Talk at James Thin, South Bridge, Edinburgh - Nov 1997
Dorothy did a small UK tour to promote Caprice and Rondo, and this included an evening at James Thin's main South Bridge store.
I was surprised when she arrived as I almost didn't recognise her - she was sporting a new short haircut and was dressed in a white cotton outfit that resembled the indian style that used to be worn by leaders such as Neru. Very different from what I'd seen her in before but she carried it off with aplomb.
I had printed some copies of the web site, both to give my colleagues who were running the event, an idea of her background, and also to give out to anyone interested. Having read the summary the first thing one of my colleagues said on seeing her was “She’s not 74 !!!” and indeed she looked as usual much younger despite her recent heavy schedule, proving the old adage that a keen mind keeps you young.
She started off the night by giving a quick summary of the two series for anyone who wasn’t fully aware of them and it was interesting for me to hear her comparison of the more obviously attractive character of Francis with that of Nicholas. The impression was of a man with vast abilities but no real purpose in life, and she said she had wanted to have such a character to explore the ways he could develop.
She then went on to read a passage from Caprice and Rondo which she referred to as “the divining scene” and we were all held spellbound for a while as the scene progressed.
Having invited questions she then was able to regale us with stories of her research trips to the Ukraine and Poland for this latest volume, and we were soon in fits of laughter at her adventures. To land in the middle of the Ukraine at night and travel with a driver who speaks no English in an ancient ex-soviet car on cart-track roads that are awash with rain and landslides to a “2000 room soviet hotel” in the middle of nowhere, would be daunting for the most intrepid of us. She also informed us that she always traveled with a piece of wire - in case the door locks didn't work - and a squash ball - in case there were no plugs in the sinks. I wished I’d had a tape recorder handy to remember all of it. Surely there is a wonderful autobiography waiting to be written when all the other projects are completed, though I’m not sure she’d thank me for suggesting it 😉
Something I didn’t know before this was that Steven Pacey, who read the audiobook of Niccolo Rising, was the actor who played Tarrant in the cult UK Sci-Fi series Blake 7. It turns out that when you get a contract to have one of your books turned into an audiobook, you have to supply pronunciation guides for the narrator, and that she didn’t know this until the day before the recording was due to start!!
We also learned that if you have your books published in Italy by her Italian publisher, one of the perks of the promotion visit is a box in La Scala Milan as the publisher is a director there!! As a great lover of opera this was always something she looked forward to immensely.
Once everyone had bought their signed copies, had finished their wine and left, she very gamely continued signing large quantities of both Caprice and Rondo and Ringed Castle.