Sunday, 29 September 2013

On the road

Hello!

Many apologies for not updating in a while. I've just flown back from the second stint of my official press tour for The Bone Season. Over the course of ten days, I visited Amsterdam, New York, Toronto, Stockholm, Oslo and Bucharest, and thanks to both Bloomsbury and my foreign publishers, I had a wonderful, and sometimes emotional time in every single city.

Will you be coming to my city? 

Several people have asked me whether I'm doing a book tour, and whether or not I'll be visiting their cities to do signings. First, I should explain that début novelists don't generally go on large book tours when they're first published. Book tours take a lot of coordination and can be expensive for a publishing house to organise and for a first-time writer, it's not always certain that there will be enough people turning up to the events to make the time and organisation worthwhile. A press tour, which is what I was on during this trip, differs from a book tour in that there aren't generally many public events, e.g. signings. I was primarily travelling for the purpose of speaking to various media outlets in America, Canada and Europe to help promote both The Bone Season and its European translations. 

If you live outside of the UK, it isn't very likely that I'll be coming to you for a few months certainly not until the paperback of The Bone Season comes out, which should be at some point in 2014. I promise I will update my Twitter and my upcoming events page as soon as I know about any signings or appearances. Thank you so much for your support and interest!   

Without further ado, here's the first half of what happened during my press tour.



City I
Mokum

It looked nothing like America. It looked like an old painting, but real everything achingly idyllic in the morning light and I thought about how wonderfully strange it would be to live in a place where almost everything had been built by the dead. 

John Green

The first few days of my Bone Season press tour were spent in three cities: Amsterdam, New York City and Toronto. Amsterdam also known as Mokum, a Yiddish word meaning place or haven, or the Venice of the North was the first stop. And what a beautiful city it is: quiet and calm, cut through with canals, packed tight with tall, narrow houses and bikes upon bikes upon bikes. There were trams a distinctly European feature, I've noticed, a mode of transport we don't really have in England and boat tours being offered every so often. It reminded me a little of Oxford, with the boats and bikes and the sense of being caught in an old world. I arrived after a forty-minute flight from London and stayed in a hotel by the beautiful Herengracht canal.

It was an incredibly busy first day. I had lunch with Guusje de Vries, who works for Prometheus, Dutch publisher of The Bone Season (or Het bottenseizoen, to use the Dutch title). Later on, I did a small signing at Polare. I'm not very well-known in the Netherlands, so the signing really was very small, but it meant I was able to meet readers individually and talk to them for a while. I was so pleased to be able to meet some people I knew from Twitter, including the very sweet Debby, with whom I was able to have a nice long chat after she arrived, and Suzanne, both of whom had battled through a ferocious downpour to come and see me. Check out Debby's book blog, Snuggly Oranges.

Later on I was treated to dinner by two editors from Prometheus – Lisanne Mathijssen and Katrijn van Hauwermeiren – and my Dutch translator, Janet Limonard. Janet was incredibly interactive when she translated The Bone Season, always keeping in touch with me to see what I thought of her ideas, and it was great to finally meet her in person. We talked about the difficulties of translating the novel, and how being a translator works in general. Janet said it's a very solitary career, rather like writing.

The next day I did a series of interviews with Dutch and Belgian press in my hotel. During my last few hours in Amsterdam I wandered out into the city and visited the Anne Frank House, Prinsengracht 263. I read The Diary of a Young Girl many years ago and had always wanted to see the Secret Annex (Achterhuis), where Anne was in hiding with her family. I was fortunate that there was a short queue, so I was able to get into the house in the short time I had left in the city. The factory building has been extensively altered since 1945, but it's still recognisable enough that you can get a good sense of what it was like during World War II, and each room is helpfully labelled with its original function. Although the furniture was removed after the war, as Otto Frank requested, some small mementos have been left behind: the pictures Anne pasted on the walls (including a picture of Greta Garbo), the pencil marks where the children were measured, and the original bookcase from the 1940s that hid the entrance to the annex. Most harrowing of all was a map that Otto Frank used to track the Allied invasion of Europe, pressing pins into the wall as they crept closer to Nazi-occupied Holland. It's agonising that the inhabitants of the Annex were betrayed before one of those pins could find Amsterdam.

When I left the house I was uplifted by all the evidence I'd seen of Anne Frank's resilience and spirit throughout her time in the Annex. She wasn't a saint, nor was she a martyr; she was complex, thoughtful, and a dreamer. The diary even surprised Otto, despite how close he was to his daughter. But I was also reminded that we shouldn't just think of Anne as a shining symbol of innocence in the face of evil. She deserves more than that. We should also remember the senseless brutality and hatred that ended her life, and work in whatever capacity we can to prevent it today. 


