My late father used to ask me why I go on book tours. “Do you really sell enough books to make it worth all that wear and tear on your body?” he would inquire, a father’s remarkable love leading him to believe that:
- I sell way more books than I do and, thus, don’t need to tour; and
- A book tour is more onerous than it really is.
Authors, including me, have written often about the logistical madness of the book tour – the frenetic pace, the whole notion of being “on” for weeks at a time. But the reality is that I love touring. I’m always energized by the opportunity to meet readers around the country and talk about books. And while I babble a whole lot about my books, the truth is that I talk about a lot of other writers’ books, too.
Last month I was on tour, and there was one period when I was in three different hotels in three states in 28 hours. In that period, every single thing I ate I consumed while moving in a car or an airplane. I polished off, among other things, five 8.4 ounce cans of Sugar Free Red Bull, three Clif bars, and two bananas. I recall a chocolate chip cookie and a cheese sandwich so messy that I didn’t dare finish it. I was wearing a black suit and a tie, and racing between appearances. I had asked for extra mayonnaise on the sandwich, which was my big mistake. The bread fell apart like a rotted wooden step.
This was the third week of the tour and it was, by any standard, incredibly successful. Unlike past book tours, I made every flight connection. I lost no underwear. And none of the people introducing me suggested that raptors wanted to poop on my books. (Yup. Really happened.) All of the radio and TV interviews were with people who had read the novel and were interested in discussing it. It was a pretty lovely three weeks.
Then when I come home to Vermont, once again I was amazed at the simple, beautiful normalcy of everyday life. When I left, about all that my wife and I had been able to enjoy from our vegetable garden had been arugula and lettuce. Since I returned at the end of July, we have savored cherry tomatoes, green peppers, green beans, onions, parsley, cilantro, basil – and more lettuce. We have eaten blueberries from the bushes beside our front door every single day for breakfast. I’ve ridden another three hundred miles on my bike, been to Addison County Field Days, and resumed work on my next book. I’ve brushed my cats. I’ve emptied the garbage.
But here are the things I wish I could have told my father about this most recent book tour. When I was speaking in a suburb of Chicago, I met reading groups that had traveled to the event from as far away as Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Indiana. At a reading in Rhode Island, a high school writer brought me the term paper she’d written about my work. And, of course, a whole bunch of you packed into the Fletcher Free Library right here in Burlington the night before my new book went on-sale, a lovely event initiated and co-hosted by Phoenix Books.
But there is another reason why authors do it. We meet readers and booksellers who are as devoted to books as we are, and a tour is a small way of showing our appreciation. It’s a way of saying thanks to people who still care passionately about what words and reading and books can mean to the soul.
The reality is that I get to write because of those booksellers and readers – and that is a blessing for which I am profoundly grateful.
And that’s why most writers will always be happy to live for a few weeks a year on Red Bull, bananas, and energy bars.