HBTV’s Simon Nixon (left) interviews Brown Girls author John Wesley Ireland during the taping of an episode of Chatroom. (Photo: Warren Buckland/Napier Courier)

The last time I wore makeup was when two small children decided to dress me up as a woman. I only held still because I was trying to impress their mother. Considering their mother and I have now been together for 20 years, it would appear enduring the assault on my manliness worked a charm.

My most recent brush with cosmetics came when the lovely Vania applied powder to my face in an effort to make it appear less full-moonish. Needless to say, the procedure used up an alarmingly large amount of her supply.

The reason Vania was doing her utmost to make me look presentable was my first TV appearance since I hosted a news magazine programme for Cook Islands TV. This time, however, I would be answering questions instead of asking them.

The occasion was the taping of an episode of Chatroom for Television Hawke’s Bay. Going into the studio, I still wasn’t sure why anyone would be remotely interested in anything I had to say. But, apparently, station director Judith Sawyer is a fan of this column and thought her viewing audience might be entertained by a veteran journalist with a novel to promote.

While I awaited my turn on the brown couch, I watched host Simon Nixon on the monitor as he interviewed a lady about her anti-fracking stance. She was well-spoken, well-informed and well-dressed. That’s when the nerves kicked in and, for a brief, terrifying moment, I was positive I’d start sweating through my makeup to the point where it would look as if my face was melting.

“Please buy my book before my forehead sloughs into my lap” is probably not the ideal marketing campaign.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Simon and I hit it off right away and were soon nattering away like two old friends meeting in a cafe. If cafes came equipped with really bright lights and three large cameras and a microphone cord shoved down your shirt.

I told him about my journalism career and how I came to write my novel, Brown Girls, and why I’ve decided to market and sell it as an ebook through my own website.

The interview was divided into three segments, each consisting of eight minutes (commercials will fill out the rest of the 30-minute time slot), and my original fear of not being able to fill even one segment was quickly replaced by a fear of not having time to say everything I wanted to.

In the end, we never did talk about the Cook Islands photography book I hope to publish in an effort to raise money for the Red Cross.

Neither did I have the opportunity to mention the “A-ha!” moment.

This, of course, is not to be confused with the “Eureka!” moment or the “Woo-hoo!” moment. “A-ha!” is the noise I make when, while reading about a wildly-successful person, I come across the exact moment when they caught their big break. The hungry fashion photographer who drops into a fast-food outlet, only to stumble across the beautiful girl working behind the counter. Chris Klein charging around a corner in his high school and bowling over a talent scout looking to fill out the cast of American Pie.

We’ve all experienced such moments, the times where, for no good reason we can explain, we turned left when we had every intention of going right, and so met a future partner or the person who hired us for our dream job or somehow changed our lives.

Serendipity? Dumb luck? Good timing? Karma gods smiling? Best not to attempt to label it. Best to just sit back, hold on tight and enjoy the rocket ride to fame/success/riches/wild women.

I didn’t get to talk to Simon Nixon about “A-ha!” moments. Maybe because I’m meant to talk to him about that during our next interview. The one where, after this column is published, Brown Girls goes on to sell a million copies.

Someone should warn Vania she’s going to need a fresh supply of powder.

* The Chatroom interview featuring John Ireland will air Friday, May 11, 7.30pm on TVHB, UHF 51, and be re-broadcast the next day at 7.30am and 12.30pm. It will also be available for viewing at http://www.tvhb.co.nz

* For more information on Brown Girls, visit http://www.johnireland.co.nz

BG coverThere is no greater joy for a novelist — other than, say, a three-book advance or a movie deal — than knowing that someone “got” their book.

To know that a reader identified with the characters, that they felt they were actually in the setting, and appreciated the various plot points enough to keep turning pages at a feverish pace until the book was finished and the hour had grown surprisingly late.

Some day I will experience that joy and it will thrill me to the marrow. I know because I’ve just had a very close encounter with that special brand of ecstasy.

It came courtesy of a woman who calls herself “Willow” and is part of a trio of ladies who operate the blog Working Girl Reviews, which invites authors to submit their work to be, well, reviewed.

In her bio, Willow notes she is a multi-published author and a professional book reviewer. In other words, she knows books. Good ones and bad ones.

It somehow fell to her to read Brown Girls after I submitted it to Working Girl Reviews as part of my marketing strategy to spread the word far and wide that my book is out there, dear readers, now please buy it.

The review arrived this morning and, if I told you Brown Girls had scored five out of five, you might stop wondering why a grown man is dancing around his office, still clad in pajamas and housecoat, high-fiving his wife even as she is trying to leave for work.

Here is the review:

***

Jack Nolan had his moment of fame having a best selling novel published at twenty-five and later writing the screenplay for the movie made from it. But Jack wasn’t thrilled with his new lifestyle or the hypocrisy of the people in it. His writing dried up. His agent was robbing him and his wife left, taking most everything his agent hadn’t. Jack went to the Cook Islands to get away and began taking freelance photos for the local newspaper. He stayed because he loves the islands. He loves the people.

When a tourist is found dead in one of the hotel swimming pools, no one seems to think it anything more than an accident, including the police. Jack isn’t so certain and his peaceful existence is about to explode. While he investigates the man’s death, a young girl disappears and Jack believes the crimes are connected. When the clues begin to add up, he finds himself dealing with the most monstrous criminals.

His personal life is disrupted as well by the arrival of an abused island girl to his home. Maina Rima’s family owns the land and the house where Jack lives and according to island custom she has the right to stay there. Jack isn’t thrilled with sharing his home with a roommate, but morally has no choice. Maina becomes a blessing in disguise, as she acts as his muse and he’s finally able to begin writing again. But Maina is hiding something that puts both her life and Jack’s in danger.

I’d love to say a lot more about this amazing book, but I don’t want to spoil the suspense for other readers. The author’s writing grabbed me with the first sentence and held me captive all the way to the last. A phenomenal writer, Mr. Ireland uses a scarcity of words that keeps the suspense high. Every line is significant—every word has importance. But even with that, his vivid descriptions of the islands and their people have a beautiful poetic flair that brings the scenes to life and absorbs the reader into the story. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes the genres of suspense, crime drama, mystery, or just a darn amazing read by an extraordinarily gifted writer. Don’t miss this one.

***

Now you know why I’m dancing. Now you know why I’m sporting a smile that may never leave. Please copy and paste this review to every person you know. And, if that person is a literary agent or owns a publishing company, send it twice.

Keep me dancing, my friends. Keep me dancing.

***

For the actual blog page of this review, go to http://workinggirlreviews.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/book-review-brown-girls-by-john-wesley-ireland/

Working Girl Reviews is at http://workinggirlreviews.wordpress.com

Buy Brown Girls at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1937