Behind the Door, #8

Hi, folks!

Much has happened since I last wrote, and I am tired but delighted.

Most importantly: stuffies! I’ve randomly picked two more winners, and I’ll announce their names next week, once they give me the go-ahead. JT and I did a stuffy photo shoot (as couples do). We made a calendar! April’s is below.

The tour! Thursday’s event at Village Well Books in Culver City, CA was great fun, and Village Well is a bookstore I highly recommend. The genre guy there, Colin Hinkley, talked some of the other employees into buying my book, which is above and beyond. Instead of a Q&A, Colin gave me a nice introduction, I did a longer that typical reading, and then answered lots of fun questions. My friend Valerie Gordon, who owns Valerie Confections was so giddily excited that I got excited. Note below the Buffy the Vampire Slayer t-shirt, crossed with They Live, and gifted to me by my daughter Frances and JT. Photo was taken by Chris Terry (from my writing group!), who’s been touring with his anthology Black Punk Now.

Afterward, JT, Meg Howrey (also from my writing group!), fellow Atria author Nova Jacobs, and I had dinner at Lillie’s in the Culver Hotel, known famously as the hotel where the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz stayed (and possibly trashed!).

I was nervous about coming to New York. With my parents gone, I no longer have a home there. So big thanks to cousins Mike and Leigh Dickman for the crashpad, plus Anne McDermott and Peggy and Mike Garland for getting me to the Rhinebeck Center for Performing Arts on time.

I stayed at the Beekman Arms Hotel in Rhinebeck, way in the back, in this weird, impossible to find old house — the only place that didn’t allow dogs, to which I’m allergic. While waiting for Hilarie Burton to meet me for dinner in the lobby, Neil Gaiman walked in. Rhinebeck! It’s crazy! I regret not telling him that Coraline is the only movie that has ever terrified my children. Then again, is that terror the fault of Gaiman, or their scary real-life mom???

I don’t have words for how wonderful the event at Rhinebeck went. Hilarie is an excellent person in every way and I very much hope we can work together. She stayed afterward to host a fundraiser for the Center.

Old (and much beloved) friends drove for several hours to surprise me, and we all went out to lunch, then rushed to the train. It was additionally excellent to finally meet Jennifer Fawcett, author of Beneath the Stairs.

When I got back to Manhattan that night, I got to sit in on a Pen Parentis board meeting at Jack’s Wife Frida, a bar where they know how to make a tequila gimlet, a drink that might possibly be fictitious, but is nonetheless what I ordered. Pen Parentis is a nonprofit organization that supports writers with children. I’ll be reading there with climate change writer Emily Raboteau on May 14, 7pm EST.

The following morning, I signed A Better World stock at Mysterious Bookshop with my most excellent publicist David Brown. It’s a gorgeous shop, a kind of shrine to the best types of fiction and I felt awed to be there (and also indebted, as they were so incredibly nice). I walked around while David recorded a TikTok video, in which I pulled out some favorite books (Elmore Leonard, Megan Abbott, Grady Hendrix, Laura Lipman, Gabino Iglesias) and also confessed that I’d lost my toothbrush, and was using chewing gum as substitute. Did it work? Only David can answer that! Don’t answer that, David!

That night, my incredibly dedicated editor Loan took us all out for dinner before the big event at the special collections room at The Strand, which turned out to be an excellent idea, because I’d been so nervous all day that I’d forgotten to eat.

Lots of good friends came out, and a few fans, too. I was overwhelmed and very happy. Special thanks to my Uncle John and family friend Marilou, who took the train up from Virginia, my high school friends, all the very many writers, and the Union Temple Pre-school Parent crew, who showed STRONG. And of course, to Patrick Keefe, who’s got a billion tv shows and articles and books in the pipeline, but found the time to host an amazing conversation.

The Strand is a special place for me. When I was a high school kid on LI, my dad once took me there.

I was pretty stressed about all that, and once it was over, happy to celebrate. This resulted in the closing of a bar. Thank you, bar.

Following night, I got to catch up with my former NYC writing group: Ben Francisco Maulbeck (whose debut novel is now out), Nicholas Kaufmann (whose novel The Mind Worms also launched April 9) Alexa Antopol, M. M DeVoe, Victor LaValle, and Who Wants Cake guest star Grady Hendrix.

After closing the restaurant, Milda and I closed the bar. There is a theme, here. The rest of the trip was all about seeing old and new friends and it was wonderful. It was nice to know that New York is, was, and ever shall be, New York. I love you, New York, and you have never brought me down.

