Book launches, at least in the YA book world, tend to be splashy affairs. Blog tours and giveaways. Book signings and parties. Whatever you think about authors promoting themselves, hopping up and down shouting BUY MY BOOK!! --most of us can forgive it on the day a new book is released.
It's a big deal to write a novel, to do the work it takes to get the thing onto bookstore and library shelves, and ultimately into readers' hands. It's an accomplishment worthy of celebration.
I caught up with author Natalie D. Richards on October 6th, the launch day of her third novel, the YA thriller My Secret To Tell, fully expecting her to be busily running around. Where would the book signing be? Who was throwing her a party?
Natalie waved off the questions. She had no particular plans.
I shouldn't have been surprised. I knew this book had been a hard one for her to write. Not the writing itself. It was the stuff going on in her life at the time she was writing that colored the experience. Her father became ill when she was drafting the book, and he died as she was working on revisions. She pushed through the book anyway, and all the while promoting her second novel Gone Too Far.
Disclosure: I've known Natalie for a couple of years, and I read My Secret To Tell and Gone Too Far months before they came out. These books (and her first, the best seller, Six Months Later) are page-turner-y thrillers, the kind you stay up half the night reading because you must find out WHO DID IT.
I knew who did it (because Natalie had told me) and yet I still stayed up half the night reading each of these books because I couldn't figure out how Natalie was going to pull everything off. There's a trick to this kind of writing-- pacing, throwing out red herrings--a brilliant balancing act between leading the reader toward the likely suspects --but not being too obvious about it.
We want to be surprised at the end of a thriller, but we also want to feel that the ending is logical and inevitable and right.
Natalie's books always deliver.
And damn it, I am happy that a new one has been released, and on the day of the launch I hated the idea that she wasn't celebrating, at least a little.
So here's what we did:
First, cake. Because every book launch must have a coordinating thematic dessert to commemorate the occasion.
|(You will have to read the book to understand why I baked a bloody hand cake) |
We went out for a drink, which turned into several, because, yay! it was happy hour!
|(Bar food. The, um, pineapple infused vodka concoctions |
are not shown in the picture)
We chatted about a bunch of stuff and I wrote some of it down. It would make a good interview, I thought, but now as I flip through my notes, I can hardly make sense of the scribbles.
|(A sample. For tax purposes.)|
Some of what I can decipher:
Me: What's the last book you read and loved?
Natalie: Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun. Oh my God, have you read it?
Me: No, I--
Natalie: Why haven't you read it yet? You've got to read it.
Me: I will. I promise. Okay, how do you balance your writing with your other obligations?
Natalie: Ha! I don't. I'm horrible at that balancing.
Me: But you wrote three books in three years...
Me: Four! Four books in three years! How did you do that?
Natalie: I didn't sleep much.
Me: What book saved your life when you were a kid?
Natalie: Anne of Green Gables. The world of that book was so sweet and different from my childhood.
Me: I read Trixie Belden. Did you ever read those?
Natalie: (shaking her head) Should I?
Me: No. They're only good to read when you're a kid.
Natalie: Oh, also, The Hobbit. I loved that book.
Me: Eat your pineapple (pointing at her pineapple infused vodka drink) You have to eat your pineapple.
Natalie: (tastes it) Geez. Whew, that's strong. No.
Me: Come on. A third book is a big %*^&% deal! You've got to celebrate a little.
Natalie: It just feels wrong. I think of this book and it gets mixed up with everything else. But if I could write a book during such an awful time and have it come out okay... Wait. It's not a trainwreck, is it?
Me: No! It's good. I like it the best of the three.
Natalie: (eating a pineapple chunk) I don't want to be negative anymore about books, about writing. You always talk about how books saved your life. Well, writing saved my life. It's hard and it sucks sometimes, but it's a gift. I'm grateful I get to do it every day.
Then my notes get totally indecipherable.
Something something about shopping at Whole Foods? and what kind of food Natalie always orders when she goes to Chipotle? (for the record, I think I wrote: "steak burrito bowl").
Several hours past Happy Hour and we decided at the spur of the moment to go see the movie The Martian. We called an uber (my husband) and he picked us up and drove us to a nearby theater.
The movie is about Matt Damon becoming stranded on Mars and trying to figure out how to get back to earth. There's a bunch of cool special effects and stunning cinematography.
But at the core, the story is about ingenuity and perseverance. At one point Matt solves a seemingly impossible-to-solve problem, and after he figures it out, he's happy. Even still stranded on Mars with no guarantee that he's ever going to get home, he takes a minute to celebrate.
He says something like, "I love what I do. And you know what? I'm good at it."
Nat and I (and our uber driver) all liked the movie. We went back to my house and ate some of the bloody hand cake.
|(okay. A little more than some)|
Want to know more about the lovely Natalie D. Richards and her books?
(where she shares fun pics of her enormous dogs)
To buy her books on Amazon: