The Forest of Souls is published. Always an edgy time – two years work condensed into published pages. Are they going to like it? (good) Hate it? (bad) Ignore it? (terrible). The launch party is in a couple of days, publicity events here and there.
We travel across the Pennines to Hale in Cheshire – book event at the library. There’s a good crowd, about 40 people. They had to turn people away as they’d sold all the tickets. Wine, tea, coffee. I want wine, opt for coffee, and talk about the book.
I tell them about my father, about the stories he used to tell about his childhood in Belarus, about the house that my grandfather built in the forest, and as I talk, I can remember writing this bit of the book: Once upon a time, there was a forest….and a man called Stanislau built a house…. It seems like a long time ago. I read a couple of short sections – the bit about Eva and the trains in the forest, and the bit where Sophia Yevanova tells Jake about the prisoners in the cellars of the NKVD building. Lots of good feedback.
The launch party went really well. A bit too well. I’m distinctly hungover, but everyone seemed to have a good time and the bookshop sold loads of books. I talked for about fifteen minutes, but didn’t do any readings. It would have interrupted the party a bit too much. I didn’t have time to talk to people for very long – just raced round hello, lovely to see, you, thank for coming, hello
We went to The Mediterranean after for something to eat, and with the release of tension, we all got high and drank far too much wine, but it was all good.
Interview with the Yorkshire Post today. I’ve done the local papers – interviews over the phone. They all want to know why I’ve changed my name. They want to keep Danuta Reah, Sheffield writer. I explain that The Forest of Souls is a bit different, and the publishers think they can reach a wider audience with a new name. Carla Banks, found on a gravestone in Highgate cemetery. Hi, Carla.
The journalist from the Yorkshire Post wanted more background on my father, so I went through his papers. I found some of the things he had written in the last few years, and was reminded again of why I wanted to write the book. There was a poem about the last time he saw his mother:
I didn’t see you
was too late.
Do you remember when
you came to see me
standing on Gorzon Station?
‘Where is Janek? Did he forget to meet me?’
And when I crept behind you
picked you off the ground
and twirl. And you pleaded
‘Put me down.
Put me down Janek.
What all these people will say?’
And then you kiss me and ruffle my hair.