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April 12, 2005

First Fiction Tour @ Seattle

by Ron Hogan

It's been a while since we last heard from Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, but after a weekend of downtime the First Fiction Tour is back in action...

mirandab-w.jpgSeattle, Seattle, how we love thee. We had the best time! Over a hundred people came to the Sunset Tavern last night, and though some of them were family (we each had at least one blood relative in attendance), there were many more faces we did not recognize. The setting was just perfect, what we had been imagining all along: a relaxed, chill bar with good beer and great questions. It's funny, because last week when we were bummed out at the turnouts in Ann Arbor and Iowa City, we all had a feeling that Seattle was going to be great. This has led to a larger discussion between the four of us: is the east/midwest really suited for this kind of thing? It seemed that in Massachusetts, Michigan and Iowa, audiences didn't really know what to do with us. One wonders if this has to do with cultural differences between a more laidback, music-based bar scene in the west and a more socially-based bar scene in the east where, if you're performing, you better be on stage (see our first night at Jimmy Tingles Off Broadway Theater). Though we may have just ended up in the wrong places at the wrong times; there are a bunch of places in my hometown of Brooklyn where I know this kind of thing would rock.
One of the best questions we got last night was from Marya's mom, who pointed out that our books fell upon very traditionally gendered lines: Marya and my books are "girl books", with deeply felt, thinking characters, and Edward and Matthews' books are "boy books", with much less emotion described on the page. She wondered if that was just the coincidence of the passages we'd read, or if there was something more there. I said I felt it was a little of the first, and also the fact that we'd been chosen for the First Fiction Tour to cover a wide range of literary diversity, hence, there's going to be a natural spectrum. Matthew pointed out that Edward's book is actually much more full of emotion than one initially thinks, and that, indeed, his own book is about someone coming into a state of grace when they least expect it (and what could be more "emotional" than that?), Edward pointed out that there are a number of ways to link our books thematically, the most prominent one being that each of our main characters starts out broken and ends up finding some peace by the end of the book, by coming to terms with his or her past. Come to think of it, this may well describe every novel out there, but it is a satisfying game to play.

Yesterday the piece we'd taped for NPR in Boston finally aired on Morning Edition. While we're thrilled at the media coverage (we'll take national media any day!), it's always surprising to (a) hear how terrible your voice sounds on the air and, more importantly, (b) realize how brief a chance you actually get to express yourself and to talk eloquently about your book. The angle of the piece was about first novelists in general and how hard and exhausting it can be to promote a book. We were not reassured when the head of Publisher's Weekly was interviewed saying something along the lines of "you think this is hard? Wait until Book Number Two." Great.

We're on the plane to Los Angeles right now with high hopes for another big crowd tonight. Matthew's planning to have Helen read, so that should be a real trip. It's getting strange to think that in two days I won't have my little travel buddies with me. We're getting sickeningly attached…

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