Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 9)
“We’ve got a local author signing books today,” my mum said to a harmless-looking old lady entering the store. “It’s a true story. Bit like The Shawshank Redemption – ”
“I’m not interested!” The old lady’s face animated, her eyes becoming wide and wild. “I’m a poet! I'm a published poet! Do you know Lord Byron?” Her voice changed as if she were channelling messages from the spirit world as she started reciting Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, a lengthy poem by Byron. On and on she went, attracting queer looks from the passers-by that I was trying to attract to my table, who were now swerving away from us. When she started waving her arms around and putting her face so close that we could smell her cat-food breath, we backed away.
A woman weighed down with shopping bags whose passage was blocked by the old lady yelled, “Can you get out of my bloody way!”
The old lady drifted further into the store, showering random praise on Byron with statements such as “Lord Byron got that one right!”
I had the urge to ask her “Did Lord Byron get it right when he slept with his half sister or drank from human skulls?” but I managed to suppress it.
And thus began last Friday’s book signing at Waterstone’s in Altrincham, where we – me and my top salesperson: my mum – smashed our previous record by selling 47 copies. According to the Waterstone’s staff in Warrington, local authors sell an average of 5 copies per signing.
On Saturday, Mum – after seeing news reports about the traffic chaos and worried that we might perish on our 39 minute journey to Waterstone’s in Stockport – packed an emergency preparedness kit, consisting of blankets (including the cat’s for some reason), a litre of apple juice, tangerines, bananas and nuts. Despite being barely able to see through a windshield caked in salt from the freshly gritted roads, we arrived unharmed.
A group of schoolchildren, mistaking me for someone famous, the kind of mistake I really appreciate, approached my table with the following demand: “Sorry we don’t have enough money to buy your book, but will you sign some of your leaflets and stamp them with cockroaches for us.” After I’d accommodated their wishes, they ran outside, giggling, chatting, and flaunting my signature to their friends.
Luckily, they left just in time so as not to overhear a woman say to her husband, “Shaun Attwood. Who is he? I’ve never heard of him.” Approaching my mum, the woman said, “Are you his mum or his manager?”
“Both,” Mum said. “But I don’t get paid.”
The next bookstore eccentric was in the same league as the Byronic Woman. I’d managed to coax a number of shoppers to my table. They were happily reading the book jacket to the accompaniment of mum’s words of encouragement to buy Hard Time when a man who appeared to be wearing a lunch heavy on tomato ketchup all over his sweater and jacket lapels barged through them, and greeted me in an incomprehensible way that involved drooling on the table. The cluster of potential book buyers scattered – never to be seen again. Eyeing droplets of drool landing worryingly close to my pile of unsold books, I had to do something about the situation. I managed to steer him to one side of the table. He droned on, his drool landing safely on the floor. But he was acting like mosquito repellent on the fresh batch of customers coming up the stairs, clutching my leaflet, interest sparkling in their eyes – until they saw him. At one point he started waving his chequebook at me, but I was mystified as to what he was trying to communicate about it. All I could fathom was that he didn’t have the money on him to buy Hard Time, that he was going begging in an attempt to raise it and that he’d be back in two hours.
A middle-aged man approached my table. "Are you Shaun Attwood?"
"Yes. I'm signing my book today – ”
"You're under arrest! We're extraditing you back to America, to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail."
He remained deadpan, and I played along.
By the end of the signing, Mum had almost lost her voice. The people she was pitching to were either walking past, unable to hear her, or looking at her in a kindly way as if she had some illness. She was no doubt a victim of my work ethic: I'd only allowed us to have a bag of crisps each for lunch so as not to lose any sales.
Discussing the bookstore eccentrics on the drive home, Mum said, “That’s how local authors end up in their old age.” She added that I’ll end up like the Byronic Woman, only quoting Nietzsche.
We sold 55 books in Stockport, giving the proactive staff – two of whom donned the striped jail outfits (see the pics in the previous blog) – bragging rights over the other branches. Thank you to all of the staff at Waterstone’s who have been helping us!
The next Waterstone’s book signings are in Warrington on December 22nd, and Wigan on December 23rd.
Click here for the previous Waterstone's book signing blog
Click here for Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 8)