JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Jenny Milchman, apparently, never does things half-way. When she decided she wanted to be a writer, she didn't just bang out a story and quit: she wrote eight novels over the course of eleven years before getting published. Her debut, Cover of Snow, didn't just get starred reviews and praise in the New York Times, it was nominated for a Barry Award and won the Mary Higgins Clark Award. And now her second book, Ruin Falls, is out, she's not just going on book tour. She going on the world's longest book tour. For the second time. Crazy? You decide...
Since the Reds have been so amazing about sharing word of my, um, unusual book tour, I thought I would shine a glaring spotlight on the interior workings of the trip.
First, a little background. Last year, when my debut novel came out after a thirteen journey/struggle/battle to publication, my husband and I decided to rent out our house, trade in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, and withdraw our kids from first and third grades. We spent 7 months and 35,000 miles on the road. We “car-schooled” the children as we traveled the country, visiting bookstores, libraries, book clubs, and other places where readers tend to congregate. On line at the supermarket instead of online via Facebook. Face-to-face in a virtual world.
Now, with my second novel just released, we’re set to do it all over again. So, how do we do this? What is it like, getting ready for such a trip? Come along with me for a straight up accounting of one day. You know how glam the life an author leads is, right? Jet planes, handlers, caviar. Well…the day you’re about to take part in may not be exactly like that.
6 am: Wake up but try very hard to go back to sleep. 7 hours’ sleep won’t be enough for what lies ahead. Try the yoga position that sometimes works. Today it doesn’t.
6:20 am: Go downstairs. Kids are already up, eating breakfast, causing me all sorts of worry about how tired they'll be by the end of tomorrow night’s first book event, which always goes later than planned.
6:25 am: Enough time for worrying. Open up laptop and begin to respond to email, Facebook posts, Tweets. Enjoy catching up. Wonder how much time has passed.
8:30 am: Holy something!!! That much time? I haven’t eaten anything. I have to finish a round of edits on my new novel before we hit the road. And—weren’t the kids supposed to learn something today?
8:31 am: Call to the living room where husband is working. Ask him, “Weren’t the kids supposed to learn something today?”
8:45 am: Devise lesson about dictionary skills. Explain task to children, state that they must SHARE the brand new, shiny Merriam-Webster’s, hand out pencils and pads. Husband will do math afterwards.
8:46 am: Tell child one that he can sharpen his pencil himself.
8:47 am: Tell child two that no, five words are not as good as ten.
8:48 am: Turn attention to interview I have to fill out and ask husband when that call from the reporter is today.
8:49 am: Figure out why pencil sharpener isn’t working.
8:50 am: Tell child two that no, five words are still not as good as ten.
9:10 am: Finish interview. Check kids’ progress with dictionary. Debate whether to give child two a hard time about beginning a story using the second word she looked up instead of continuing on to her third word. Decide to give her fifteen minutes with her story. Praise child one for being nearly done. Anguish over whether child two will feel unappreciated while cleaning up kitchen.
9:30 am: Enough time for agonizing, not to mention cleaning. Do interview with reporter. Put children under strict instructions not to make any noise under any circumstances whatsoever. Hope that the house doesn’t catch fire and I hear, “But you told us not to make any noise!”
10:00 am: Talk to husband about buying a roof cargo carrier. If we don’t, we will not be able to fit everything we need in the car. Clothes, boxes of bookmarks, gifts for booksellers, books in case a shipment goes awry, car toys, beloved things from home that kids will miss on the road. Oh, the kids have to fit too.
10:01 am: Check on kids. Note that child two is still writing her story. Decide not to redirect her to dictionary lesson. Then agonize some more.
10:03 am: Help with second breakfast for kids, which consists of bread, jam, and crumbs everywhere.
10:10 am: Return attention to email, Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, online interviews.
11:31 am: Suppress urge to ask husband why, when I’ve completed 800 blog posts, 30,000 Tweets, a zillion FB mentions, etc. one little rooftop carrier hasn’t been purchased yet. OK, OK. I’m sure it’s harder than it looks. Plus, I’m cranky. I knew I hadn’t gotten enough sleep.
11:32 am: Eat something. Finally.
11:33 am: Review spelling assignments. Content myself that kids really do seem to be learning something. Agree that child two can finish her story until Daddy is ready to do math. Check the status of the rooftop carrier.
11:34 am: Fix third breakfast. Cheese and crackers, if you're curious.
11:40 am: Announce that if I can’t get to my edits, I will never be able to fall asleep, go on tour, and the world may crumble to bits as well. Absent myself for lunchtime and everything else.
1:30 pm: Emerge from editing cave. Do we have a rooftop carrier? And why haven’t the kids started math? Boy, am I a nag.
1:31 pm: At least I don’t nag for very long. Begin calling booksellers to fill in holes on tour. Reflect how lame I feel, making these calls. What if no one wants to host me?
2:00 pm: After much time spent on hold, checking route, more time on hold, two more events are booked. Kitchen is covered with crumbs. More bread has been consumed.
2:01 pm: Cut up and serve a plate of fresh fruit out of sheer guilt that if left to their own devices, my kids would turn into cream cheese sandwiches.
2:10 pm: Return to blog posts, email, etc. Hear child one ask if I’d like to read her new story. Decide there isn’t anything I would like more.
2:20 pm: Utter panic. I was supposed to turn in an article to my publicist—today! How could I forget this? What happened to that snazzy reminder system set up by tech husband (whom you now know does basically everything)?
2:25 pm: Pace around, knowing I can never write another word worth publishing as long as I live. Stare at screen. Start to write a bunch of words not worth publishing.
3:35 pm: Realize I forgot to have lunch. Go out to crumb-coated kitchen. Peer out window—kids are playing outside. Wonder if they ever got to math. Eat three mini brownies. OK, maybe four. Five.
3:45 pm: Go back to computer. Delete words not worth publishing and really get to work on article.
5:00 pm: Finish article. Send it to my publicist. Get a "this is great" email in return. Write back, “Seriously?”
5:05 pm: Ask husband: DO WE HAVE A ROOF RACK?? Husband points to car. There's a big old box bolted to the roof. Hmm. How'd that get there?
5:10 pm: Come out to kitchen. Crumbs have been cleaned up. Kids are working at the table like two decimal-computing angels.
5:15 pm: (Missing minutes accounted for by kissing husband and telling him he’s the best). Decide what kind of take-out to get for dinner.
7:00 pm: Tuck kids into bed. Agree to let them read for a while. It’ll be late nights soon enough.
7:15 pm: Return to computer to answer email, go on Facebook, Twitter, etc. But swear to stop by 8: 30 so I can catch husband up on everything I’ve done today (and he doesn't learn about it on Facebook).
9:30 pm: Holy something!!! How did that much time pass? Decide to take some more missing minutes. Not to talk about work, but just to talk about…us. And those sweet and now decimally equipped kids.
10:30 pm: Fall asleep having finally come up with a blog post idea for Jungle Red Writers. It will explain how I spent one single day.
Jenny Milchman's journey to publication took thirteen years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called "the world's longest book tour". Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, praised by the New York Times and San Francisco Journal of Books, given the Mary Higgins Clark award, and nominated for a Barry. Jenny is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers' Debut Authors Program. Jenny's second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out, and she and her family are back on the road.You can find out more about Jenny and her books at her website, friend her on Facebook, follow her adventures on Twitter as @jennymilchman or talk books with her on Goodreads.