Sunday, May 27, 2012

JAustenwannabe Presents: Michelle Birbeck, author of The Last Keeper

It’s been a month of firsts for me this May, the biggest of which being that The Last Keeper was released. I’ve had a short story published before, and a couple of pieces in ebooks for charity, but The Last Keeper was the big one. My first novel.

After four years in the making, there’s no surprise in knowing that I’m still smiling. No shock, either, that I will be for a while. And it keeps getting better! First copies of the book turned up, and I sat on my living room floor with them spread out around me just staring at them. I didn’t want to put them away, but I didn’t want to touch them either because they looked so pretty and shiny and I was far too excited to put my mucky finger prints all over them! Then the second lot turned up, and I did the same again, pulling them all out under the guise of counting them. I think my husband might have gotten suspicious about my motives when it came to the fifth and sixth times of ‘counting’ them. Not that it’s stopped me. I’m going to count them again before the launch party, and then on the day, too, just to make sure the faeries haven’t come and stolen some of them to read.

But then I got a DM on twitter from someone I’d forgotten about contacting. Neil Green from BBC Tees radio had been asking a few months ago for people with interesting stories, so I emailed him and told him how I became an author. After a little while of hearing nothing, I forgot about it. Then the DM came in asking if I’d go review the papers and tell my story live on air. Pretty sure I deafened my friend through screaming. Which is an impressive feat; we were IMing on MSN! I wasted no time at all in replying to tell him yes, even before I arranged how I was going to get to the station for 9am, let alone get up in time! And all I could do was sit there thinking, I’m going on the BBC. They make Doctor Who, and I’m going to go speak on one of their radio shows! The guys at BBC Radio Tees, to my knowledge, have nothing to do with actually filming Dr Who, but just the fact that I got invited to go down made my heart soar!

All the excitement led to quite a bit of worry, though. Never before in my life have I had to review the papers. Most of the time I avoid the things. I write about enough death, doom and gloom, so I don’t need to see it splashed over the front of the papers every day as well. And it’s not the sort of task that comes with a list of instructions for what to do and say. Fortunately the people there were really helpful, and I got to choose a couple of light-hearted stories that I thought were appealing.

In the end I found it easier talking about the papers than I did detailing how I went from call centre worker to author, but the experience as a whole was very exciting! There’s a big difference between internet radio and something like the BBC, and it isn’t something I’m likely to forget any time soon!

 The other big thing that happened this month was the launch party for The Last Keeper. I hired a room, invited all my friends, stocked up on books and posters, ordered the food and champagne cocktails, turned up and got cracking. It was a bit intimidating when people started to arrive. My book cover was the first thing they saw, six feet tall and standing behind a table with my books spread out. But there was nothing really to be nervous about. Everyone filed in, took a cocktail, bought a book, had some food, sat about and chatted, and some even started to read whilst they were there! In fact, the worst part of the whole evening was when someone got up to do a toast and then everyone insisted I do a speech.

So although the month has so far tired me out immensely, and almost everything has been new and scary, I wouldn’t change it for the world. And I felt such a deep sense of pride walking into the bank the morning after the launch party and putting my first ever money in my first ever business account. About the same amount of pride as when I first saw The Last Keeper on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. But not quite as much as when I woke up on May 3rd, checked the internet and saw The Last Keeper finally released and available for sale.

 Four years after starting writing, two years after approaching my first agent, and fourteen months after signing my contract, this month’s firsts are the start of many. And also the start of many repeats as work begins on my second novel, Last Chance.


  1. Very very inspiring story. My own first onovel's recently been picked up, cannot wait till April for it to come out! All the best with yours.

  2. Really sorry for the slow reply. Thank you for your comment. I know the author will be glad to know you enjoyed the post. Congratulations on your book being picked up!! Best of luck. :)