“Are you the author? Did you write A Beautiful Family? I loved it. I’ve been recommending it to everyone…” And with that, the delightful young assistant at Skoobs Theatre of Books in Montecasino, Johannesburg, skipped out from behind the till, rushed off and came back with a copy of my book… My Book … in her hands.
“Please sign it for me,” she said.
I signed. My first autograph. Marilyn Cohen de Villiers. How strange to use name in my signature. I also wrote a little note for her. I can’t remember what.
That was probably the most surreal moment of my life. The moment I realised that I can now officially call myself a published author because people (one person) I don’t know and who don’t know me are actually paying for A Beautiful Family.
I had just arrived at Skoobs (early) with my husband, Poen, for the launch. The launch of My Book. I had been walking around for two days with an internal wobble. I had hardly slept the night before. I was so nervous and I really don’t know why. It couldn’t have been because I would be making a speech later in the evening. I am quite accustomed to public speaking. Anyway most of the people at the launch would be family and friends. Was my unease because, finally, my baby, my creation was going to be sent out into the big, wide, cruel world? Officially. Because people would be able to buy it and read it or – even worse – not buy/read it? Because people would judge it and possibly find it wanting? I don’t know. What I do know is that I was terrified. And that’s a feeling I am not accustomed to.
As we approached Skoobs, I saw the large poster outside the door advertising the launch. My launch. Wow. What a thrill! I hauled out my cellphone and photographed it. Then we went inside and I saw a pile of My Books on the counter. That was so weird. My hands started shaking.
And then that wonderful, smart, delightful, discerning, friendly shop assistant told me she liked My Book. No, she actually said she “loved” it. Incredible. Amazing. Bizarre.
Upstairs, another pile of My Books. And chairs set out for guests to sit and listen to my speech. I wiped my damp hands on my pants.
Into the kitchen where a member of my book club, Anel Whiting (founder of Johannesburg’s latest catering sensation, My Jozi Kitchen) was putting the finishing touches to her innovative canapés. They looked amazing and – when I finally got to try one or two later – tasted even better.
Then the guests started to arrive. I couldn’t believe how many friends – many I hadn’t seen for years – made the effort to brave the cold and the rush hour traffic to come and support me. And my family was there in full force too. It was humbling.
Then it was time to take the mike from Colleen Whitfield, the Mind and Mood Manager at Skoobs who had organised the launch. It was time for me to talk. To explain why I had written A Beauitiful Family. To clarify that it wasn’t autobiographical but that it dealt with a subject I have always felt strongly about. To emphasise that it wasn’t an indictment of any community but a call to people to acknowledge that abuse can and does occur in every community, even ours. Suddenly, my nerves were gone.
I was so gratified during the Q&A session that Marcia Love, the Skoobs Book Buyer, told everyone how much she had enjoyed reading A Beautiful Family – how she hadn’t been able to put it down.
Then I was signing books – lots of them. People were lined up for my autograph. Incredible. One woman I didn’t know told me that she had had no intention of buying a copy, until she heard my little talk. I signed her copy with an extra flourish.
A friend, Sue Purbrick, who had so kindly read the final proof of A Beautiful Family to check for typos before it went to print gave me some words of advice: “Don’t sell yourself short,” she said. “It’s not just a story about abuse. It’s a rollicking good read, full of suspense and great characters.”
And then it was all over. Everyone went home or to have supper at one of the many restaurants in Montecasino. I was a little dazed. It was almost two years to the day since I first started planning my as yet unnamed novel. And now it was all real. A real book. Published. Available in good bookstores and online.
- A Beautiful Family is available in good bookstores around South Africa, as well as from Amazon.com and Megabooks.co.za. It is also available as an ebook from Amazon, Kobo, Kalahari, My Book, and Exclusives.