The Fame Game by new author David Barker

Tuesday Talk today:
David Barker
I recently had two launch parties for my debut novel, Blue Gold. It’s published by Urbane, who recently won best independent UK crime publisher by World Wide Business Review. Two launch parties? Why not, I thought, it’s not often you get published for the first time. It’s about as Rock Star as I’ll ever get.
The first party was at Waterstones Piccadilly. Yes, the big daddy of UK bookstores. Which in itself caused a problem. There are at least three event spaces that are used on any given evening, and despite agreeing with the events manager beforehand which one I would use, they pulled a switch on me at the last minute. Not a problem in itself, except that I had issued very clear instructions to all my party attendees which now told them to go the wrong part of the six-storey building. Oh, and my event space hadn’t been hoovered yet and the person who was going to serve drinks was running late.

So, fifteen minutes before my launch party started, I was bustling around, trying to chivvy along the cleaner, get some hasty poster instructions done to guide my guests to this party, while also talking to an old friend who had turned up early for the party and couldn’t stay for long. Definitely not Rock Star. My plans for world domination (or at least a minor lift in my book sales) were looking decidedly shaky… Thanks to my lovely wife – who did most of the haring around at this point – it all went off fine in the end. Yes, a few guests went to the wrong place at first, but they quickly realised and managed to hunt me out.

It was lovely to see so many friends there from different aspects of my life. One of my writer chums – we were on the Faber Academy novel-writing course together – had her debut novel published at the start of the year. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land. It’s already a bestseller and is being sold across the world, with the full weight of Penguin’s marketing team behind it. It was fun – if a little envy-inducing – to compare notes in the pub afterwards about the differences in our marketing campaigns. Not that I begrudge Ali her success, she’s a brilliant writer with a distinctive voice.

My second launch party was two days later at Waterstones Windsor. You certainly can’t get lost in this store, although like the first party, there was a definite rush to get the store set-up for my party with only a few minutes to spare. I attend a Sci-Fi and Fantasy reading club every month at this store, so I know the staff well. I knew they were doing this on a Saturday evening as a favour for me, so I was keen to get lots of book sales through their till at least as part recompense.

I was fortunate enough to have an A-list film star come to this party (for his privacy I won’t name him here). I know that sounds unlikely, but he and his wife had moved into the road we live on at Christmas, and while he had been away for most of this year filming we got to know his wife. She was charming and very friendly and so we invited her to my launch party. As luck would have it, he returned from filming just in time and came along to show his support. I couldn’t believe my luck. Where were the journalists, the press photographers, to record this auspicious moment? Anyway, he was charming and I know that he came to my launch party to support me. That’s good enough.

This week, it’s back to real life and trying to market my book. As an author of an indie-published book, I know it’s not going to sell itself. The red carpet will have to wait.

Find out more about Blue Gold and me on my website:
About the Book
"The near future. Climate change and geopolitical tension have given rise to a new international threat - a world war for water. This most vital of resources has become a precious commodity and some will stop at nothing to control its flow. 
When a satellite disappears over Iceland, Sim Atkins thinks he knows why. He is given the chance to join the hallowed Overseas Division and hunt for the terrorists responsible. But his new partner Freda Brightwell is aggrieved to be stuck with a rookie on such a deadly mission. 
Freda's misgivings are well founded when their first assignment ends in disaster - a bomb destroys a valuable airship and those responsible evade capture. Seeking redemption, the British agents follow the trail to a billionaires' tax haven in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and uncover a web of deceit that threatens global war. Whom can they trust? 
As the world edges ever closer to destruction Sim and Freda must put their lives on the line to prevent Armageddon - and protect the future of 'blue gold'."
Want a sneak peak? Click here
Buy on 
Amazon UK £8.99 £1.99
Amazon US $7.60 $2.58
Live in Devon? Near Plymouth? 
Meet David at Waterstones Drake Circus, Plymouth on 2nd June from 11am onwards.

