Monday, October 27, 2008

Diana Spechler on the Pleasures and Perils, but mostly Pleasures, of Book Touring I met Diana Spechler this past weekend at Book Group Expo in San Jose. She knew me and Ghost Word and we settled into an easy conversation at the Friday night authors party. Diana has just published her first book, Who By Fire, a novel that the organizers of the event liked so much that they put Spechler in the first panel, teamed with bestselling novelist Andre Dubus III.

Who By Fire tells the story of a family rocked by tragedy and the lingering repercussions of sorrow. Here's a description. You can find more information on Diana's website.

Bits and Ash were children when the kidnapping of their younger sister Alena, an incident for which Ash blames himself, caused an irreparable family rift. Thirteen years later, Ash is living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel, cutting himself off from his mother, Ellie, and his wild child sister, Bits. But soon he may have to face them again: Alena’s remains have finally been uncovered. Now Bits is traveling across the world in a bold and desperate attempt to bring her brother home and salvage what’s left of their family. Told from the alternating points of view of the three family members, Who By Fire is a searing commentary on guilt, grief, and the inescapable bonds of family from a fresh and extremely talented new voice in American fiction.

Diana is in the middle of her book tour -- she speaks in New York tonight -- and shares some of her observations:

The best thing about book tour is the hotel rooms. Hotel rooms are a not just a step up, but a giant leap up, from the living quarters I inhabit in Manhattan. Contrary to what Sex and the City may have taught the world about life as a New York City writer, the truth is this: If you are a writer in New York City, you either a) live in Brooklyn, b) live with roommates, c) do both, or d) live in a 200-square-foot apartment with no kitchen.

I chose d.

I was never such a fan of roommates, particularly since I write at home—I’m not crazy about the idea of company if I’m pacing, talking to myself, and banging my forehead against my desk, dressed in an ink-stained tank top and underwear that says Hanes on the elastic.

But back to book tour. Take San Jose, California, where I just spent the weekend at BookGroup Expo, where I was fortunate enough to meet the lovely Frances Dinkelspiel. My hotel room was nearly twice the size of my apartment. It wasn’t cluttered with garbage bags full of the clothes I’ve been meaning to take to Good Will for six months. It had a window that let in plenty of light, and heavy curtains that could make the room completely dark. The bed had four pillows. It wasn’t lofted. The bathroom was equipped with a glass jar of cotton balls. In the closet hung a beautiful, giant robe. I put it on and threw myself on the bed. I was in Heaven.

Even though every author wants to go on a book tour, touring authors can’t help but complain to one another a little. We’re tired. We’ve been in four cities in one week. We gave a reading to an audience of three. We had the middle seat on the plane. We’re living out of our suitcases.

But at that point in the conversation, I tend to drop out. You don’t like living out of a suitcase? Then unpack your clothes! There’s a whole stack of drawers, empty except for a Bible. There’s a roomy closet full of those special hotel hangers that are impossible to steal. And if you’re tired, there’s a chocolate on your pillow. The corner of the bedspread is turned down in an inviting triangle. Tell me what’s not to love.

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