Harper Collins Summer Party for Authors: cocktails and gossip

Last night was the Harper Collins Summer Party for Authors. It was only my second time there but I was as excited about it as the time I was nine and my best friend was having a roller skating party. Last year I was on a rare night off the leash – my baby boy was still just under a year old – and having thought it would be a rather formal evening of networking and sucking up to publishers, I unexpectedly had the delight of getting mildly drunk on mojitos with Dan Stevens (Matthew in Downton Abbey).


The evening didn’t start brilliantly when I arrived to find that there was no badge with my name on it. They do a rather clever, quirky thing where all the authors get yellow badges (‘Jessica Fellowes Harper Collins Author’), in proper old-skool metal, round shapes with safety pins. Agents and press have silver, and Harper Collins staff have green. The girl at the desk scribbled my name on to a conference-type plastic thing, saying, apologetically, ‘Victoria prefers that everyone has one…’. In a rare fit of divadom, I decided it wasn’t befitting a Number One Bestselling Author and stuffed it in my bag. (Wearing: long white halter neck cotton dress with brilliant red coral print by Heidi Klein, gold heels and – for a trendy-clashing-print-effect-I-hope – black and white toile de jouy oversized clutch.) I go over to the first group of people I know: Gareth Neame, the executive producer of Downton Abbey, Hannah MacDonald, the publisher of The World of Downton Abbey and a couple of others. Victoria is brought over to meet us. Victoria is Victoria Barnsley – the head honcho of Harper Collins, the issuer of the invitation and the ultimate publisher of my book. Also, the one who was keen on the wearing of badges. But SHE wasn’t wearing one.


After that, it was all a rather delicious haze. The party was at The Orangery in Kensington Palace, we were all feeling summery and happy after a hot day, and our hosts were generous with their champagne and cocktails (also with canapés but I missed them as I got there an hour late and also missed the bar that had nothing but cupcakes, damn). It’s exciting to hang out with so many people in one’s world after months of writing alone at the kitchen table. There were oodles of Importants there but I was shameful about meeting anyone new and hung out with an old university friend, now agent, Lucy Luck and my own agent, Rowan Lawton. We gossiped and chatted and cavorted and eventually led a parade to Mahiki, where the official after party was. Once there we remembered that we weren’t in fact 20 years old and trying to snog Prince Harry and left after one violently pink oversized cocktail called Larging It or something equally ludicrous. What jolly fun.


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