Here’s the continuation of my fears for my national book tour and what the reality turned out to be.
FEAR: You will be so busy, you won’t even have time to take a shower.
REALITY: You will be so busy, you will need to plan your showers in advance. Here is one sample day I had on the road:
Woke up in St. Louis at 5am. Dragged myself into the shower as I had planned because I knew the radio shows would start calling at 5:30am. Then did the “Morning Show with Errol” on WWRL-AM (IND) in NYC, ”The Big Show with Ron” on WXBR-AM (BusinessTalkRadio) in Boston, and then the “Morning Show with Dorothy & Brian” on KBBO-AM (IND) in WA.
This was all by phone. Here are a few tips for taped phone interviews, whether they’re for radio or print: 1) make sure you’re awake and ready to go; 2) warm up your voice beforehand if you can, even if that means sounding really silly in the shower; 3) if you’re in a hotel, hang the Do Not Disturb sign outside your door. I usually take the precaution of telling the front desk I’m doing an interview and don’t want to be disturbed, although incoming calls must be allowed — remember that the hotel loves you and will unexpectedly drop by to bring you amenities like goldfishes in bowls (not to be eaten); 4) if you wear earrings, take off the one that presses into the receiver. You don’t want it to be clicking away against the phone while you’re trying to talk; 5) turn off the heater/airco/cell phone, anything that makes or can make noise in your room; 5) hold the mouthpiece a bit away from your mouth so that your voice doesn’t “pop” on aspirated letters like “p”; 6) if you’re me, make sure you know how to answer your phone.
So when I was done with these interviews, it was only 9:30am. I then wheeled my suitcases downstairs, checked out, got driven to the airport and flew to Milwaukee. I landed at about noon. Then I was picked up by another wonderful media escort and taken to my hotel, where I had another radio interview by phone with Beth Hadley of “Dance Diva” on KSVY-FM (IND). After that, I had a taped phone interview with Rebecca “Becky” Chang for SAMPAN, a Chinese-English bilingual newspaper for Boston and New England, and then a podcast for the Christian Science Monitor in Boston.
An hour or so later, I had the reading for that day at Next Chapter Bookshop, a wonderful independent bookstore in Mequon, WI. The reading is the only event of the day that most fans will see on your public schedule.
I got back to the hotel at about 9:30pm, ordered room service so I could have dinner since I don’t like to eat too much before a reading, and then spent some time updating my team in NY on everything I’d done that day. It was pretty late by the time I was done and my call the next morning was at 7:45am, meaning I needed to be packed, clean and checked out by then.
I really needed to work out in advance when I would shower, which clothes I needed to keep with me in case I had to do something directly from the airport, etc.
But with all the craziness, I still had time on some days for things like this unexpected drop-in at Louise Erdrich’s bookstore in MN, called Birchbark Books. Not only does Louise Erdrich have a confessional in the store (!), but it is a warm and cozy place filled with really cuddly fans like this one:
FEAR: You will be kidnapped and held for ransom.
REALITY: It would be very easy to kidnap you if you’re anything like me. Once you get into the swing of a book tour, you will look for your media escort or driver as soon as you exit the airplane. Many times, they will be holding a copy of your book.
One media escort explained it to me like this, “An author will often walk right by a sign with their name on it, but they never ever walk past a copy of their book without looking.”
When I see someone holding a copy of my book, I go up to them and say, “Dave?” or “Elaine?” or whatever I know their name to be from my media schedule. All they have to do is to say, “Yes,” and I will give them all my possessions and follow them blindly wherever they lead.
I was in an airport and the media escort disappeared to put my carry-on luggage and handbag in the car while I waited for my checked piece. I realized that I’d just given my wallet, my cell phone, my media schedule and my passport to a person who just happened to be holding a copy of my book. This was not good. Luckily, he came back.
The only saving grace is that no one wants to kidnap authors. Most people don’t want an author at all. We are not appreciated. See earlier blog post (Book Tour: Fears and Reality, Part 1) about not being appreciated.
P.S. I do have to note that some places do special things for authors, like giving them an engraved bookmark. This was from the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, CO — a really amazing place for booklovers. I don’t know if you can read it, but having my name on a bookmark did make me feel appreciated.
MISCELLANEOUS FEARS: Finally, I’d like to talk about a few last random fears and what reality taught me about dealing with them.
MICROPHONES: I was quite disconcerted the first time I had to talk into a mike. It was strange to hear my voice reverberate through the room with a split second delay. It seemed to make my words so weighty, and I also didn’t know exactly where the mike should be so that I’d sound clear, yet not “pop” on the aspirated letters. Near the end of my tour, I went to the Asian American Writer’s Workshop, a fantastic community, and first had a videotaped interview with Ken Chen, the Director, and then gave my entire reading with a mike, which was also videotaped. I was glad that earlier, a sound engineer at KBOO, where I did a radio interview, had given me some excellent advice. She told me to point the microphone towards the left corner of my mouth at a 45 degree angle. It works every time. The mike is quite close, so it can pick up everything, yet nothing you say will cause the mike to “pop”. Since then, I really love using a mike because it ensures that everyone in the vicinity can hear me.
The only thing is that events coordinators at bookstores often take one look at me, then I hear a storewide announcement go out, clearly meant for the technical person: “The author is NOT tall!” The technical person then runs to adjust the mike about a foot lower.
LOSING MY LUGGAGE: As you know, I was afraid of losing my bags during the entire book tour. I realized on the last day, however, after I’d given a reading at the Back Bay Borders that I would never lack for coverage while I still had GIRL IN TRANSLATION posters: