The last time I was in New York—in June 2010—it was 100 degrees, I had two toddlers with me, as well as a husband who had a ton of work to get done, and I was staying in a not-very-nice neighborhood far from all subways. I blogged about the result (basically, me crying in a drag-queen bar after shooting a deer-in-headlights video for my book).
So when I took a trip to New York this January, I decided to do things differently. I went by myself. I stayed in a beautiful apartment that a friend lent me while she was away, in a neighborhood that I know like the back of my hand. Instead of a heatwave, there was snow. I love snow. Therefore, this time everything was different.
My one day of meetings started with a leisurely trip to Rockefeller Plaza with my friend Kim. She had spent the night in order to watch certain films starring Robert Pattinson that we can both quote word-for-word, thus annoying anyone else in the room, which is why we only do it when we’re on our own.
In that excellent mood, we parted at the Rock Center Café, where I spied my editor, Tara Weikum sitting at a table waiting for me. I’ve only met Tara once (during the June heatwave), but we have talked on the phone a couple of times and communicate constantly by email. So it felt like a huge treat to actually sit down right there in front of her and have a real chat, where eye-contact and body language and all those good things are involved.
As we caught up on real-life stuff and watched the Zamboni smooth the skating rink just twenty feet away, my publicist Elyse Miller joined us. She’s one more person I had been dying to meet, but only knew through email. I was not surprised in the least that she was super-smart, funny and had so much energy she could generate enough power to keep a small city running for weeks.
We talked about ourselves for a little while, and then Elyse asked me how I had gotten my ideas for DIE FOR ME. I admitted that I hadn’t read much YA before writing it, and she and Tara asked me what kind of books I liked. And I didn’t know what to say, because the answer would be “not YA”, but I didn’t mean that I didn’t like YA, and I don’t know the names of literary categories, never having thought about it before.
So I said I loved Neil Gaiman (since I knew Elyse had seen him the day before) and that I loved books like A History of Love by Nicole Krauss. And then I was trying to remember her husband, Jonathan Safran Foer’s name. Or even his book’s name (Everything is Illuminated). But often when I am put on the spot, my brain kind of empties and I am left with a big fat blank. Because of that, I’ve gotten really good at changing subjects, so we launched upon the publicity planned for DIE FOR ME and then the book tour, and Elyse told me that she’d be sending me the books of the people I’d be traveling with and get us in touch in time to communicate about what we would be talking about.
At which point, I swallowed my croissant without chewing and must have gone all big-eyed because she said, “You did know that you’ll be doing a little Q&A between yourselves and answering questions from the audience?”
“Uh, no. I thought a signing meant just sitting there and signing books.”
She and Tara laughed in a nice way, while throwing each other a little concerned look. And I felt like saying, “I have been doing my homework.” And I have. It’s just that I’m starting from zero. Put me in the middle of a Sotheby’s auction with $20,000 of Winona Ryder’s money and a bidding paddle, and I’ll know exactly what to do. (True story.) Or throw me in the middle of a medieval castle with forty French tourists asking me questions about the heraldry woven into a tapestry and I won’t bat an eye. (Also true.) But ship me off to Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville, Illinois, with a pen and few illustrious authors and a crowd of book fans and I won’t have a freaking clue what to do.
So I calmed my choking fit with a glass of water and nodded and tried to look like the whole thing was very funny while thinking in my mind, “Oh shazam. What am I going to do?”
Elyse then went on to tell me about the Beach Bag giveaway that Harper would be doing for the Dark Days of Summer authors, and how she was sending books out to reviewers and when and all of those details that I’m so glad someone competent and knowledgeable is handing for me.
After breakfast we walked the few blocks back to the HarperCollins monolith and I met Christina and Kristina in marketing whose boss was also named Christina, which must have been terribly confusing for everyone involved.
And then came the meeting—the real reason I was there. I wanted to talk to Tara and Melissa, DIE FOR ME’s assistant editor, about Book 2. I had sent them an outline—okay a 300-page rapidly-written draft—in September and they had gotten back to me with their thoughts on it. Based on that I had formulated a plan for the three books, with a back-story that I thought could tie the three together.
I had practiced my presentation on both Kim and my friend and beta-reader Claudia during the two previous days. I’m a kazillion times better at writing than I am at speaking, so I wanted it to be clear, make sense, and not drag on too long. Even so, it took me about twenty minutes just to explain the basics to my patient editors. And right in the middle of it there was a fire drill. To my great relief, they tiptoed over to the door, shut it, and in quiet voices we continued.
And oh, how great it was to get immediate feedback. To be able to talk without that annoying speakerphone shell-sound muddying the conversation. To see that little flash pass between them and be able to say, “I can see you guys don’t feel very comfortable with that idea.” And then listen to their reasoning and be able to respond so that, in the end, we were all on the same page. I wish all of our meetings could be like that, but because of one small hurdle (called the Atlantic Ocean), face-to-face meetings will be few and far between.
And as I walked down Madison Avenue after the meeting, I wished I had a hat so that I could throw it up in the air Mary-Tyler-Moore style and do a little joyful spin. Instead, with a smile that wouldn’t fade for the rest of the day, I went back to my apartment, put my head down, and got back to work.
See my previous Literary Lunacy posts here:
Literary Lunacy: A Multi-Post Story, Part 1
Literary Lunacy: A Multi-Post Story, Part 2
Literary Lunacy: A Multi-Post Story, Part 3
Literary Lunacy: A Multi-Post Story, Part 4