Monday, 17 March 2008

A World of Wonders

Clear and cold, highs minus 11 Celsius

"A writer lives, at least, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. To transmit that feeling, he writes." William Sansom

I’m back from the US tour for The Cruelest Month! Not sure it’s fashionable to say, but I had a riot. When I was a journalist and radio host with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation I’d interview lots of writers on tour and almost without exception they whined and complained about the rigors of being on tour. Now, having done a couple myself, I’ve gain a certain sympathy for those writers. But I still wonder if they’ve taken a good look around at the jobs most people have. Basically on tour our travel is paid and organized. Someone meets us at the airport, takes us to a hotel. Everything is looked after. For me most days included a few media interviews then an event at noon, an hour or so quiet in the afternoon to get caught up on emails and business (or watch HGTV) then an event in the evening. The most difficult part was getting up at 3:30 for flights. My tour took me to New Canaan, Connecticut, New York City, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Phoenix, Houston and Burlington, Vermont this Wednesday. No 3:30 wake-up that day since it’s just down the road from my home in the Canadian province of Quebec.

I’m not a really happy flier, but after a week of flights everyday I’ve become one. It’s quite a long and convoluted form of ‘fear-of-flying’ therapy, but it works. First you write a book, spend years trying to find an agent a publisher, get it published, write two more books, then go on tour. Voila, fear-of-flying disappears. Nothing to it.

What made it easier is that I traveled with only a carry-on bag. My media escorts were astonished that I could be a week on the road and have a tiny bag. Didn’t tell them all that was really in the carry-on was underwear and gummi bears. My mantra for the book tour was, ‘Don’t dribble, don’t dribble.’ Pretty much my regular mantra anyway. One good dribble on the clothes I was wearing and I’d be reduced to speaking to the Detroit Rotary Club wearing underwear and gummi bears.

But it really was a wonderful time. The Cruelest Month is my third book so I suppose the process is new enough to me still to be a delight. All my life I’ve dreamed of writing a book, and I even dared, secretly, to see myself on a book tour. Then with the CBC when interviewing those complaining authors I wondered if they knew how lucky they were. Obviously not. Most people do jobs for little pay, long hours, without anyone looking after them or applauding. What a personal tragedy to complain. Yes, a book tour is hard. It’s long, it’s tiring, it’s stressful. It’s a little frightening – especially the fear no one will come out. Or I’ll miss the flight. Or eat my wardrobe. But, oh my God, what great good fortune gave us this career?

I must say, though, I was happy to get home Saturday night. Michael, my husband, met me at the airport and I burst into tears seeing him. Surprised us both.

I’ll write more about the tour tomorrow. Today Michael and I are in Montreal. We keep a small apartment here but live most of the time in an area known as Quebec’s Eastern Townships, by the border with Vermont. We’re heading out for breakfast, then Michael will see the accountant about the taxes and meet a friend for lunch while I nip back to the apartment to continue writing my next Chief Inspector Gamache mystery.

WAMC-FM, a National Public Radio affiliate in New England will be calling for an interview this afternoon – then we’re off to get Michael’s eyes tested. He has glaucoma, so we’re always very careful.

I’ll write again tomorrow. Be well, and thanks for reading.


Elizabeth said...

So glad you are back and are learning to cope with flying, especially in this post-911 world. Bill, my husband, has had the opposite experience. Over 16 years, his work at the IMF and World Bank took him to Russia, India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Phillipines, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania,South Africa and Kenya. (OK, he got to go to Vienna, London and Paris a bunch of times too). Even with his U.N. laissez-passer and the words "World Bank" stamped onto the cover of his Canadian passport, he was pulled over and held for further security scrutiny more times than you want to know. The American security personnel were the worst, with frighteningly militarist attitudes. Finally, last year he decided that he had had enough and we decided to return to Canada. Now that he is a consultant, he tries to plan his trips to avoid passing through U.S. airports whenever possible.

Lesa said...


You start my morning off right. I love to read your blog, and I appreciate the ending - Be well.

You and Michael take care.

Nan - said...

I'm saving The Cruellest Month to read in April. :<) I read that there was going to be an interview on Vermont Public Radio, but I called them and they weren't sure when it was. I wish I could make it over to Burlington, but my friend can't make it, and I don't want to drive over alone. I'm thrilled with all your success. I think you've introduced a special part of the world to a lot of people.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Elizabeth,

My God, I can imagine all Bill wants to do is stay at home in your lovely company. Did you get to with him at all?


Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Lesa,

My friend - thanks for welcoming me back!


Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Nan,

Well, let's hope the interview happens! I really like radio intervfiews since they tend to be longer and radio people are on the whole quite thoughtful. If they aren't drunk.

Hope you enjoy the book - and good idea to wait since it is set in April after all.


Anonymous said...

It's good to have our favorite Quebec export back within the borders. Michael did an admirable job of keeping the blog going so we munchkins had something to read.

As for flying, when I flew a lot I never feared flying; I feared airports. Is there anything more scary than "Where the heck is gate 23? My plane is boarding in 5 minutes."

Cheers --- Larry