Book Tour: Fears and Reality, Part 2

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:

My marketing team is looking into making a sandwich board for me.

Category: National Book Tour, Publishing 43 comments »

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43 Responses to “Book Tour: Fears and Reality, Part 2”

  1. Jean

    Yanlily, I’m honored that you translated a part of my book for your homework. Red hair and mittens were strange to Kimberly then because she came from a Hong Kong that was much less international than it is now. She’d never seen red hair before nor mittens, since Hong Kong is a tropical place. Thank you for getting in touch!

  2. Yanlily

    Hello, Jean! I’m a student for translation between English and Chinese. I like your Girl in Translation so much that I translated some chapters as my homework.
    There is one thing I hardly understand in your book. On page74, line 12, “Now that I was in the U.S., I assumed he(Santa Claus) would be appearing like all other strange things I had heard of but had not seen until now, like red hair and mittens”.

    Why are “red hair and mittens” strange to you? Do they mean something special or just “red” hair and mittens people wear in winter?

    If it’s convenient for you, please write back to my email.

    Dank u wel!

  3. Jean

    Kathy, that is a real compliment and I’m so glad that an expert like you finds that part of the book to be believable! I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book and thanks so much for letting me know!

  4. Kathy McCracken

    Jean, I just finished your book and will read it again soon. I *love* your style of writing; very similar to Lisa See whom I also enjoy. I have read all of her books.
    I retired two years ago from a thirty-five year career as an operating room nurse and you had me convinced that you were actually a pediatric cardiac surgeon in real life!
    Your book is one of a few that I could not put down. I was captured from page one through the last word of the epilogue.
    Thanks for the pure joy you have given to me.

  5. Jean

    It’s so nice to hear from you, Laura! I’m very glad to hear about your baby who seems to like my book too (actually, your voice, I imagine) and I’m impressed you managed to read anything at all with a baby in the house. I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book!

  6. Laura

    I think it’s wonderful that I can leave you a comment! I’m a former avid reader, a book or two a week and my biggest fear when reading is being dissapointed or not being able to finish a book. It’s been five months since I’ve picked up a book(babies apparently do this to you! Lol) and I came across your book. I’ve been so out of the loop I hadn’t heard of it and fate have it, I purchased it.
    You have written such a lovely and engrossing book that delighted me as well as feeling the emotions for the characters. I just fell in love with the book. This past week it has traveled with me everywhere so I didn’t miss an opportunity to read! I just wanted to say thank you, I’m your newest fan and I cannot wait for your next novel.
    P.S. My 5month old boy enjoyed it also when I would read the book outloud. I know it doesn’t mean much but it was very cute! Your youngest fan 🙂

  7. Jean

    Thank you so much for your kind comments! I am sure you are not a careless educator and I think you do more good than you know. People like you make all the difference.

  8. Jean

    Lauren, that is so funny about your names! I think I may well change a very important character’s name to Lauren in the new book… her name was Lisa but I like Lauren better. I don’t know if you’re on Facebook or not but if you are, I always post the latest news on my fan page here:
    Thank you for helping to inspire me, Lauren!

  9. middle school librarian

    I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me of the writing of An Na, but with a deeper insight. It made me think about the carelessness that I exhibit as an educator when it comes to the school’s immigrant population. I know that America is a mix of cultures and hard to figure out, but your book told the truth of how it (America) looks from the outside in. Great work.

  10. Lauren Sng

    Jean, it would be neat if you named a character “Lauren.” I feel a small connection to Kimberly Chang bc my middle name is Kym and my family name is Chong. Too bad my grades were nowhere near hers/yours. 😀

  11. admin

    Lauren, thanks so much for getting in touch! So glad you enjoyed it and the blog. I think you also have a lovely name, Lauren, maybe I need to use it for a character at some point… : )
    Best, Jean

  12. lauren sng

    jean, i bought your book on sunday, about mid-day. by bedtime, i’d finished it. thank you for writing such a lovely book. i thoroughly enjoyed every word. also, your blog is hilarious! i’m going to end this comment so i can read more of your posts. all the best to you. waiting patiently for another novel. –lauren

  13. admin

    Thank you, Ruth, for your lovely post! How interesting that you’ll be in Amsterdam as well. The weather should be lovely here at that time of year, although it can always rain! I’ll be in the UK then but will be hoping for sunshine for your visit. Best to you on all of your work, thoughts and writing.


  14. Ruth Elise Housman

    Dear Jean, I have just finished your engrossing book, Girl in Translation, which I could not put down. My husband saw this book and said, “Here, Ruth, this one’s for you.” And he was, surely, quite right.

    I HAD to see what you had written, about living in the Netherlands, about the “Dutch Connection”. My husband, a geneticist, at MIT, is working on protection of nerve cells from injury, with a fairly new start-up company in Amsterdam, so I have had the pleasure of visiting, and also a longing, to visit the Anne Frank house, was fulfilled my last visit. I will be in Amsterdam, morning of June 13 and will be free June l4. I am visiting with my sister, while he works.

    I am experiencing not a little but MASSIVE coincidence, or synchronicity, known as the astonishment of story that precipitates out of a life, and I know, deeply know, that coming to your wonderful book, at this time, is in no way random.

    I have been recording an ongoing story, by way of a Diary, that is at Brown University, the Hay Library, the Mel Yoken Collection of Letters, that is deeply beautiful, that does concern, us all.

    It is a story, not just about synchronicity, and I am, Jung at Heart, but a story that is about language, words and letters, across Babel.

    in truth/ruth

    Ruth Housman
    Marshfield Hills, MA

  15. admin

    Gerda, I would not dare to classify you in any way except to say that I’m very grateful for such a good reader! What an active life you lead, and I’m very glad that the novel touched you. Thanks for letting me know.


  16. Gerda Cohen

    I am an avid reader– lest you think that I am an old sedentery person, I play tennis, ride a bicycle almost daily, am a child mentor volunteer, play bridge. I have written/chastised Jodi Picoult and David Baldacci; ah, but this book was just perfect. I was transported with Kimberly to her hardships. I read the book in two sittings. Thank you, Thank you!!!! As an aside, we recently returned from a 21 day tour of China and I was not surprised but sad to see some of the poor living conditions still present, especially in the outskirts of the beautiful large modern cities. I eagerly await your next book. Pardon me while i still quietly sob!

  17. admin

    Rika, thank you for letting me know my book touched you! He must have been some boyfriend… I’m sure that you, like Kimberly, have moved onto a wonderful new life, even though the memories can be bittersweet. Take good care now!


  18. Rika

    I just finished your book while I was waiting for my train(bad idea),I was in tears..and people were looking..

    It reminded me of the days when I used to live Malaysia(I`m half Malaysian Chinese), Matt reminded me too much of my boyfriend,and the ending..

    But despite that,I love it,thank you for sending it out to the world!!

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