Marian Keyes yesterday (22nd September) celebrated 21 years since her first novel Watermelon (Arrow, 1995) was published, on the rooftop of the Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, London.
Guests to the anniversary party - which came with a help yourself pick 'n' mix sweet selection and an ice cream seller- included Penguin Random House UK. c.e.o. Tom Weldon, author JoJo Moyes and TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, in addition to Keyes' publishing team, press and friends.
Keyes, accompanied by her husband and manager Tony Baines, editor Louise Moore, and agent Jonathan Lloyd, took the opportunity to thank Michael Joseph and everyone who had made the last 20 years possible.
"Really there aren't words to tell you how grateful I am," Keyes said. "Even after 20 years I still feel I go around pretending I'm an author. There is a good reason I feel like a confidence trickster. It's because what do is only a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny part of a book happening. Writing is just a tiny tiny tiny part of it. And so much of the rest is down to the kindness and the friendship and the astonishing hard work of people in publishing, in agenting, in publicity, in marketing, in bookselling and in media. And when I say people, I mean all of you."
Left to right: Tom Weldon, Jonathan Lloyd, Marian Keyes, Louise Moore, Tony Baines
Lloyd, also c.e.o. of Curtis Brown, commented on the "special" relationship between Keyes and her editor, Louise Moore: "Normally my job is to reduce the enthusiasm and potential greed of the author and raise the amount of money a publisher might spend. But in Marian Keyes' case, the story goes like this, I say to Marian, 'It's time to do a new deal with Penguin and I want to go for this,' and she says, 'Oh no, please don't', it's far too much money, you'll upset Louise!' So my job for the last 21 years has actually been to get the money up from Marian, and reduce the amount of money Louise spends on her."
Moore said reading Keyes' manuscript for the first time and becoming her publisher was a "defining moment" for her.
"I don't think I slept for about 48 hours working out how I was going to do this [become Marian's publisher]," she said. "There are many reasons why we love our job, and there are some reasons why we get up out of bed in the morning to do our job, and Marian is one of the very, very big reasons why I do that. Everytime I see an email, text, I call her voice on the answerphone, I feel a sense of joy," said Moore. "I count myself incredibly lucky," she added.
Lloyd further praised Keyes for speaking for so many other authors in the field of commercial women's literature: "What I also admire is the way the way you react to those ridiculous people, usually men, who talk about 'chick lit', because you very often, I quote, say, 'I don't mind being referred to as 'chick lit' - but for the fact the emphasis is always more on the 'chick' than the 'lit'."
He added teasingly: "Looking ahead, Louise will be in the south of France, or Norfolk maybe; Tom Weldon will be not just c.e.o. of PRH, he'll be c.e.o. of PRHHCSS; Marian will be still in her prime; I will be wherever agents go to, oiling my wheelchair. But what we do know, and what really excites me, is the fact that people who were born today will be reading Watermelon in another 20 years time, and that's an extraordnary achievement."
Jojo Moyes and Marian Keyes