Friday marked one whole year since The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair hit bookshop shelves. I spent that day visiting schools and bookshops to talk about the book and sign copies. The following week I would visit more schools to celebrate Children’s Mental Health Week (Children’s Mental Health Week 2024 started today in case you’re wondering!), culminating in a fabulous launch party at my local indie bookshop, Bookbag. I’m so grateful for the support and kindness people have shown this book. One year on, I’m still hearing from readers, how much they love it.
On another Friday this January, I stumbled out of bed in the dark, put on my snuggest land clothes, filled my thermal mug with hot tea and drove away from the city in my little mini, following a dot on my phone map. It was bitterly cold, frost thick on the car, the roads icy. The sky was still dark when I turned off onto a lane, and then another narrower lane, and another, narrower still.
It is no accident that the name of the ancient Celtic tribe who lived in Devon, the Dumnonii, translates as deep, wooded valley dwellers. You go down until you think you really cannot go any further. And so did I that morning. Down, past a sign warning of an upcoming ford. And then I lost signal. Rookie error. I should know this county better by now.
Gripping the steering wheel, I charged the ford, the steep opposite side of the valley shining in my headlights, shimmering with black ice. How I got up that hill, I have no idea. Prayer and some divine intervention, I’m convinced. But that wasn’t the end of it, down again, and up again, and long winding lanes that seemed to twist back on themselves in impossible loops. I could have wept when I found a village I recognised, from then on, entrusting myself to a paper road map.
At last I arrived at the farm I had been trying to reach, just as the edge of the sun’s glow was beginning to lighten the sky, making all the land glitter in frosty finery. In a warmly lit barn I met friends for breakfast and, hands wrapped around my thermal mug, felt like I’d survived something pretty epic.
Having a book out in the world can feel a bit like surviving something pretty epic. But to have my precious story (and it is a precious story) in readers hands and hearts, and to be sitting here, looking back on the wonderful experience of publication from the warmth of now, there is also a sense of completeness. I still marvel at the skill of my editor, the talent of the cover designer and illustrator, the hard work of the PR team and generosity of so many people, writing reviews, coming to events and sharing this book. Some journeys, like near-death car trips, are best appreciated in the afterglow.