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"Oh my God, you’re Alan Sillitoe..."

25 April 10 words: Nicola Monaghan

Nicola Monaghan met her hero a couple of years ago, and just about managed to hold it down...

Sillitoe and Monaghan - Photo by Dom Henry

I almost met Alan for the first time at the stage production of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning at Lakeside early in 2006. I had gone outside with my husband so he could smoke and Alan was there with his pipe.

I was too starstruck to speak to him, though I desperately wanted to squeal a little and say "Oh my God, you’re Alan Sillitoe, You wrote, like, the best book in the world and I answered questions about you on my O-level English paper and everything."

I managed to resist the urge to embarrass everyone and give away my age. And anyway, a journalist type was giving him the third degree about what he thought of being quoted for the title of an album by the next big thing, the Arctic Monkeys.

The next time I saw him was at the Authors’ Club Awards when I won my Betty Trask. We were standing almost back to back when I turned and noticed him, then tried to restrain the excitement in my voice and not point as I turned to tell my husband who I’d seen. Chad skipped off and took a book from the Killing Jar display and gave it to Alan, who then asked me to sign it. This messed with my head a little; my equivalent to most people’s meeting Elvis and being asked to sing for him.

I signed the book and Alan asked me to put our address inside the cover too. To my delight, some weeks later I got a letter from Alan saying how much he had enjoyed it. Besides providing my publisher with some lovely cover quotes, this made my year. That letter is stored in a very safe place to show my kids and their kids when they learn to read. Although at the rate I’m going this could be a century or two away, I’m convinced they’ll still be reading Sillitoe, and that they will be impressed.

Nicola Monaghan is the author of The Killing Jar and Starfishing

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