publisher. And of course he’d got a quote from a big name:
“My tail’s wagging! Barry Stone achieves the almost impossible: he writes from the point of view of a dog and makes me care about the canine and the people he comes into contact with” – Ian McMillan
And so I’d told him I’d met Pat Barker once, at an event I’d participated in about the worth of creative writing in prisons (where I teach). She’d even bought a copy of my first book ‘Kicked Out’ afterwards.
“That’s it,” said Barry, smiling and taking a sip of his tea, then fixing me with a knowing glance.
And I knew then that the opportunity was too good to let slip, that yes, perhaps it might be a little cheeky to ask her to read a proof copy of ‘Andalucia’, given I’d only met her once. But ‘Andalucía’ is a special book, and shy bairns get nowt. I trawled through my e-mails. I was sure I had her e-mail address from a couple of years ago, sent in a group message from someone we both knew. Eventually, I found it. If I could have held it up like a piece of lost treasure I would have. An hour later a carefully crafted e-mail was on its way. Two hours later the reply came back: “By all means send me a copy. The book sounds fascinating.”
Now the book’s out and the feedback has been wonderful. Amazon reviews say the following:
“Andalucia is the most beautifully written book I have ever read”
“At times this story really does stop you in your tracks; sometimes to laugh out loud, at other times to catch your breath because it feels like you’ve been punched in the stomach”
“It made me yearn for the beach and dene, the prose and descriptions are beautifully done”
“It’s beautifully and skilfully written, so moving but funny too. It had me crying in places, laughing in others – I couldn’t put it down”
But I’m after a not quite so literary stamp now, that of Richard and Judy. How do you go about getting one of their stickers on your book? An internet search reveals nothing but reams and reams of questions from desperate writers asking the same thing.
I’m meeting Barry Stone tonight. He’s invited me over for a cup of tea and a chat. He knows I want to find out how he manages to sell so many books at his Waterstone’s signings. He’s turning himself into a legend; in thirty six signings around the country he’s sold nearly three thousand books. I’m hoping he’ll let something of his secret slip. I might even ask if he knows Richard and Judy, but I guess if he did, then he’d have one of those stickers on his book as well as a quote…