W Bruce Cameron: Here’s what I gained from the experience of being out on book tour for the last six months: 10 pounds.
I guess this proves that those salads they sell at airports are really no good for you after all, which is why I’ve always avoided them and instead get my vegetables from cinnamon rolls. (Cinnamon comes from tree bark. You can look it up.)
I was on a 6 a.m. television show called something like It’s Morning, Too Bad It’s Bismarck! when it occurred to me that being on book tour is a bit like being a prisoner of war: You’re deprived of sleep, and people keep shining bright lights in your face and asking you the same questions over and over. Everyone always seems pretty cheerful to be awake so early, which I decided is because they’re all witty, ambitious people who are accustomed to amphetamines.
I personally am not at my best that early in the morning, which is why a lot of the conversations went like this:
Impossibly Cheerful Interviewer: So, you’ve written a book! Want to tell us about it?
Me: Not really.
After the on-camera interview, which was always successfully short, I’d usually move on to a local radio station, where the energy level was even higher and the people all seemed to have gone a long time without showering.
In Chicago I was on the radio with Mr. T, who was there to promote his product, Mr. T. I’d say that the ratio of Mr. T’s spoken words to mine ran somewhere around 1,700-to-1 and that any listeners that day probably concluded that Mr. T was performing live in the studio with a hamster.
From the radio station, I normally went to do an event at a bookstore, though event seems a strong word to describe what was usually just me at a table, providing answers to questions like, “Where’s the restroom?”
Attendance at book-signings is usually heavily influenced by what other distractions are available; people sometimes decide they’d rather stay home and be entertained by, say, a TV documentary called The History of Sludge. Bookstores often recommend that to attract an audience, the author should hold a drawing for some sort of prize, like a spa treatment or a townhome.
I tried to keep the attendees engaged by reading aloud from my book, though I eventually discovered I had better success if I read from someone else’s book. This worked even if the other book was Little-Known Facts About the German Tax Code.
In Jefferson, Texas, where I appeared as a guest of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, I discovered another way to keep the audience interested in the proceedings. The Pulpwood Queens are apparently women who have a big interest in (a) books and (b) margaritas.
Their leader is a woman named Kathy Patrick, who drove me around East Texas for a few days, introducing me to the concept that an automobile can be operated without touching the brakes. Kathy invited me to speak to the after-dinner crowd at one of the Pulpwood Queen meetings, and I was about halfway through my presentation when one of the women dove headfirst into the fireplace.
I suppose this behavior might have been explicable if there had been a fire going at the time, but the hearth contained only ashes. People immediately lost their lack of interest and leapt to the poor woman’s aid, pulling her out and reviving her by promising that my speech wouldn’t last much longer.
Apparently, the poor woman had found me so boring that her blood pressure dropped and she blacked out, taking care as she did so to pitch herself toward the brick hearth in a desperate attempt to cause a concussion and thus keep herself unconscious.
The relative softness of the ashes foiled her brilliant plan, however, and she was soon back with us, looking both disappointed and, with her hair, back and face coated in soot, more than a little crazy. It was immediately voted that this was far more interesting than anything else I could say, and the meeting was hastily adjourned.
It was just another typical day on the book tour.
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