I receive a lot of emails from authors and publishers, asking if I could read/review/feature their book on Being Anne. Sometimes (maybe a little too often…) they’re books that would be way off my usual reading matter, but then every so often there’s a book I find intriguing enough to take a slightly closer look. When Alexa at Matador Books contacted me about At Reception by Galahad Porter – now available in paperback and leading ebook formats – I was rather intrigued, and was sorry I couldn’t find the space to explore further. See if it intrigues you too…
A tale of self-discovery and transformation.
Sally finds herself in a lonely world of her own making. Suffering psychological stress, unsupported and mistreated, she chooses to live alone, with only stuffed toy pets for company. Unable to change her situation, she is locked in a cycle that’s impossible to escape and crippling her life.
Lost in her own world, the arrival of a guest at the hotel where Sally works begins the challenging process of her opening up to the idea of a human relationship. Every day is a series of short interactions with guests and staff and each provide the basis of a series of short stories, which intertwine over the three days that the book is set. Sally’s interactions with the guests increasingly challenge her long-held opinions and self-image. Will John’s charm help her across the stepping stones of life and find herself willing to go on a serious date with him?
At Reception is a heartfelt debut novel from Galahad Porter that draws on the issues of loneliness and stress to encourage self-discovery.
I’m so pleased to welcome the author, Galahad Porter, to Being Anne to tell us more about the inspiration for the book…
It was a delight for me to be contacted by Anne about my debut novel At Reception. I am so grateful that she has given me the pleasure of reliving the inspirational moments that brought the life of hotel receptionist Sally into existence.
In late 2015 I was sat in a bar watching sport on the TV. Briefly staring out across the street I saw something which was to change my life forever. I thought, wow, what a great idea for a thriller. I scribbled a note on a beermat and that was as far as it went. A few weeks later I decided to type up my idea – the couple of sentences quickly swelled to a few hundred words, and in a few days the novel had expanded into a trilogy!
With three books to write, I realised that nobody would see my work any time soon. I decided to publish something in the meantime. As part of the trilogy’s evolution several hotel scenes were deleted. I decided to rework these, bringing to life the delightful Sally. Written in first person, the reader experiences life working at hotel reception from her perspective, not just what she says, but thinks too. Hotel reception work, as for anyone who deals with the public, is mentally stressful. Sally has to be nice to both guests and management, even if internally she feels very differently.
Initially I planned a short story for publication as an ebook. Whist I could get across some of the issues facing receptionists, no real depth to the stories could be created. I decided to take the next step up and produce a novella. However, novellas are rarely seen on UK bookstore shelves. I felt the story deserved a chance to reach a wider audience. So, I decided to add a third day to the storyline, expanding the novel to full book length. At last I was able to really show what receptionists go through, and it allowed me to bring out much more of Sally’s complex personality.
I struggled with how to start the book, how do you trigger someone’s psychological transformation? When Sally sees a young girl in the lobby at 7am it sets off a flood of memories and self-reflection. Later a guest, John, checks in and proceeds to try date Sally. Sensitized by Lily’s behaviour Sally increasingly finds it difficult to keep her opinions to herself. Encouraged by John, she feels her behaviour altering. Her battle to hold on to her old self and resist the change in her is the basis of the novel.
Sally’s interactions with guests are spread out over their stay. I created a series of separate short storylines, each of which challenges Sally mentally, and raises different issues for the reader to contemplate. The stories intertwine over the three days.
Sally has no friends, and confides her problems to the flowers on her desk at work, and large lobby mirror across from her, in which she sees herself reflected. She suffers her psychological issues alone, unsupported and untreated, leaving her locked in a cycle that’s impossible to escape and crippling her life. Striving to live alone on minimum wage, she stays in at home every night, with only her toy stuffed animals for company.
Not allowed to have her own opinions, nor show any personal feelings, I decided at work she wears patterned ribbon bows. These reflect how she feels emotionally and allow her to express herself externally. The colours and patterns have differing meanings for her, and help her feel how she wants to.
Sally is not ‘alone’, she is surrounded by people at work. She has no shortage of offers for dates with a wide variety of guests, but she never feels she gets to know people well enough to do so. More importantly, giving up her independence is not something to be done lightly, even with the financial pressure minimum wage puts on people to do so.
A woman living alone can be viewed in different ways: she’s strong because she is independent; she’s a failure because she isn’t married with children; she’s weak because she won’t leave her lonely world. Loneliness is an issue, not just for Sally but for her guests too, and is addressed in the novel. The older and recently widowed characters suffer many of her dilemmas.
I hope you like Sally, or at least empathise with her. However, you probably will not! Knowing everything someone thinks can be too much to take. Some of the reviews of the book reflect this, finding her too ‘hard’. But, in Sally’s defence, I’m sure you don’t say everything you are thinking when with your friends, and I doubt they do.
As a man, writing such an intimate novel from a female perspective was a challenge. I was brought up with two sisters, and regular readings from the ‘problem’ pages of women’s magazines. A subsequent series of failed relationships has probably helped too. The different personalities, and rise and fall of each relationship, provide a broad insight into what people need, and in particular, like Sally, won’t let go.
Thank you Galahad – and wishing you every success with this one. If anyone would like to read an extract, you’ll find one here. The novel At Reception is available worldwide in paperback and leading ebook formats. See Galahad’s website for more about the novel and links to retailer sites.
About the author
Galahad Porter was born in the UK, but has subsequently lived and travelled in many different parts of the world. His debut novel is At Reception, where events that take place in a hotel lobby are told from the perspective of the receptionist. He is currently working on his next work, a thriller trilogy set in the very near future. See his website for details.
He previously published non-fiction pharmaceutical investment books under the name Andrew D. Porter. He is a member of The Society of Authors.