This week feels like a lot of to-dos to cross off, write more down, cross off. That tends to happen in a break at home during a release period. (Yes, I filed my taxes.)
The CBC ‘Next Chapter’ interview with Shelagh Rogers was exactly what I thought it would be: she’s warm, funny, really smart, likes puns (!), reads carefully, and somehow always wants to talk about some things I want to discuss in a book but no one else has asked. This time we keyed on family relationships in River of Stars, and on courage, in the widest sense. There’s a scene where a mother walks to a market town alone, trying to get help for a sick child, and for me it may be the bravest single thing done in the book. Shelagh gave me a chance to discuss that.
We chatted for about 45 minutes and it was a highlight of the media tour. It’ll air on ‘The Next Chapter’ on May 27th and then again on June 1st, and it’ll be a podcast, too, of course, for CBC.
Ottawa on Sunday night was genuinely a pleasure. First of all it is a good book town, period. Secondly, I seem to have a really solid readership base there, so it was a crowded, lively hall. I checked and a number of them had been at earlier readings years ago for Perfect Books, in a pub they booked. My considered view is that an audience with a drink or two to hand will laugh more easily – and when you want them to.
But even without much in the way of drinks Sunday, it was a terrific session. I was interviewed, after a short reading, by Neil Wilson, one of the Author’s Festival directors (a return engagement for us, we’d done this three years ago) and he gave me great questions to run with – and then in the Q&A the audience did the same.
The line was long and there was a panel starting in the same space, so the Festival people moved everyone to the basement for the signing. I made a (too predictable?) joke about none of them ever seeing the light of day again. Most stayed to get their books signed anyhow. Brave.
Tuesday was more questions, online this time, during a Q&A on Goodreads. I fielded about 70 questions or so through the morning and afternoon, typing away. I haven’t checked but am sure the field of my answers is littered with typos. My first sustained interaction on Goodreads, and it was a really generous group.
I also signed stock at two branches of Book City here in Toronto (both stores took photos, one caught me looking about as unshaven and shaggy as I get … well, I hope that is as shaggy as I get.)
River is still at #2 on the Maclean’s bestseller list which marks, best I can remember, the longest I’ve been at that high a level with any book. We’re #3 on the Canadian Bookseller’s Association list, too. I’ll slide soon: Le Carre, Hosseini, Dan Brown are all May books, and Edward Rutherford, who always hits the top levels just released his newest.
And I’m already back and forth with my editors on jacket copy for the paperback. That feels so strange (and we’ve talked about it): prepping the pb while still touring for the hardcover. But lead times are enormous in publishing these days. The good news is a wonderful slate of reviews to choose good quotes from. Do jacket and inside review quotes sell books? Old (endless?) debate. The industry still assumes they help.
Next out-of-town is in two weeks, when I fly to Calgary (May 14) and Kamloops (May 16), for readings and signings. That should do it for spring, with the possible exception of a return to New York. Come fall, a new Festival season starts but that has a different vibe from touring with a new book. We’re weighing about 7-8 invitations and balancing dates. Before that I really want to have started the research for another book.
Touring is a dying phenomenon, really. Conversations on the road underscored this for me. Despite some colleagues who hold forth on giving away books and charging for readings and t-shirts (how realistic is that, honestly, for most authors?) the migration to online marketing and PR is a reality now. Even when I do an interview with, say, Nancy Pearl in Seattle, that evening ‘lives’ far longer and reaches more widely in the televised version of it than in the actual evening encounter. In a way, some are arguing, you do the live event to create the taped one. Different world.