One of the many nice things about working for the Government (aside, naturally, from one’s duty towards one’s country) is flextime. For the uninitiated, this means that every hour – every moment – that I work over a set time, can later be taken off. And, thanks to my rigorous work ethic, and the bus schedule, I tend to accumulate flextime at a fairly good clip. Sure, sometimes I’ll take a bit longer at lunchtime, but generally it goes into the flex bank, and there it stays. For you see, the O’Malleys, despite our incredible laziness, tend to regard days off with a certain amount of skepticism. Vacation does not feature largely in our schedules, and as for sick days… well, when it comes to sick days, unless you are actually bleeding from your pores, then sick days are spent at work, infecting coworkers. That way, when they stay home, you can look virtuous. Anyway, as a result, I have a vast store of flextime into which I hardly ever dip. There is, of course, a limit, and when you cross over it your superiors tend to eye you somewhat askance.
Thus, on Friday, I was able to take the day off, and catch the train down to Sydney Town, for to meet with the good people at HarperCollins Australia, who are publishing my book here.
Now, I was a little bit nervous about going there. I mean, HarperCollins is one of those iconic names that’s emblazoned in my brain. Half the books on my shelves bear their mark. And who knows what you do when you go to the publishers? What do they want of you? What happens? How will it be? When I visited Little, Brown & Co. in New York, I was accompanied by my agent, and I was astoundingly jetlagged, so I was quite mellow about the whole thing. This time, however, I was in full possession of my faculties, and thus, lacking in any excuses.
Well, it was great. To begin with, HC-Aus is located in downtown Sydney, and the office is beautiful. It’s got the sort of views that, if I had them, would prevent me from getting anything done, ever. There’s a reason that my day job is based in a pod, and I do my writing on the couch. I’m far too easily distracted. The place was very clean and very beautiful, and full of very nice people (who are also clean and beautiful). My particular very nice, clean and beautiful person, Anna Valdinger, came and scooped me up from the lobby and we were immediately chattering away enthusiastically. She showed me around the place, and introduced me to all sorts of people, many of whom had read the book, and all of whom were enthusiastic and cool.
And then, from there, a bunch of us (a literary street gang, if you will) meandered along to the local pub, pausing on the way to beat the living hell out of a rival literary street gang (poets from an Italian-owned publisher, we stomped them but good), and dined heartily on some extremely good schnitzel. Much good cheer, some very amusing talk about a variety of stuff, and a very nice time all up. Some of our party had to peel off and head back to work (I should have asked about flextime), and eventually it was Anna and I lounging about, talking books and stuff. We ambled back to the office, and then she escorted me through the office’s compactuses (compacti?), and let me engage in a little light pillaging. I snaffled a couple of very lovely, lovely books, and am, in fact, at the moment snout-first in Divergent by Veronica Roth, which I am enjoying a great deal. And she ALSO gave me a pre-release proof of the Australian version of the book, which is extremely good-looking.
So, there you go. That’s what happens when you go to meet the publishers.