When Edward Gibbon presented the 2nd volume of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to the Duke of Gloucester (the king’s brother) the legendary, cheerful comment from royalty was, “Another damn’d thick, square book! Always, scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?”
My versions are many, but I’ll never forget the morning national tv host (no, I won’t name him, though he deserves it) who started our interview on Lions of Al-Rassan by chortling, ‘This is a big book! This is a really big book! How do you even write such big books?’ I wanted to say, ‘In the time I spend not murdering you.’
The scribbling I’m doing lately is quite different. In the New World Order, a lot of the marketing for a book is online and that means quite a few e-interviews. I really don’t mind them, and people are often smart and generous. But it is absolutely inevitable that some questions are repeated over and again … and I can’t change the answers. It looks too strange, as if I’m playing with them, and I’m not. So if someone asks, ‘What drew you to the Song Dynasty?’ or ‘What books have influenced you?’ or ‘What comes next?’ … all perfectly legitimate queries, my fear is that anyone surfing to more than one of these will be bored cross-eyed by me!
I spend my life trying not to be boring. (And failing, my younger son advises. I let him live, too.)
The publicists analogize to a politician. They make the same speech in Peoria that they do in Pasadena. Some people may hear both, but the idea is to get your core thoughts out to as many people as possible and most do not catch you more than once. I get it, but I don’t really like it. So I’m happiest when someone throws a curveball question at me, one I haven’t heard and need to think about.
(I have been warned by Laurie Grassi, Books Editor for Chatelaine Magazine, who is doing the on stage interview here in Toronto at the launch on April 4 that if she has a couple of drinks at the reception beforehand it could get very interesting. I have said (recklessly?) that she doesn’t scare me.
All the advance trade reviews for River of Stars so far have been really good. I told one of my editors this makes me nervous. She laughed (has heard this before). Replied, ‘Would you be less nervous if they weren’t?’ (I have heard that before, too.) My film agent said, ‘You always get good reviews.’ I said ‘Bite your tongue! And go sell us a good movie to classy people.’ (He has heard that from me before, too. See? Repetition keeps kicking in around now in this business!)
The tour dates for April are firming up, I’ve tweeted a few of them. I expect I’ll have something complete from Penguin soon and we can put it all in one place. I’ve agreed to do an AMA on Reddit on April 9th, before I go on the road. I did one last fall and it was a lot of fun, though I needed much faster fingers.
And, before I go for now, a birthday shout-out to Deborah Meghnagi, who created Bright Weavings thirteen years ago. Hard to believe it was that far back.