City II
The Big Apple

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

After a quick nap in England I flew straight out to New York on 11 September. When I arrived, I found a city deep in mourning for the victims of 9/11, but also celebrating its strength in the face of terror and destruction. The Empire State Building, which I was lucky enough to be able to see from my hotel room, was illuminated in the colours of the American flag, while the Freedom Tower now known as the One World Trade Center had redefined the skyline. At 1,766 feet a testament to America's beginning as an independent nation in 1776 it is the tallest building in the States, and is expected to open for business in 2014. Although it was a sad day to arrive, it was very moving to see how the city banded together to remember the events of 2001. 

After shaking off my jetlag, I spent the day with my editor, Rachel, doing press interviews around the city. It was sweltering outside much to my horror, as I'd packed mostly winter clothes for the trip, including scarves, gloves and sweaters. First I was on Fox's Good Day New York, during which the presenters puzzled over the pronounciation of the word cokum in the book; then I had some phone interviews and a satellite radio talk with SiriusXM. Then it was time to head out and sign books for two Barnes & Noble stores. In the evening, I had dinner with Rachel and Nancy from Bloomsbury USA in a restaurant that had its very own Cheese Cave. I'm still not entirely sure what a Cheese Cave is. Either a cave full of cheese or a cave made of cheese, I suppose. I should have looked. After that it was back to the hotel and straight to sleep, as I was getting up at 4:30AM the next day. 

After my short trip to Canada see below it was back to New York on Sunday. I had a day off, so I met up with Alexandra, who was in the city to work for a few days, and we had lunch in the sun. As we walked to the cafe, we saw an incredible carnival on the streets in honour of El Grito de Dolores, the anniversary of the fight for Mexican independence, which has been celebrated since 1825. Both Alexandra and I had a lot of work to do, so we both hurried back to our hotels to tackle it. Mine was a blog for Waterstones on the music of The Bone Season, which you can read here.  

On Monday, it was the big day of my return to the TODAY show, which recently featured The Bone Season as its first Book Club pick. In honour of the show's new set and logo, the Orange Room, there was a very orange party on the plaza outside: orange drinks, orange coats, and of course, large orange umbrellas to stave off the downpour. I signed lots of books to the sound of James Blunt playing live music from the stage. I'd been sitting next to him for about ten minutes in the makeup room, but hadn't realised who he was! (I was expecting him to look exactly the same as he did when Back to Bedlam came out in 2004. Awkward.) Once we were out of the rain, it was up to the studio to do a Google Hangout with NBC anchor Natalie Morales and a group of fantastic participants, including Crystal Watanabe, who is the founder of The Pale Dreamer. I got a lot of really interesting and challenging questions. You can see the Hangout on my last blog post.   


City III
La Ville Reine

Before the real city could be seen it had to be imagined, the way 
rumours and tall tales were a kind of charting.

Michael Ondaatje

Early in the morning of 13 September I was off to Toronto on a very small plane – so small that every bit of turbulence felt like a thunderstorm. The woman next to me was drinking her tea one minute, and the next, it had flown out of the cup, ricocheted off the top of the plane and soaked us both. I was so shocked by the sudden rain of hot tea that I burst out laughing, as did the other passenger. Fortunately her laptop was all right, despite the keyboard being flooded.   

Arriving in Toronto is an unusual experience. The plane landed at Billy Bishop Airport, which is located on one of the Toronto Islands, south-west of Downtown. It was chilly in Canada, so I bundled up warm. I could see the edge of the city from the plane, with its towers and condos. When you arrive at Billy Bishop, you have to get on a small ferry, the Marilyn Bell I, and sail across a short strip of water to Eireann Quay. The ferry leaves every fifteen minutes. The Bone Season is handled by Penguin in Canada, so for the first part of the trip I due to meet Trish Bunnett, Penguin Canada's publicity manager. Somehow we missed each other, though, so I ended up standing at the arrival area on the Toronto side while poor Trish was waiting on the island side! Once we'd found each other, we visited Kobo's headquarters for cake and a chat, then headed to several bookshops to do stock signing. One of them was Chapters Queensway, where the booksellers loved Warden (and in return I loved the booksellers very much indeed). The store also plays film soundtracks to listen to while you shop: Harry Potter, The Lion King and more. It is a bookshop after my own heart. Brenda, one of the staff members, had been kind enough to make The Bone Season one of her staff picks.

After lunch and a quick rest in the hotel, I headed with Penguin staff to Indigo Yorkdale, a bookshop in a mall, so I could do a short speech and some book signing. I'm still not very well-versed in public speaking, so I was quite nervous to have a big audience, but I had a great time and got to meet some more readers, which was wonderful.  

Sadly, I had to leave Toronto the next day without having had much of a chance to explore it, but I was struck by how beautiful it looked when I left. It was one of those gorgeous September mornings you get from time to time: brilliant sunlight, perfectly clear blue skies, freezing cold. By the sea, with the towers glinting and the boats racing past the Marilyn Bell I, the maple leaf fluttering past on their flags, it looked like a futuristic port city. Hopefully I'll have a chance to have a look around next time.  



