The last five weeks since my debut novel went on-sale have easily been the most fun—and the most exhausting—of my life.
“Damnit!” I said to my fiancé in a flurry of packing late the night before I was set to leave for California, “All of my summer clothes are in storage!” It was eight o’clock at night, I was on a flight the next morning to Redlands to visit my mentor and spend a few days with my folks in Palm Desert, then onto L.A., Phoenix, and Austin. It was fifty-five and raining in Seattle. “Do you want me to go pick something up for you?” (A good decision, marrying this one.)
“Nah, I’ll wing it.” In the first two days I’d stocked up on shorts and tank tops and gotten an efficient mani-pedi from a strip mall salon.
Part of what I’ve loved about being on tour is that it makes it feel real, this massive change that has happened in my life. Walking the Redlands campus, it settled on me in a new way. Like so many authors, I’d always wanted to be a writer, but Redlands—under the loving guidance of the incredibly gifted Pat Geary--was where it went from being a dream to being a plan. I spoke to a group of fifteen advanced writing students about my journey from where they sat to where I was. They were so fresh-faced and hopeful; I looked at them thinking “Was I really that young when I was here?”
Next up was L.A;. a place I love for a few days, loathe if you try to keep me there longer. I stayed at the uber-hip Standard, and the staff was sweet to me—which is the difference between hip places in L.A. and hip places in New York.
Taylor Jenkins Reid and I met in person for the first time about an hour before we went on stage at Book Soup, but it felt like we’d known each other for years. If you haven’t been so lucky as to have met Ms. Reid, she is as charming and lovable as her heroines, and chatting with her was a delight. I pointed out during our talk that her novels often revolve around a pivotal moment in a character’s life that delineates everything into before and after: I asked if there’d been such a moment in her life and, tearing up, she said that in fact, there had. Meeting her husband Alex, also in attendance that night, had been her moment.
Caroline Kepnes also came to our event and she and I drank champagne back at the Standard late into the night, talking about writing and the strangeness of dealing with fans (mostly on her end). An hour or so in, she got up to go to the bathroom and as she was walking out announced to the bar “Everyone! This lady just published her debut novel!” As we ordered another round I thought about my early flight to Phoenix the next day. Screw it, I thought, I’ll sleep next week, next month, next year.
Next up was Phoenix where I got to meet a bunch of the lovely ladies from Spark Point Studios. Changing Hands, where I read with Beth Kendrick, is a marvel of a bookstore, with a bar right in the middle of it. This is a genius idea. If I ran the world, all the bookstores would have bars in them and vise-versa.
Beth Kendrick, writer of over a dozen smart, funny romantic novels, was a delight. There was much to love about the charming Kendrick, but one thing that struck me was how she owned her voice as a writer. “I discovered early,” she said (her first book was published when she was the ripe old age of twenty-two) “That I have a commercial voice. And I love it, I do what I want!”
Last in line was the only solo event on my tour. I stayed in Austin with an old friend from my New York days who lives there now. The day of my event, I went out for a run by the river. “It’s a loop,” she told me, "you can’t get lost.” She clearly did not who she was dealing with. I called her an hour later from a park about five miles off course after taking a nasty spill when my foot caught a tree root.
As I was preparing to go to the podium at Austin’s marvelous Book People, an old friend I hadn’t seen in years appeared at the top of the stairs. She’d surprised me by driving out from Houston—two and half hours or so—and seeing her was like a mirage. I managed to dry my eyes just in time to begin my talk. After being in such good company with Laurie, Jordan, Taylor, and Beth, I felt lonely up there. Besides which, meeting fellow authors has been the best part of this whole deal.
My friend who made the surprise visit is Mexican and she notably never drank the margaritas in Seattle, but in Austin, how could you not? We went out after Book People to do just that and talked about how life is short, how it goes by fast. A blink and years have passed. I countered that life was both long and short, too long to spend doing work that meant nothing to you, too long to be with a person who wasn’t the right person.
After a few days to recover (too few probably) I was off to Portland, which I always manage to convince myself is only two hours away from Seattle, despite the fact that it is always, always three. Here my Portland Girls Friday came out in full force, and it felt like a third hometown appearance after Seattle and New York.
Amy Hatvany, my fellow author for the event at Powell’s was warm, charming, and like a force of nature. Amy writes complex, issue-driven fiction and it was fascinating to learn about her process and her sociology background that drives it.