BOOK & BLOG
January 25, 2010
I have been a fan of Jane Austen’s ever since I first read Pride and Prejudice. Jane is the goddess of little things, to me; I love her minute observations of character and manners, the sharpness of her observations. I can open any novel of hers and lose myself in the lives of the people she draws so clearly. Austen left some fragments of books that were discovered when she died. The Watsons was truly a fragment, and she left it incomplete during her own lifetime, so obviously she must have been dissatisfied with the beginning she made on it in some way. The polished version by John Coates is a real delight, though, and if you’re longing for some Austen that may not have passed your way before, you can try to track down this book. It’s hard to find, and the only copies I saw listed were very expensive. Try Abebooks.
I’ve read two versions of Sanditon, a novel Austen had begun only a few months before she died. The first one I bought many years ago, the one by Jane Austen and Another Lady. The other, by Jane Austen and Juliette Shapiro, I just finished, and it’s readily available. I like any version of Austen, because I love to read anything she had a part in. That having been said, of the two versions, I much prefer Another Lady’s. To me, it’s simply truer in tone and feeling to the Jane I love. It was interesting, though, to see what Shapiro did with the same material, and I’m glad I read her version, too.
Harry Connolly’s Child of Fire could not be more different from observing the minutiae of Jane Austen. But I enjoyed this book too. This is a very tough urban fantasy book with a dash of sex and absolutely no romance. This book starts right in the middle of a situation, and the reader has to keep her eyes open to keep up with the backstory, fed the reader in little chunks, and the action, which is horrifying and practically non-stop. Released prisoner Ray Lilly is the driver for Annalise Powliss, the vicious and powerful sorcerer who’s been sent to the company town of Hammer Bay to investigate the mysterious disappearance of children . . . whom no one remembers. Annalise intends to kill Ray when the job is over. Nothing goes as either of them expect. This book is highly original and I recommend it to those who like their fantasy on the noir side.
I’ve known Rick Riordan for years, and I loved his Tres Navarre mysteries, starting with Big Red Tequila. I vaguely heard Rick was writing YA, but I didn’t sit up and take notice until a friend told me how many people turned out for a Rick Riordan signing. That wave had just washed right on past me. Then I saw a preview for a movie, and it suddenly dawned on me that the movie was taken from Riordan’s books! Okay, I’m slow, and I’m sorry. I dug down in my TBR pile, and I read The Lightning Thief. As everyone knows but me, this is a wonderful series about Percy (Perseus) Jackson, the son of the God Poseidon and a human woman, and his attempt to find out his place in the worlds he straddles. I know there must be a lot of Harry Potter comparisons, but I’ve got to say, I think The Lightning Thief was a lot of fun and that the book and concept stand well all by themselves. Now I’ll have to scramble to catch up with Riordan’s gazillion other readers.
I’ve been looking over my tour schedule, and if you have, too, you’ll notice the same thing I did; the middle of the United States is missing, for the most part. Before you get all indignant on middle America’s behalf, let me tell you that my publicist is considering sending me around the central states for a week later in the year. When I can sandwich this in, I’m not sure, but it’s under consideration. If it comes to fruition, it’ll appear on the calendar.
I just returned from my appearance at the Columbia County Library in a suburb of Augusta, Georgia. While I was there, quite a few people asked me, “Why did you agree to come to Augusta? There’s nothing here!” That left me with the slightly embarrassing confession that I’d come because they’d met my price. I’m listed with a speaker’s bureau, and in the interests of simplicity I signed with the speaker’s bureau attached to my publisher, Penguin. My wonderful contact there, Caitlin Pratt, told me how much she thought I should charge. Now, when they get a request for a personal appearance by me, Caitlin sends this request to bffpaula. Paula and I compare the dates to the ones already on my calendar, and we consider what the requestor wants me to do speak for an hour and sign? Teach a class? Do three interviews and a lecture? In other words, how much prep work will I need to do? Then I decide whether or not to accept.
This is separate from the conventions I go to. Sometimes I go just for fun (as I’m going to Romantic Times) on my own dime, and sometimes I’m invited as a Guest of Honor. If I’m a guest, usually the convention pays for my transportation and hotel room, though that’s the extent of the money part of it.
Then there’s touring, which is funded by my publisher and designed to launch a new book in a big way, so generally I go on tour when a new book comes out.
Do I enjoy all this? Yes and no. Airplane travel is just not fun any more, and when I’m on tour, it’s actually pretty easy to forget where I am. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up in a hotel room and wondered how to get to find the bathroom in that particular room in the dark. And how many times I’ve had to check the little envelope to remember which room is mine. Do I like staying in wonderful hotels? Yes, I definitely do. Not because the room is fancy, and some of them are very fancy indeed; but because I want three things out of a hotel when I’m travelling. That’s security, room service, and a comfortable bed.
Usually my publisher assigns me an escort in each city, and I don’t mean a hunka burning love-type escort. Media escorts are a unique band of people who become the author’s lifeline when she’s travelling. Your escort will meet you at the airport, get your luggage to the car, take you to your hotel and make sure you’re happy with it, explain how long it will take you to get to your event and when you need to be ready, take you to the event, stay with you during it helping in whatever way is needed, and help you obtain whatever it is you’ve run out of in your travels. I remember once I needed to get a tiara before I got on the plane, and God bless that escort, she found me one. (Don’t ask. I needed a tiara, okay?) I’m sure I’ve talked about media escorts before; a good one is worth his/her weight in gold.
That’s my travelling year: conventions, speaking engagements, and touring. Sometimes I feel like a different person when I’m travelling, and it’s great to get to a big city and meet lots of wonderful readers. But I always enjoy going home.
© 2010 Charlaine Harris