I had come to do harm. I admit it. There was a tyre lever in the leg of my jeans, the cold metal a comfort to me as I readied to meet The Evil Gatekeeper. Literary agent Luigi Bonomi was responsible for at least one of the 250-odd rejections I have pasted up in the wall of My Shrine with candles lit all around them.
And now I had him, in front of an audience. On stage. A rejected author who had finally, after ten years, thrown up his hands with the publishing industry and gone it alone. An Agent. One Of Them.
Luigi Bonomi is a charming, charming man. We chatted backstage before we went on. I had also interviewed him earlier that day for Dubai Eye Radio. We quickly found we had more areas of agreement than disagreement. By the time we were ready to take to the stage at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, I had shamefacedly slipped the tyre lever into a side-cupboard.
We were joined by Dubai-based author Liz Fenwick, who is publishing her first book, The Cornish House, as part of a two-book deal with Orion and the charming Sarah Hathorn, who at thirteen self published her first book, Alexandra's Mission: Teenagent. I thought Sarah was wonderful, poised, articulate and intelligent - all qualities I know I was utterly lacking in when I was fifteen.
We talked about our stories, how we' each approached getting published and the hurdles we'd faced, the advice we'd give. The audience was clearly peppered with wannabe authors and when Q&A came, Luigi got hit with loads of 'how do we submit to you?' kindof questions. His workshop session on how to submit your work and get it published sold out and a second session had to be quickly cobbled together, showing just how popular this topic was.
And so contrary to my expectations, the session was jolly, funny and sparkled, in no small part thanks to the skills of moderator Paul Blezard. We all shuffled out and sat in our signing chairs, little pennants with our names on them. Sarah and I chatted (we bought each others' books) as the occasional person came up to us to have one or the other book signed. Liz didn't have a book to sign, hers launches on the 15th March. We gazed wistfully at Darren Shan's long, straggling queue next to us.
So that was that. All I can say is if I ever meet Luigi again, I swear I'll be unarmed...