Tuesday, 5 February 2008

RNA Awards Lunch

Yesterday was the RNA’s Award Luncheon at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. Me? Nervous? Pah! Okay, I woke up at 2am and couldn’t sleep properly after that! Are you satisfied?

I decided to drag my lovely husband along for support. I think he was secretly terrified by the thought of a couple of hundred romantic novelists in one room, but he managed not to freak out too badly. It was also very handy to have someone who I could order to a) hold my handbag/glass of champers/ cardigan for a minute b) take photographs when I was feeling too nervous to do so and c) give me a cuddle when I got too hyper.

I arrived at the hotel with plenty of time to find friends and chat, and the first people I bumped into were Ray-Anne (in the Ladies!), my editor and the lovely Kate Hardy, who has always accused me of being a bad influence on her. Kate claims I made her buy a PDA, but all I really did was blog about mine. It's not my fault she had to have one too. But has now has got her own back and introduced me to Radley handbags. I whined very hard when my last royalties cheque arrived until hubby let me order one I fell in love with.

After a glass or two of champagne, all the shortlisted authors for the Romance Prize were herded (yes, that was the actual term used) into a stairwell for a photo call with some of our editors. We all look pretty pleased with ourselves, don’t we? Top row: Fiona Harper, Lucy Gordon, Joanne Carr, Maddie Rowe. Middle row: Kim Young (my lovely editor), Liz Fielding, Bryony Green, Julie Cohen. Front row: Sheila Hodgson and Kate Hardy.

By the time we returned it was time to take our seats in the dining room. The tables were decorated with dark red and silver balloons, anchored down by a bundle of some of the shortlisted books for both the Romance Prize and the Romantic Novel of the Year. Somehow, I managed to come home with a copy of Freya North’s ‘Pillow Talk’. Can’t imagine how that worked its way into my (Radley) handbag!

This year the lunch had a new high tech element. Large video screens playing swish graphics were placed round the room, featuring animated RNA logos, quotes from various celebs about romantic fiction and covers of the shortlisted books. I was determined to take a short video on my digital camera of my book covers sweeping past. Unfortunately, I always seemed to be talking at the moment the Romance Prize covers whizzed by. Randall Toye, visiting from Harelquin's offices in Toronto said to me, “You’d be awful as a paparazzi photographer, wouldn’t you?”. I had to laugh. “Yes,” I said. “I might be better at talking than I am at taking photos, but I have one thing in my favour – I’m persistent!” My determination worked in the end and I got it eventually! I'd upload it, but Blogger is being uncooperative!

Lunch was yummy, and I even forgot to be nervous for a while as I ate my cumin-roasted tomato soup, guinea fowl with port wine jus, confit cabbage cake (tastes better than it sounds) and fondant potato. And when I say potato, I mean potato – there was just the one, sitting there looking all lonely on the plate. Dessert was mulled wine soufflé with plum ice cream. Stupidly, I hadn’t looked at the order of events in the programme and hadn’t realised they were doing the Romance Prize first. At the previous two lunches I'd been to, they’d presented the Betty Neels rose bowl after the Romantic Novel of the Year has been announced. Suddenly, Trisha Ashley (Romance Prize judge) was standing at the microphone summing up our books and my poor little heart started doing an Irish jig. I managed to capture a bit of the judges' comments on my camera – just as well, because there was no way I was going to remember it – but unfortunately didn’t have enough memory to get the whole speech. I was particularly pleased that they said of English Lord, Ordinary Lady that: "...the heroine's relationship with her small daughter is particularly beautifully portrayed, and this well-crafted novel is a lovely read, with both humour and sadness."

I was still grinning when they announced the winner, who was…KATE HARDY for her book Breakfast at Giovanni’s. Kate is so lovely and was so thrilled, I just couldn’t sum up the wherewithal to be disappointed. I'm not looking too dejected in the photo on the right, am I? And, got to tell you, I was kinda relieved I didn’t have to make a speech, because I was all over the place and bound not to make any sense at all. In fact, all the ladies on the shortlist are lovely and write great books, so I would have been happy for whoever won. I know it sounds very saintly to say that, but it’s true, so pass me my halo – NOW! Losing to Kate was much better than not getting a RITA last year – after that ceremony I was just jetlagged, homesick and completely out of adrenaline. I’m still chuffed for having two books on the shortlist for this prize.

Helen Lederer, comedienne and aspiring novelist as the speaker and had the whole room in stitches. The only bit I remember enough to tell you about was when she quipped about a yummy man phoning her up and asking her to have a dirty weekend in Paris. Everything went silent. “Have I shocked you?” he finally asked. “God, no!” she replied. “I was just packing…”

It was time for the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year to be announced and it was… Freya North for Pillow Talk (on the left in the picture above, with Helen Lederer on the right). Will be reading my snaffled copy shortly (hee, hee). Once the festivities were over, it was time to catch up with old friends (that's me and Liz Fielding in the pic), meet new ones and enjoy the fact that all the nail-biting was over and I could just look forward to the M&B centenary party on Thursday.

Hubby and I wended our way home on the train, he with a big Mac (one potato, remember!) and me with a smile on my face. Some days I just love being a romance writer.


Ray-Anne said...

It was a lovely lunch, and so nice to meet you again Fiona. And no, you did not look TOO anxious despite the stars of romance fiction in the room.
And yes, you should be thrilled to have two books shortlisted. Well deserved.

Nell said...

I love all these pics. So many great books, I'm glad I wasn't a judge.

Jessica Raymond said...

Sounds like a really lovely day. Thank you for posting a report and the pics!

India said...

You might be a rubbish paparazzi photographer, but you make a great gossip columnist. Thanks for the report!

You're all stars. Being nominated is such a massive and well deserved tribute to your writing.

Kate Hardy said...

You've definitely earned your halo (and I felt exactly the same, thing, actually - I wouldn't have minded because the shortlisting is the important thing. And may I remind you, you are the first person ever to have TWO books shortlisted: which makes you a major star!) And you looked gorgeous.

Lovely to see you on Monday. Thanks for letting me nick your photos. (And you *are* a bad influence... I'm working on that one. Because now you have the Radley bag, you need the purse and the mirror and the diary and the keyring and...)

Michelle Douglas said...

Fiona, what a fab Post. You gave me the lowdown on everything I wanted to know - I was dying to find out what food they served (have no idea why, except I LOVE food)... and yes, my mouth is watering. What a fabulous day it sounds you had.

Congratulations on being nominated twice - you should be doubly proud of yourself. I can't wait to read English Lord, Ordinary Lady.

PS Can you post a picture of your Radley handbag?