A crazy thing happened, in that while having lunch with my agent Stacia, we received my NPR Review, which I was too nervous to look at, so she read out loud. This felt like a surreal Nora Ephron moment, but in fact really did happen. The review was good. I started crying. But then I stopped crying because, come on.

I have Gabino Iglesias to thank for this great review. He is a great advocate of genre, and a very generous reader.

I got back to LA just in time to figure out the parking App for the LA Times Festival of the Book. This was not easy! At the festival, I got to see Tananarive Due win her award for outstanding work in speculative fiction. At the cocktail party afterward, someone approached Jane Smiley and said, “Your name sounds familiar. Name some of your books!” This person, happily, was not me.

The following day, I got to share a panel with Johnny Compton, Alix Harrow, And Ashley Winstead. Lesley Klinger did some FANTASTIC moderating, and the whole thing was a blast. For some reason, I have no pictures. But it happened, I swear! Afterward, Johnny and I met up with Amanda and Daniel Krauss for dinner. I got this ridiculously large burrito that had been fried on the outside in cheese. Thank you, USC neighborhood, for the cheap cheese.

Following day, Leslie Klinger, Lisa Morton, and I signed books at the MWA Booth. I spent a lot of time strolling the stalls during the festival, heartened by so many book lovers. A fight is coming — over literacy, over books, over the value of art and the written word. I hope we’re ready for it.

I plan to go back to writing about other stuff, like how annoying (and dystopian) apps are, and why is all the wheat germ sold by grocery stores raw instead of toasted? Who even wants raw wheat germ when they could have toasted? So thanks your the indulgence on this tour debrief.

In addition to the NPR review, a column I wrote for The Week came out, in which I recommended six novels. I love all of them. My caveat being, I left lots of loved novels off the list because I was selfishly gathering themes related to A Better World.

Bookstores where you can get signed copies of A Better World:

Mysterious Bookshop (NYC)

The Strand (NYC)

Village Well Books (Culver City, CA)

Book Soup (West Hollywood, LA)

Tour stuff:

May 2, 6-7:30pm Chevalier Books – I get to put J Ryan Stradal in the hot seat for the paperback launch his excellent novel Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club

May 8, 7pm: A Better World event at The Best Bookstore in Palm Springs

May 9, 10am: I get to put keynote speaker Paul Tremblay in the hot seat for Library Journal’s Day of Dialogue.

May 14: 7pm EST Pen Parentis with Emily Raboteau – Virtual

May 15, 7pm, Gillian Flynn graciously hangs out at Exile in Bookville, Chicago, to talk A Better World with me.

Read A Better World? Please feel very free to review it on Amazon or Good Reads

Are you still reading? God bless you. You’re a hero. The Missing’s UK reissue is out from Canelo. The Keeper’s UK reissue has been out for a while, but I thought maybe you’d be interested in the author’s note, which I’ve pasted below.

“Dear Reader,

What you’re holding is my first novel. I spent the majority of my twenties working on it. During that time, I queried every agent in New York. Twice. No one wanted it. Deterred, depressed, but nonetheless obsessed, I worked on it constantly. And then one day, through a strange serendipity, I met a film agent who championed it. Ten years after I’d started it, The Keeper was published.

Nearly twenty years since its initial publication, Canelo has reissued The Keeper. It’s a book about heartache, power, familial bonds, societal bonds, and capitalism. At its center are sisters with twined fates during a cold and rainy week in a defunct paper mill town. Our villain/hero is the town outcast. Everyone watches her as she walks alone at night, but no one talks to her. For one, she’s nuts. For another, being around her makes them uncomfortable. Something’s gone wrong. And maybe it’s their fault.

I grew up on the 1990s. It wasn’t a great time to be a woman. I frankly don’t like remembering the strange ways we were forced to conform; the unapologetic and critical gazes to which we were subject. Much of the rage in this book is a reaction to that very palpable misogyny of my upbringing, that flourished in suburban American. I hope that rage feels accessible to a new generation.

Jack Ketchum (Dallas Mayr) is quoted on the cover of this book. I loved Dallas. He was a thoughtful, decent person and an exceptional writer. For a long time, Dallas propped up the bar at a certain Greek restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I loved visiting him there. About a year before he died, he took me out to a fancy lunch, just because. Thanks, Dallas. I miss you.

Finally, this book contains a scene of graphic sexual violence. The things we write at twenty-five are not necessarily the things we would ever write at forty-nine. But that’s what twenty-five-year-olds are for: to rage and tear and break shit into pieces. So that scene stays. You’ve been warned.”

That’s it, folks. Thanks for playing.







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