I’ve been playing hooky for far too long, and now it’s time to tell you what happened on book tour: lots and lots of serious eating! Toad in the hole, bubble and squeak, Cornish pasties, roasted Swedes (translation: rutabagas) — I sampled it all.Well, I never could get myself to order “spotted Dick” but maybe next time.
High points? The spicy fried mackerel at Mela Indian restaurant on Shaftesbury Ave, London. The incredibly fresh grilled plaice at the Lamb Inn in Marlborough. Sipping wine in the cozy Haunch of Venison in Salisbury. Sharing one of my lamb chops with a bookseller at Christopher’s restaurant. (He’s since dubbed me “two-chop Gerritsen”.)
But wait — I was there on business, wasn’t I? So I guess I really should talk about the book tour.
Why do we authors bother to go on the road, anyway? Why do we drag ourselves from city to city, bookstore to bookstore, when only 30 people at a time show up for a signing? (And that’s if we’re lucky; most times the audiences are far smaller. )
The reason we do it is media attention. With one or two good radio shows, you can reach an audience of millions, and in the UK, it’s all made simple because many of the stations are part of the BBC network. You can sit in one building and talk to radio hosts from around the country, without having to leave your chair. And I’ll say this for UK radio — the interviewers have almost all done their homework. They’ve read the book, they ask thoughtful questions, and don’t resort to just parroting the press release, as so many hosts in the US do.
But they can also play a little rough. How’s this for a nightmare scenario? You’re trapped in a studio with three young hotshot reviewers who each proceed to critique your work ON THE AIR. And then they all sit back while you try not to disintegrate into a blubbering mess ON LIVE RADIO. (Now I understand why “The Weakest Link” originated in the UK. Those Brits do seem to love the spectacle of public humiliation.) I spent the show sweating in my chair, obsessing about that scene in “Galaxy Quest” where these cuddly little aliens suddenly sprout fangs and attack. My three reviewers, thank heavens, never showed even a glint of fang.
Then there was a photo shoot for EVE, a UK women’s magazine. The theme was “Secrets of best-selling authors” and there I was, professionally coiffed and made up, posing with three gorgeous women novelists, Joanne Harris and Freya North and Lauren Child, who shared their their own author photo stories. How a photographer once asked Joanne to pose nude in a tub of melted chocolate. How another photographer asked Freya North to pose nude on horseback. (Are you starting to sense a common theme here?) So now I’m wondering why no photographer has ever asked me to pose nude for my author pics. Should I feel miffed about this?