Stockholm, Oslo and Bucharest will be coming up in the next blog post. A big thanks to the teams from Bloomsbury USA, Penguin Canada and Prometheus for looking after me so well, and to everyone that attended my events!

Samantha

14 comments:

  1. Wow! What an amazing trip! Your body is probably still trying to work out what country it's in. Good luck with Mr Jet Lag!

    I've always wanted to see the Anne Frank house, but even more so after your description. The cheese cave and your tea shower made me laugh out loud. Thanks for sharing your travels!

    Happy writing!

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    1. Haha, yes, I'm still running about two hours ahead of UK time! Definitely visit the house if you can.

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  2. Hi Samantha,

    All your hard working is paying off . . . and constant travel is probably as hard as anything else.

    I loved The Bone Season and can't wait for the next in the series. I wish to apply for an ARC of your next book, but don't know how to go about it. Bit of homework to do there for myself.

    I would appreciate it if you could tell me how you designed the artwork for your blog. I know you got the background and photo of the streetlamp via Mammuth/iStock, but I would appreciate if you would tell me how you got the text (your name and The Other Side Of The Story) on the streetlamp photo and uploaded it to your blog.

    I hope to find an agent and publisher for my book by my birthday (March). So, I am trying to put together a blog site with no experience at all.

    Keep up the great work. I don't usually read anything in your genre, but I am hooked on your work. Many thanks for bringing me over to The Dark Side - s- to speak.

    if you prefer to keep this separate from your blog, please E-mail me at adamson.peter@sky.com.

    Very best wishes,

    Pete.

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    1. Hi Pete,

      I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! I'm afraid there are no official channels by which you can get an ARC now. I imagine there are some on eBay if you want to pay the sort of prices the traders tend to ask for, but NetGalley and other sites no longer offer them, as the book has now been published.

      I didn't get the streetlamp via iStock, actually – it was designed from scratch by my friend Leiana Leatutufu. You can contact her via her Twitter (@l_leatutufu) or her Tumblr (www.thefourthorder.tumblr.com) if you're interested in how she designed it. Once you have the picture it's very easy to upload it as a header on Blogger.

      Best of luck finding an agent and publisher!

      Samantha

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    2. Hi Samantha,

      Many thanks for putting me on to Leiana about the graphic art. I have contacted her.

      In relation to the ARC, I was referring to your next book.

      Just about to start reading The Bone Season again.

      Hope everything is going swimmingly on the second Bone Season and that you avoid the intensive editing. I have a terrible OCD of trying to fix everything as I go. I'm trying to discipline myself to get the story out altogether and then edit. Bit I'm on track nevertheless.

      Many thanks & best wishes,

      Pete.

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    3. Ah, sorry, I misread that. I haven't finished the second book yet, I'm afraid!

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  3. Merry meet, fellow author,
    A beautifully detailed blog post - as usual. I am living vicariously through all your posts. You must be so happy to reap the benefits of all the hard-work you'd put into finishing the first book.
    Anyway, I have a question. I am from India and English is my second language. Do you have any advice on how to enrich my vocabulary?
    Thank-you and have a nice, creative day.

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    1. Hm... when I was learning Spanish I used to watch Spanish films and read newspaper articles to enrich my vocabulary. If I didn't recognise a word, I'd look it up in the dictionary and try to memorise it. I think reading lots of different kinds of literature is key to learning new languages.

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  4. Hi Samantha!
    I can tell you that Helena and Johannas intervju with you in Stockholm payed of. Instantly after i have had read it on their blog Bokglam I bought your book and finished it in a couple of days. I´m amazed by your story and can´t nearly wait until the next book will be published. Reading your book is like eating the aura of it and building an aura around my own writing. Thank you for that wonderful inspiration you give me trough The Bone Season!!!

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    1. That's wonderful to hear! Heléne and Johanna were lovely. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book.

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  5. Hey Samantha!
    I'm a young writer, and I love your blog--it was very enlightening and inspiring hearing about your journey to publication! I especially loved how you gracefully spoke about how you "failed"in Aurora and how it made you a stronger person.
    I have a question: Can you write a letter to your teenage self, pretending that you can travel back in time, and talk with your teen self? I would LOVE if you wrote one, but all the same, thanks for inspiring this one young writer!

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    1. I'm sure I could do that at some point, although I sense I might want to wait a few years... maybe when I'm 25, which would make it 10 years since I started writing "Aurora". I'm so glad to have inspired you. Keep writing!

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  6. The top of this building looks like a polish flag, yay! :)
    Greetings and hugs from Poland, Samantha! :)

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  7. I was looking for simultaneous interpreter in abu dhabi and I found your blog, although it is not what I was looking for but I like it very much and you are doing a great job I think. best wishes to you and have a happy new year

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