The Book Tour Begins
Today, another book tour begins, Maria and I are driving to an NPR station in Albany to pre-record an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for "Talking To Animals: How We Can Understand Them And They Can Understand Us." The book is coming out May 5th, but he interviews and pre-orders are underway.
Book tours are important to authors for many reasons.
But for Maria and I, they have a very special resonance and back story. We are grateful for book tours, they are very special to us.
Our friendship and our love for one another was born and shaped on book tours. When I met Maria, she was restoring houses with her then-husband, and she never had much money, she was looking for some outside work. I needed some I trusted to drive me around for local and regional appearances.
Maria was fascinated by books and was am avid reader, and although we had just met, we were very comfortable with one another, we could talk to each other more easily than we could speak with anyone else we had ever met. Book tours were intense, exhausting and high-pressure things then, author and escort were thrown together for hours and days in very closed circumstances. We had to be organized and on time, we ate on the fly, slept little, had no time to change or freshen up.
I offered her a job as driver for the Northeast part of my tour, at the time, I used to go all over the country, but publishers don't do that any more. Random House was happy to hire her, she was cheaper than the professional media escorts and just as efficient.
We would spend many hours in the car together. My first salacious thoughts about Maria – we were both married to other people at the time, this was 2007 – came in a hotel room my publisher had reserved for me in Connecticut so I could rest on a grueling day that included two readings and some interviews. More about that in a bit.
Book tours lasted weeks then, it was another world and high-powered publicists handled almost everything. Before the Internet and the great recession, publishers fought hard for their authors, I don't like to even thing about that now, I don't wish to get nostalgic or speak poorly of my life.
There were no blogs, Facebook was not a mainstream media entity, and the tours centered around interviews and bookstore readings in big cities. I would fly into a city early in the morning, do a morning talk show on TV, do media appearances and interviews all day, visit the NPR affiliate, grab bood on the fly, do a big evening reading, get a few hours of sleep, fly right out again late that night or early the next morning.
It was especially grueling, and I loved every minute of it, of course.
I usually went to California and hop-scotched back to the East, there I had to drive everywhere, from Boston to Washington. The author was much too exhausted to do his or her driving, I would never have made it through a day.
I was much in demand and always drew big crowds.
In the Northeast, I went from one event to another, and the escort was critical. He or she drove me, fed me, kept track of time, helped with lines (yes,there were often long lines of people waiting to meet me to have books signed) and I was struck by how at ease I was with Maria on those long drives where it didn't make sense to fly. We just talked and talked.
I was lonely and unhappy at the time, when Maria was with me, the tours took on a special kind of magic and excitement. I loved traveling with her, she was so business like, warm and organized. And we never tired of talking to one another.
In the Connecticut hotel room – I had a suite just for the day – I found myself with Maria (and also a dog, Orson, and then Izzy, one dog often came to some local readings). These were the first salacious thoughts I had about her, we were in a hotel room together and alone, we were both exhausted. I realized
I had to get out of there or get her out of there or I might get into trouble. Not that I would have dared to try anything. I am very ethical when it comes to relationships. If you are in a troubled one, get out of it, but don't sneak around. But still…
Maria was like a nun, she quite a moralist, she would have been horrified at any show of suggestion or impropriety, so I asked her to walk the dog while I did an interview. Then I got myself together and we went out to lunch. I never said or did anything inappropriate or romantic in any way until we were both separated and close to getting divorced.
But she has been a part of every book tour I've been on since then, and they have changed. No more limos, fewer interviews, hardly any flights anywhere, it's mostly done in local readings and online, via social media. The high-powered publicists are gone, and so is the money to promote books. We are on our own.
Usually, just the two of us, and that is sweet and rewarding in its own way.
But the dynamic is still here, she shares my sense of excitement, the special wonder of writing a book and talking about it for the first time, and of meeting readers and supporters. Writers work alone much of the time, and book tours are about the only time we get real and personal feedback and thoughts from readers..
We are going to Albany today to do the first interview, the interviewer will be in Toronto. It will seem very familiar, we have come a long way together and our love only grows and deepens.
We will stop for lunch and talk, and revel in the experience of doing book tours together, they were how we first became close and got to know one another. We sometimes roll out eyes about the interview, some questioners are prepared, most are winging it. We can tell the difference.
It was on the book tour that I realized the depth of my love for this remarkable person, who had seemed so quiet and depressed to me, but who seemed to come alive on the book tour. She helped me but was fiercely independent, never fawning or subservient in any way. It was a balancing act in a way, I think we learned how to be with one another and adjust.
From the first, she bristled at getting me coffee or being told what to do (on book tours, the author asks for coffee a lot and tells the escorts what to do). But she was organized, efficient and tireless. We never were uneasy with one another, or on each other's nerves (as long as I didn't ask her to do anything, and I didn't after a while). Despite by how much they have changed, book tours remain special to both of us.
Today, Maria will be at my side, helping to drive me, waiting for me with good words of encouragement when I come out of the studio, finding a spot for the car, coming along on readings, letting me know how I am doing, getting a sandwich if I get wobbly. These days, she is as much or more of an attraction as me. Many of her blog and art followers show up at my readings to say hello to her and get a book from me.
My first reading will be at Battenkill Books in Cambridge, N.Y., at 7 p.m. on May the 2nd. And by the way, you can pre-order my book from Battenkill Books and I will personalize and sign it and you will also get a free and classy custom designed tote-bag. You can also call the store at 518 677-2515. They take credit cards and Paypal, and they are extraordinarily nice and competent.
I am excited about today, the interview will help me hone my thoughts and ideas about the book and the day will also remind both of us of how lucky we are to have and learned to love one another. We are nothing but lucky, and the book tours shaped our coming together.