There are a lot of things nobody prepares for you when you start a career as an author. Going on my first book tour years ago, my publisher and editor didn’t ask if I knew how to do a reading. Luckily I had some acting experience and my spouse was on sabbatical, so after every reading I got “director’s notes.” What worked, what didn’t work, where did I need to slow down, how did I need to engage my audience better–and much more.
It was invaluable, like taking a one-person seminar, and it made each successive reading more successful.
That tour was when I first discovered how amazing it is to encounter fans. People who haven’t just read your work, but have absorbed it and want to thank you. One person told me she actually had read my book half a dozen times and kept it by her bedside.
I was blown away. Writing is so solitary, and discovering the impact your work might have shifts you out into the world so differently than when you sit there reading a review.
The other day I was at the gym chatting with a trainer. She’s used to seeing me wear blue but I was once again all in black and she asked what was up. I joked about going to Paris and wanting to fit in. A woman nearby asked when I was going and we go into a talk about travel and learning language. She was studying Italian for a big trip to several cities.
I told her about my last trip to Florence and that I’d done fine ordering meals, asking directions, and buying things, but that was about it. She asked how many languages I spoke. French and German were my mains, with side dishes of Swedish and Dutch. Then I had to explain how I’d gotten involved in studying the latter two and we traded more travel notes.
I asked her name and introduced myself and she said, “Oh, I know who you are, I see you here a lot but haven’t wanted to bother a celebrity. I’m a big fan of your mysteries.”
It made my day, made my workout. And reminded me once again how lucky I am to have people reading and enjoying my work.
Lev Raphael is the best-selling author of a guide to the writing life, Writer’s Block is Bunk, and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery. You can study creative writing with him online at writewithoutborders.com