Today I’m thrilled to welcome Robin Kirk to the ‘Baby Author Me’ hot seat. Robin is the author of numerous books, including The Bond, first in the Pentaklon trilogy (Blue Crow Books 2018), More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America’s War in Colombia (PublicAffairs) and The Monkey’s Paw: New Chronicles from Peru (University of Massachusetts Press). She coedits the The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University) and is an editor of Duke University Press’s World Readers series.
Welcome, Robin! As regular readers will know, the BABY AUTHOR ME series gives authors the chance to look back in time and give some much-needed advice to their ‘Baby Author’ selves. Today Robin will be focusing on the dreaded…launch party! Take it away, Robin:
ROBIN: I was the kind of kid—say between 6 and a gazillion years old—who would immediately hide when the doorbell rang. I vividly remember a group of lovely carolers arriving at my childhood house and me cowering in the basement, as if they’d specifically come to render me as their Christmas goose.
Parties were and are excruciating. I can speak in public, but only after several apprentice-ship years and never when the topic is me. If the topic is some injustice or a fascinating piece of research I want to share, I am all in.
Just not when I am the center of attention.
I would loathe a surprise birthday party (not that anyone has ever dared schedule one) because I know exactly what would happen. My face would set in a rictus of appreciation and hilarity, and I would wonder if all of those people gathered for fun realized what an un-fun person I am. Would my closely guarded un-fun-ness be put on excruciating display? Had they come to this place by mistake, for another, more worthy person?
I bring all of these feelings to book launches. For days, I experience a low, thrumming dread. Most recently, when The Bond launch had to be cancelled because of weather, I was secretly elated. I know this is the author’s job or duty or responsibility. I’m all for all the rest of marketing—interviews, social media, whatever—but me as the center of attention?
I’d rather be launched out of a cannon.
But a dear friend, who noticed the pallor and the sweats as I prepared for the rescheduled release of The Bond, helped me think about the book signing in another way. Writing a book is hard. Really hard. Exceptionally, devastatingly, wrenchingly hard. And that’s not even including publication. If you publish a book, an honest-to-Betsy book, you have kind of won a personal Powerball.
Not that this pays, but you know what I mean.
Allow your friends to celebrate. Not you, mind you. This astonishing achievement. You’ve written that glorious thing, A BOOK. The book is the centerpiece, not you.
The Bond launch was winding down when two teens approached to ask me about one of the characters. I was taken aback. A voice in my head whispered, “How on earth do they know about 12?” 12 is my mutant battledog, a combination of Iorek from The Golden Compass, The Incredible Journey animals, and every bad pet I’ve ever cared for (not a few). Then I realized: they’d read my story. They’d liked my story. In some way, I’d managed to conjure 12 from computer clicks and countless cups of coffee. 12 was real now. She’s escaped my hard drive and was pacing around in the heads of these teens, scaring the bejeesus out of them.
It was lovely. It was the best. Not because of me, mind you. But because I’d made something, a character and a story, that is now a part of other people’s lives.
I’m still trepidatious about launches. But I’m also a little eager. I’m craving that sparkle in the eyes of a young reader. I’m craving the little scare I hope they get, and a little of the adventure, and a lot of hope. That’s what’s the center of attention at a book launch: hope, the hope that’s in books and the hope that’s in the readers, especially the young ones, who love them.
KIM: Thanks so much for stopping by, Robin! I’m feeling better about my next book launch already 🙂 Phew!