Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Angelic blessings for the Fair

It is rare to see authors in the International Rights Centre at the London Book Fair and, to be honest, they're probably better off not visiting: after all, it's a dull place compared to the exhibition floor, just a warren of tables at the top of a long escalator. But for the last two days a rather special woman has been seated at one of the small tables, meeting her international publishers, alongside her agent, Jean Callanan. Lorna Byrne (above) is the author of an unnusual memoir Angels in My Hair, published by Century in the UK and about to be published by Doubleday in the US (where her editor is Jason Kaufman who also looks after one D Brown esquire).

Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking. Another angels woman. File it under crop circles and alien abduction. Call for the men in white coats. That Roger Tagholm seemed such a sane guy; now listen to him. All of which is fair comment until you meet her. Then, as I said here: she is extraordinarily credible, no matter how incredible her story. Byrne doesn't just see angels every now and then; she sees them all the time: yes, even at the LBF.

"Just being here I can't help but be distracted. I'm seeing what I call 'the teacher angels'. They're here to give encouragement and confidence and take away anxiety. People are worried about books, about the industry - but it's going to come back."

Once again, I found meeting her very moving, and I'm delighted that her book continues to be so successful. It was number six in the Sunday Times hardback chart in January and the third bestselling book in Ireland in 2008. Foreign deals have been concluded in 13 territories, in addition to the US and Canada. But, as Callanan puts it: "Lorna is about so much more than the deals."

She has plans for many more books and feels now is the right time. "Because of the economic situation people are looking for spiritual answers. They are realizing that material things are not as important, that there is a bigger picture." I think we'd all say 'amen' to that, wouldn't we?

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