Finding the real people between the pages of history

My Tuesday Talk Guest: Melissa Addey

Sometimes a strange thing happens when you write historical fiction. You’ll invent something – a scene, a description, which you believe is entirely fictional and also, perhaps, taking a bit of poetic licence… and then you find out it is true. This happened to me most vividly when I wrote The Fragrant Concubine

The novel centres around a real woman in China in the 1760s.
When the Emperor of China conquered her homeland of Turkestan (now known as Xinjiang), he summoned a local Muslim woman to the Forbidden City to become his concubine.  It seems she was a favourite, being given gifts and promoted before being buried with all due honours on her death many years later. But many legends grew up around her.

In China, they say that she was naturally possessed of a fragrance so bewitching that the Emperor fell in love with her. She was homesick, but he built her a mosque and a bazaar, gave her a cook from her homeland and trees to remind her of home and finally she forgot her sadness, fell in love with him and they lived happily ever after. Her own people, now known as Uyghurs, say that on the contrary: she was a rebel and was dragged to court against her will, leaving behind her family and husband. That rather than submit to the Emperor, she swore she would kill herself and kept daggers in her sleeves to defend her honour. At last, fearing all of this was too much for her son’s happiness, the Empress Dowager arranged to have her strangled by a white silk scarf. I wrote The Fragrant Concubine because I wondered which story was true: the sad one or the happy one. The novel is about what might have happened and tries to incorporate all of these legends. 

While writing the novel, I added a scene where the Emperor and concubine go hunting together, something that I knew was a bit bordering on the make-believe: although the whole court went to the hunting grounds, the women did not ride much, but it was important to my character’s storyline. Only after I had written this scene was my attention drawn to a small painting done at the time, intended as a private portrait for the Emperor’s eyes only. In it, the Emperor rides in the hunting grounds while at his side rides a woman whose clothing marks her out as a high-ranking concubine but whose hairstyle proclaims her a foreigner. It is likely, historians say, that the portrait is indeed of Rong Fei, the concubine who in legends became the ‘Fragrant Concubine’. 

I have recently finished writing a novella to accompany The Fragrant Concubine, which I give to my readers. In it, I described a new concubine, one of two lead characters, as looking like a young ruffled eagle, angry at her capture. Checking the meaning of her Chinese name a few days later (I don’t speak Chinese), I found that it means intelligence… and eagle. 

The other thing that can happen is when you ‘see’ one of your characters in a modern person, and this too can be fascinating. A few weeks ago I went on a research trip to Beijing. It’s a busy place and I took my family. My children drove me pretty crazy on our first day visiting locations. In the exquisite park that is The Garden of Perfect Brightness (the title of my work in progress, a prequel to the two I’ve already written), my five year old boy insisted on climbing on rocks perilously dangling over deep water or wading into the muddy edges of the lakes to try and ‘fish’ using a twig. He was annoying me because I was worried for his safety as well as feeling that I didn’t have the luxury of looking around me and soaking up the ‘atmosphere’ of this key location for my next novel. But I then had a sudden realisation that the character of the boy prince (who would one day become the Emperor Qianlong from my previous two books) that I was writing grew up in this sport: and what does any child do when given the opportunity to explore such a place: climb rocks and hunt for fishes of course! I watched my son in a new light after that, seeing in him another little boy who, three hundred years ago, would have explored this very place.

These moments are mysteries, but pleasant when they happen. It makes me feel as though, after researching a historical era and its characters thoroughly, something has floated to me across the centuries, that I have found the people beneath the dusty textbooks.  

Helen: I thoroughly enjoyed The Fragrant Concubine - it was reviewed on Discovering Diamonds. In fact I enjoyed it so much I chose it as my Book of the Month!

About Melissa Addey
I grew up on an organic farm in Italy and was home educated. I spent fifteen years in business, both in new product development and mentoring entrepreneurs before going full-time with my writing. I now live in London with my husband and two young children and am doing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Surrey.

You can get The Consorts novella for free at and view images from my recent research trip to China on the slideshow link. 

Also of interest: 
Those Troublesome Typos by Helen Hollick