Last night was the second of our 2 launch events for the Crime Express books. I arrived at Waterstones in Nottingham half an hour before the event was due to kick off. "I'm here for the book launch," I told the man at the desk. He pointed to the ceiling. "It's right up at the top," he said. So I started climbing. Floor after floor. Certainly the tallest Waterstones I've ever visited. And right up under the roof - I love attics - a delightful meeting room.
It takes time, I find, to learn how to read a piece of writing out loud to an audience. Writing that works off the page is not necessarily the same as writing that works when read out, in performance, as it were. First I choose the passage - something that takes no explanation and leaves the reader wanting more. Then I edit with a highlighting pen, choosing which sentences to read and which can be left out. Then I wait till the house is empty and I practice. Reading it aloud. Trying to find the pace and pauses that I think will make it work. That might get me close. But it is only when you read it in front of an audience that you find out.
Last night was my third time reading the opening of The Mentalist. I think I am starting to get it right. Hugely enjoyable.
All of which seems particularly ironic. One of my greatest nightmares as a child was being asked to read in front of the class at school.