The World's Longest Book Tour
When it takes 13 years to get published, the time after your debut novel comes out can feel a little surreal. That was when I arrived in North Carolina. The warm weather and blooming flowers—we were fresh from a New Jersey winter—all contributed to this feeling of having come to a place like something out of a dream. Or Oz.
Let me back up a little bit. My debut novel, while the first one published, was actually the eighth book I wrote. During the more than decade when I was a struggling writer, I worked with three agents, who submitted five books, receiving 15 almost-offers from editors. Whew. The numbers, even knowing them as intimately as I do, still stagger me.
Right up until the last second, it didn't seem as if I would succeed. And this was my lifelong dream: I'd wanted to be a writer since I was 5 years old.
By the time my book came out, though, it wasn't just my dream: it was the whole family's. Back when I began trying to get published, my husband and I were of an age when concerned grandparents-to-be begin to murmur about fertility rates dropping, and leave well-intentioned magazine articles around.
"Should we start trying?" I asked my husband.
"But you're going to be published any day now," he replied. "And then, who will have time for a baby?
Those babies were 7- and 5-years-old by the time my first novel sold.
As the release began to ramp up at my publisher, my husband and I were gearing up as well. Because the only thing harder than getting a first book published is building a career as an author; we knew we would have to give this thing our all. We decided to rent out our house, trade in two cars for something that could handle winter in the Smoky Mountains—not to mention the Rockies—and withdraw our kids from school in order to travel the country bookstore-by-bookstore. All told, we covered 35,000 miles in 7 months. And there were many days when we couldn't let the children have fun at Marbles Kids Museum, or see the Grand Canyon, because I was due at an event. We did make it to Duke's lemur sanctuary, though. No trip to North Carolina is complete without that.
McIntyre's Bookstore was where I did my first event in North Carolina, and it would've been fun enough on its own due to the efforts of Pete Mock, bookseller extraordinaire. Pete paired me with a self-published author for a conversation about different publishing paths—turns out not everyone is willing to devote 13 years to toiling away unpublished—and we spoke to a full house. But the southern hospitality extended beyond the book-filled walls of McIntyre's.
A North Carolina mystery group hosted a tea party. The owner of the Rosemary House Bed and Breakfast in Pittsboro offered a free room for me and my family. And a good writer friend made a chicken and dumpling dinner and showed my children around her little farm in Moncure.
Because the Triangle has bookstores numbering in the double digits, we were able to make this leg of the trip the most densely packed with events. I spoke before a crowd of more than 100 at Quail Ridge in Raleigh, although the highpoint of that night was my trip to the bathroom. It'd be your highpoint, too—there are photos of every author who has spoken at the bookstore in there. At Flyleaf in Chapel Hill, on an unseasonably cold night, people still came out, and I also got to meet some of the friendliest booksellers in the world—or at least the country.
The world's longest book tour would continue on across many states and many thousands of miles. In some ways, it came to be a journey as long as complex as my road to publication (only a lot more fun). But the Tar Hill State stands out as one of the highpoints. Special enough that the bookstores there were some of the first where we lined up events for my second novel.
That's right. When my next book comes out, we're doing it all again.
Jenny Milchman is a novelist from New York state who loves arriving in North Carolina. Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, published by Ballantine in 2013, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Emerging Authors Pick and nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark award. Her second novel, Ruin Falls, came out in April.