DEBORAH CROMBIE: (Tales from the Road, Part 3) I'm waving at you from Austin, Texas (glad to be back in the Lone Star State!) and the Texas Book Festival. Tomorrow will mark five weeks since I started out on this round the country crazy book tour thing. (Well, at least part of the country--sorry, West Coast and South East... Hopefully next time!) I have a few more events this next week, then a ten day break before taking off for five days in Long Beach for Bouchercon 2014. After that, I'm going into hibernation and you will have to pry my poor fingers from the keyboard.
But, oh, it has been fun, and I've learned a few things (I am perhaps a marginally better packer than I was before September 20th), acquired a whopping boost to my airline miles (upgrading to business class on my next outbound trip to London), and reaffirmed some things, including:
I LOVE talking to readers! Put two people who love books in a room together and you are pretty much guaranteed to have a good conversation. But as an author, talking to a group of people who have read your books is absolute magic. I learn things about my novels and my characters, and about how readers relate to them, that are a revelation. Often I learn things that will affect what I write in the future. We writers spend a lot of time alone, pouring ourselves into stories and characters that exist only in our heads, and talking to readers is our affirmation that we have made a connection.
And I remembered how much I like talking to strangers (that thing we were told never to do, right?) But I don't mean the creepy kind. I mean chance encounters. Fellow travelers in airports, a cab driver, a waitress in a restaurant.
(I should maybe add a caveat--this does not include one of the traveler's worst nightmares, being stuck next to someone on a four hour flight who talks at you non-stop. One should be able to bow out of the conversation:-))
But back to the good conversations. For example; the first day of my tour I was flying from Dallas to Abilene, Texas. A forty-five minute flight, right? Except that it was canceled. Fifty people had to be re-booked. It was hot, and people, including me, were frustrated and cranky. Seven hours later, I was still on standy-by for the next to the last flight of the day. But in the meantime I'd started chatting with a cheerful-looking fellow stranded passenger. His name was Mark, and he was an engineer from Edmonton, Ontario, who spends every other week on a project in Abilene. By the time we finally got on that 9 p.m. flight, he'd promised to come to my event at the Abilene Library the next day. Which he did, and it turned out that his wife was a big fan of the books. Weeks later, thinking about Mark makes me smile.
There have been lots of others. Tom and Kathy, strangers to each other and to me. We all shared a lunch table at Friday's in Milwaukee Airport. Lorenzo and John, car service drivers. Shelby, the waitress at a restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware...
People are just so interesting. And I have to wonder, if you go through life with a closed face, unwilling to smile or make eye contact with people you don't know, what do you miss?
So what I'd like to know, REDS and readers, is DO YOU TALK TO STRANGERS? And if you do, have you met people who have made your life a little richer?