Writer Wednesday

#WriterWednesday – On Meeting James Herbert

Happy #WriterWednesday everyone!

As you may have realised there was no #MusicMonday post this week, I was too busy getting myself all worked up into a nervous ball of excitement over finally getting to meet with  one of my all-time heroes, James Herbert!

James held an event at Foyles Charing Cross in honour of the publication of his new novel, Ash which I may have previously mentioned just a few times on this blog 😉

I had never been to one of these author meet n greets before, having decided at the last-minute not to attend the Anne Rice event at the same Foyles store last year (yeah, I know, what was I thinking?) so I was not quite sure what to expect. How many people would there be? Would I get to speak to him? If I did, what on earth do you say to your favourite literary rock star?

To be honest, until I received the reminder email from Foyles on Monday, I couldn’t quite get my head around the fact I was actually going to meet James. I read and re-read the confirmation email more times than I care to admit, quite certain I had missed the small print at the bottom:

By the way, if your name is Lindsey Clarke, you have probably received this email by mistake as you’re NEVER going to get the chance to meet James Herbert. Foolish woman. Muah-ha-ha. Yours laughing hysterically, The Foyles Team.  

Thankfully, it was not a cruel hoax and I did actually have a place reserved for the event, and so yesterday, tanked up on Nando’s (other chicken restaurants are available) and diet coke (but of course), I skipped like a child along Charing Cross Road with my friend Kazbah by my side. Arriving to find a room packed out with up to two hundred people, we fitted ourselves snuggly into the back row of The Gallery in Foyles and waited for the great man to appear.

Okay, I have to admit at this point that I had been worried whether or not he would be the man I expected him to be. I’ll be honest, whilst I am a HUGE fan of his books, I don’t know a great amount about the man himself. I knew he grew up in the East End of London, I knew he also loved to paint, draw and play the guitar, I knew he had a wife and three daughters, but apart from that, I knew very little about him before last night’s event.  I guess it’s a bit like meeting a stand-up comedian in some ways; you expect them to be just as funny in real life as they are on the stage, but more often than not, in real life, they are actually dour miseries because cracking jokes is just what they do for a living. So what would James be like? Would he be friendly? Would I like him? Would I be inspired?

Well, in answer to that, I say a big resounding YES to all three!

With an opening interview to help get the event started, horror writer David Moody talked a bit about why he was such a ‘fanboy’ of James, to which James responded “I thought you said rentboy”. The rest of the evening was punctuated with much of the same of James’ warm and witty sense of humour and laced with anecdotes such as when he met John Hurt (James was convinced John would not know who he was and was treated with a kiss on the cheek in response)  and receiving his OBE from Prince Charles (“I only call head waiters sir“). Of course, he talked about his new novel Ash, and was greeted with almost two hundred sssshhhhhhs when he almost gave away some of the plot to those in the audience who hadn’t yet finished it.

Overall I was bowled over by how warm, genuine, interesting and inspiring James really is. And also, how very humble he still is, after years at the top of his game.

As an aspiring writer, it was encouraging and also somewhat comforting to hear that after selling a staggering fifty-six million books during his career, James still gets the jitters every time he publishes a new novel. He said “Do you feel scared? Always. I say a prayer when I start to write a book and I say a prayer when I’ve finished.”

There were so many things that James said that made me walk out of Foyles feeling more of a fan than I had when I first walked into the room and this was definitely one that struck a chord with me, as I’m sure it will with many other writers out there.

In fact, he’s so likeable that I couldn’t help but feel slightly angered when he spoke about an article in The Indpendent in which a critic was rather disparaging about James’ appearance (he has curvature of the spine) and how he was ‘stuck in the seventies’ mostly because of his use of the words ‘cop-shop’ (James: “I could have said pig-shop”) and ‘gig’. Note to the man from The Independent: most of my friends and I are huge gig-goers. And yes, we do ALL still say ‘gig’ now. Is that a 1970’s thing? I think not.

I also wanted to punch the air in smug satisfaction when he was quite adamant that he doesn’t ever plot. “I don’t plot, it just happens,” he said, almost indignantly to the question, as if someone’s dog had just cocked its leg right in front of him, “I always have a rough idea of where it’s going to end.”

The much-anticipated three-part mini-series of The Secret of Crickley Hall was also discussed, with James admitting that whilst he loved the first episode that he saw, he did have some ‘script issues’ and he also expressed concerns about whether the horror would be diluted as “the BBC don’t like to scare people”. I’m not a lover of television or film adaptations of novels so I am desperately hoping the BBC do stay true to the story and don’t sugarcoat the scary parts.

I was keen to know what James thought about the new generation of e-books and e-readers, particularly as Ash was recently selling for just 20p (scandalously cheap!) on the Kindle. Apparently despite being sold as a loss leader, James still makes the same royalties from a Kindle sale as he does a hardback sale and although he is a lover of the written page, he still thinks the Kindle is a good thing. Maybe it will open up a whole new generation of reader to his books, after all despite owning a 1985 paperback copy of Domain, I snapped up the Kindle version for just 95p and I will probably start to add to my James Herbert e-book library by snapping up all his other books too. It’s wonderful to think that others may do the same, particularly those who might never have walked into a bookshop and found James’ work amidst the many copies of True Blood and Twilight.

After an hour of question and answer time, James took his place at the signing table, with a bottle of Jack Daniels at his side, and patiently and graciously began to sign treasured copies of Ash and his other novels for a queue of two hundred eager fans.

Now I would love to spin a yarn about my conversation with James when it came to my turn to step up, with my copy of Ash and my old 1985 much-loved and much-worn paperback copy of Domain (acquired from my dad’s bookshelf when I was eleven years old and never returned). But it’s fair to say that I was slightly speechless and could only stare doe eyed, grin like a true simpleton and mumble my thanks before scuttling away, with my signed books clutched tightly in my clammy palms…..just like a true fangirl!

All in all; as a writer, it was incredibly inspiring and as a fan, it was completely entertaining, exciting and enlightening.

There’s really not much else I can say, other than, thank you to Foyles and thank you to James Herbert; Grand Master of Horror.

It truly was the best gig I’ve been to in years.







10 thoughts on “#WriterWednesday – On Meeting James Herbert

  1. What a fab run down of your special evening, Lindsey. Oh, I so wish I could have been there. You are sooo lucky. Thanks for giving me an insight. I’m half-way through Ash now and still LOVING it. xx


  2. WOW! This man has been a permanent fixture on my shelf for years, (well, not him, but you know what I mean), and after I read, ‘The Dark’ there was no turning back. I wrote a piece on my blog about how I was introduced to his work. And also, his book, ‘The Rats’ was let down badly, when turned into a film. Surely an English story should be set in England…right?


    1. I love meeting fellow Herbert fans! And it really was an amazing experience getting to finally meet one of my all-time heroes. I am looking forward to reading that post on your blog. Totally agree about ‘The Rats’, you should never underestimate the importance of sticking to the original location. I am always wary of screen adaptations of novels…..they always seem to be a let-down!


  3. I’m so glad you went to this one! James (check me out with my first-name familiarity) sounds like such a fun, friendly and humble man – it’s brilliant to know that the authors who inspire us can be just as inspirational in real life too.


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