ON THE MEANING OF TOUR…
Tour is a strange time for an author. Just saying it feels odd.
“I’m going on tour…”
Tours are for rock stars and celebrities, for people with well-known faces, limousines and handlers that drink top-shelf liquor and tip with folded bills and cupped palms. Not that we authors are shy or overly-retiring – we’re usually not – but we do spend most of a year shut up with our imaginary friends. We live in the stillness of our minds and have learned to be wary of questions asked at cocktail parties and by the pool.
It’s not that people are unkind with their questions. In fact, most are warm, wonderful people with genuine curiosity about how this whole writing thing works. That’s not the problem, at least not for me. I’m a superstitious guy when it comes to writing. I don’t like to talk about what I’m doing for fear that such conversation might drain some vital energy or sap my will in a nefarious way. The net result is that I keep to myself when working on the next book. I stay with my family or near the close friends who long ago lost whatever fascination they might have had with writing, writers or the number of books I’ve sold.
I remind myself that without the reader I cease to matter in the world of books.
Tour, however, is a very different animal. It’s a sustained commitment to openness, a carefully orchestrated reinsertion into the human race. This is a good thing, of course, but only if I prepare for it. The tour for IRON HOUSE is six weeks long, so I store up time with my loved ones. I exercise and lose weight, ready myself for photo-shoots and TV spots. Most importantly, though, I remind myself that without the reader I cease to matter in the world of books. This is no platitude, so let me say it again: Readers matter. It’s an easy thing to forget, especially as successes mount and career rises behind me like a plateau so tall and broad it might have always been there.
Thing is though, it hasn’t.
My success came through hard, consistent effort. It came from talent and drive, from a belief in myself so searing and clear it could be laser-cut. So, I’m not ashamed to feel proud. This is a brutal business, after all, and few become bestsellers. What’s most important, though, is to remember the other side of the equation, the readers and reviewers, the publishers and booksellers who put gas in the tank and keep the pedal floored. Writing may be solitary, but success is shared.
Tour is the time to celebrate that mutual endeavor.
This means the most important preparation for tour is not the haircut or the new suit. Rather, it is a careful, heartfelt reminder that though I may have heard the same question a hundred times, it’s new to the reader asking it. It’s a mental note that these are real people with busy lives, free thinking souls who care enough about what I do to show up and share their feelings. They stand in line to tell me why my books matter to them. They tell their friends about what I do. They turn off the television and read.
Think about that.
So, as the tour unfolds, I remind myself every day what matters. If I’m giving a talk, I give the best damn talk of my life (never mind that I’ve given it two-dozen times already). I don’t shake hands and smile like I mean it. I mean it.
Tour is not about me.
It’s about them.