Last week, after over a year of editing, production, sales, publicity and other miscellaneous work we finally got to meet Rhyll McMaster. Who is lovely. As is her daughter with whom she was travelling. So lovely in fact that we decided that they could not stay in the 'grubby london' of Rhyll's novel a moment longer than she had to and so whisked her off up the coast to Suffolk. Specifically to the Ways with Words Festival in Southwold where Rhyll was to appear alongside Sadie Jones in the curtain raising event.
Southwold, which achieved fame recently as Gordon Brown's chosen location for his summer holiday, is a pleasantly grey seaside town with beach huts, stone houses and its very own brewery. Once there we met the wonderful Kay and Steven Dunbar. They founded and still run the Ways with Words festivals with that mix of easy efficiency, intelligence and genuine warmth that characterises the very best literary events. We also met the equally marvellous Rosemary, manager of the Orwell bookshop in Southwold, who runs the festival bookshop and who will forever have a place in our hearts for declaring our show card the 'best she had ever had.'
After being treated to an amazing dinner the night before, we reconvened the next day at the Tardis-like St Edmund's Hall (the size of the theatre is not at all apparent from the outside) where Rhyll and Sadie (who is also fantastic) gave a talk ably chaired by Kay. The topics included the melancholy fifties, the writing process, feminism, the unpredictability of readers' responses, (especially Austrian ones) humour, the probability that everyone 'knows a Redmond' and much mutual admiration. The audience, which had a pleasing number of people who had read both books, seemed to enjoy it and then asked some excellent questions. And then, far too soon, it was time to go back to grubby london.
But not without asking everything to vote for Feather Man at the Spread the Word competition please, please do!