My brother Neil phoned me from the SFF section of a bookshop in Brighton, asking for any recommendations. Someone standing nearby overhead him and said, "The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss."
Neil asked me my opinion.
"I haven't read it," I replied. "But I've heard it's really good."
And then the passer-by asked Neil if he could recommend a book in turn.
Neil picked a copy of Scar Night from the shelf and handed it to him. "The author's on the phone," he said, "if you want to speak to him."
I remember feeling suddenly uneasy. He's going to feel obliged to buy my book now. What if he hates it?
My phone woke me at 3am. Groggily, I answered. It was Neil.
"I'm at a party," he said. "Ian Rankin is here. Do you want to talk to him?"
"Eh?" Before I had a chance to figure out what was happening, a new voice came over the phone. Now, I've never spoken to Ian Rankin, but I know that he's Scottish. And the accent in my ear was about about as far from being Scottish as the White Cliffs of Dover.
Neil, the bastard, had woken me up at 3am to speak to some random dude at a party who – for some unfathomable reason – was pretending to be Ian Rankin. They were probably all pissed, and I was not happy. I can't remember exactly what I said to – or possibly shouted at – the unfortunate guy, but I think I made it clear that I thought his accent was ridiculous and he wasn't fooling anyone. Then I hung up.
But as I calmed down, I realised that Neil hadn't said "Ian Rankin" at all. He'd said "Robert Rankin", the very successful Brighton-based Fantasy author.
I met Robert a few months later and apologised.
I played Monopoly with my agent, Simon, and my partner, Caragh. It was an ancient Monopoly set and most of the money had been replaced by bits of paper with the denominations scrawled across them. I knew Simon was cheating, and he knew I was cheating. At every opportunity we snatched street cards and notes from the bank, completing sets by subterfuge.
As the game went on, the cheating became more blatant and outrageous. Whole sets vanished into our hands. Mortgaged properties mysteriously flipped round again. Hotels sprung up when nobody was looking.
Caragh refused to play with us any more.
We finished the evening by pinging little green Monopoly houses into the fire.
A friend I've not seen for a while emailed me. He'd been given the task of looking after an independent assessor assigned to his workplace. Chatting with the guy, my friend discovered that he was an avid SFF fan and was currently halfway through Scar Night. So he asked him what he thought of it. The guy said he was really enjoying it, and planned to buy the second book.
These are the little things that make this job worthwhile.
Another friend emailed me from Canada to say he'd seen a couple of my books in a shop over there. I didn't know you could buy them in Canada. Little things again.
When Simon phoned to tell me that Bantam had bought the US rights to Scar Night, I was on holiday in Paris, standing on top of the Eiffel Tower.
We had the launch for Scar Night in Edinburgh. Iain Banks came along, and then very kindly took us all out to his favourite Indian restaurant for a curry. Between courses, a few of us nipped out for a sly cigarette with Iain.
After Iain went back inside, my partner's dad Jim, said, "I've been reading his book about whisky. The strange thing is, I'd just last night finished the part where he talks about nipping outside this restaurant for a sly cigarette."
The day after the book launch, I drove Hal Duncan, my editor Peter Lavery, and my agent Simon Kavanagh back to my place, which is out in the country. The sun was shining and Hal and Simon sang "Road to Amarillo" in ridiculously loud voices.
Whenever I hear that song now, it makes me smile.
I travelled to London once to have my photo taken for a magazine. The photographer was one of the most interesting people I've ever met. He'd photographed Mother Teresa, Donald Trump and Kylie Minogue, and, while I could have listened to his stories for hours, I felt like I owed him an apology for him having to travel across London to take a picture of me.
I dislike having my picture taken at the best of times, but its worse when the photographer is a professional and they have all the Paparazzi-style flashes and lenses, and it's out in public somewhere. The passers-by are all thinking "Who is that idiot? I don't recognise him."
At moments like these you are very aware of your cheap suit jacket.
Ghosts have been seen at my editor's villa in Italy. It's an old, old house, but very beautiful. One guest claims to have seen a whole family standing around his bed in the dead of night.
Simon and I were sitting in the living room one evening, drinking wine, when I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye – a shadow seemed to have just darted across the hallway. A short while later, it happened again. I couldn't tell you what shape it was, just that it was dark and moved quickly. But whenever I'd turned to look, there was nothing there.
I mentioned this to Simon, who claimed to have seen it himself.
We decided to have a séance.
The Scrabble board supplied the letters. We upturned a glass to use as a planchette.
"Is there anybody there?"
The glass under our fingers began nudging letters. YES.
"Where are you?"
This is the abode of the dead. (I Googled it). Now this meant that spirits really do exist, or that Simon had been steering the glass. Therefore, it had to be Simon. He denied it vigorously. I persisted. He continued to deny it. I had another think about this. Spirits of the dead? No, it had to be Simon.
Okay. Finally he admitted it.
The next day I sneaked up to his room while he was out. I took a piece of string and threaded it through the gap between the door and the frame, and then ran it across the front of one of the bookshelves next to the door. Finally I looped the string behind a tatty old paperback and sandwiched the end between two other books. In this way, one could pull on the string from outside the door, thus causing the paperback to leap from the shelf.
My trap set, I waited until dark.
After Simon went to bed, I crept out into the hall and yanked the string.
From the other side of the door came the satisfying thud of the book landing on the floor.
The next day we got to speaking about ghosts again. Simon told me what had happened. Frustratingly, he wasn't the nervous wreck I'd been hoping for. All these things have a rational explanation, after all.
If you're reading this Simon, sorry about that.