Back in 2011, I went to Edinburgh for the first time in my life. I made the trip to see Neil Gaiman, who was doing an event to promote The Graveyard Book, and it was the icing on top of a wonderful weekend.
From the moment the train pulled into Waverley Rail Station, with ornate buildings either side of me and Arthur’s Seat in the distance, with the castle looming over the city on top of its long-dead volcano, I had high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Edinburgh seemed alive in a different way to Cambridge, the city I began the adventure in. It thrummed at a different pace to York, which I passed through on the journey north. There was magic in the old buildings, and magic in the way the streets bounced.
I explored the castle, went rummaging through old shops, strode down the Royal Mile and posed with some terrific buskers, including a particularly good William Wallace, who, naturally, was standing beside the invisible man.
And all that was before I even got to the Book Festival itself, which was totally awesome. If you’ve never been before, I’d definitely recommend going – there’s such a variety of authors every year, and the atmosphere is incredible.
So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited back in August – not as a fan this time, but as an author. In my head, 2011 is not very long ago, but a lot has happened since that time. The first time I went to Edinburgh, I didn’t have a manuscript anywhere near finished. I didn’t even have an agent.
I kept thinking back to that first trip to Edinburgh and wondering how it would feel, seeing it through different eyes. Would it be as magical?
Well, I packed my bags and hopped on the train and watched as the Welsh mountains gave way to flat countryside, which bubbled up into hills and lakes as we sped through Yorkshire. And, suffice to say, when I arrived in Edinburgh, I fell in love with the city all over again.
You can certainly see where J. K. Rowling got some of her inspiration for Harry Potter. The Royal Mile is very Hogsmeade, full of ancient pubs and plenty of shops and restaurants.
But one of my favourite parts of the city I found by chance, as I was making my way to the hotel. It was a quiet road, lined with bunting, just off the frenzied Prince’s Street.
You know what I was saying about Harry Potter? Well I stumbled on this cake shop, which would put Honeydukes to shame.
When I arrived at the hotel to check in, I had the surreal experience of seeing Philip Ardagh’s beard at the reception desk. (I think the man himself may have been there too, but that beard is impressive.)
As I walked through lobby, I saw Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. And that’s sort of when it hit me. I was in a hotel with other authors. Like, properly big, properly awesome authors I’ve admired and read and they were in the hotel with me, just living their awesome-author lives.
I’ll let you into a secret. Even though I’ve been published since February, it still doesn’t feel real. I feel exactly the same as the person who made the trip up to Edinburgh in 2011 to see Neil Gaiman, so standing there in the hotel, I felt awed to say the least.
I had a few hours to kill before my event, so I wandered over to the Authors’ Yurt, which is exactly as brilliant as it sounds, filled with exceptionally talented people, and endless amounts of coffee, cake, and tasty treats. The lovely folks on the door gave me a goody bag and my official name tag, and a couple of free tickets to give to my family.
As the event ticked nearer, I got the chance to meet Charlie Fletcher, who I’d be on stage with, and Susan Elsley, who was chairing the event. Then we all got mic’d up, and headed over to the theatre.
The title of the event was “Words From a Stone”, because Charlie’s brilliant books all feature statues coming to life as well. It was fascinating hearing him talk about the inspiration behind Stoneheart, and it made me want to explore London just to find all the statues from his stories.
We read from our books, discussed storytelling and where ideas come from and the difference between books and movies, answered questions from the lovely audience, and then made our way to the shop to sign our books.
The next day I gave a reading for the Ten at Ten series, where authors open the day by reading for ten minutes at ten o’clock, and I capped off the Saturday by going to see Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre’s event for Pugs of the Frozen North.
All the way home I had their song in my head.
PUUUUUUUUGS of the Frozen NOOORRRTH!
I knew from their Oliver and the Seawigs show that they would be brilliant, and as it happened, they were most splendid indeed and everyone in the crowd had a riotous time.
And then it was time to go home. Back to Waverley, back to the train, back down south to reality and the windy Welsh life.
It was quite sad leaving Edinburgh behind – it’s become possibly my favourite city. But the sadness was remedied upon discovering that I’d been featured in WRd About Books Magazine as “One to Watch” alongside some masterful new writers!