Novel Interview or: TV Terror

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK



The important thing for a writer’s first novel isn’t the amount of money made: It’s the number of copies sold. The more sales, the more likely a publisher is to pick up that all-important second novel. It’s the circle of publishing life.

So although media attention came a couple of months earlier than anticipated, I was happy to talk for as long as my voice held out … right up until the moment Eric Olson of Indiana’s News Center told me he wanted a TV interview. At my house. In less than twenty-four hours.

Which brings us back to that panic cleaning I mentioned last time.

My fiancée and youngest daughter pitched in to make my house look great – downstairs. The spare bedroom upstairs looks like the staging area for the Normandy Invasion. And the closets? Well, here’s a typical conversation in the hours before the interview:

“What do I do with this?”

“Throw it in the closet. Later we’ll clean it, organize it, or feed it, but for now it goes in the closet.”

Ever hear of Fibber Magee’s closet? He was famous for having one so full of junk that whenever someone opened the door it caused an avalanche. We haven’t actually opened any closets yet, but when the time comes I might have to cordon off the room, the wall across the room, and the other side of the wall.

I’m not sure about the scrabbling noise we keep hearing in the office closet; the pets are all accounted for, I swear. Say, where’s my daughter?

The TV station pushed the “firefighter writes a novel” angle, and wanted to start with me in uniform, performing routine duties around Albion’s firehouse. Being a hungry writer, I was amenable to this (it’s a real word, I looked it up). Granted that it’s a cliché, suggesting that you seldom find a macho, action-oriented firefighter diving into the literary world.

Hey, I know lots of firefighters who read. Even if they don’t, I’m counting on some of them to buy my book, if only for their wives or to gather dust on a shelf. You hear me, guys? Ahem. Anyway, we’re a volunteer fire department, a mix of all kinds of personalities as well as professions (even though the interview made it seem as though I was there full time). Some love reading, some don’t – just like in real life.

I’m not macho, and I’m not particularly action-oriented unless you count pounding away at a keyboard, but I’m a good sport: I put on my Class B uniform and headed up to the station. Thankfully, it fit; I can count on one hand how often I’ve worn it. The uniform, not the station. (Formal wear is Class A, but I can usually be found in Class C, which is a fancy way of saying jeans and a fire department sweatshirt. Iron on a Maltese cross, and I’m set.)

The camera crew showed up, which consisted of Eric Olson, with a camera. Multitasking rules. He filmed me doing a gear check of my protective clothing (something it was due for anyway), checking equipment on the rescue truck, (something someone else had already done), and just walking around, which looks way cooler on a TV screen than in real life. So far, so good.

Then we went to my home, where he filmed me … typing. In fact, I wrote about half the column you read last week (you did read it, didn’t you?) while he filmed me, because why waste quality writing time? Like the walking, the typing looked cooler on the screen than it is in real life. I just wish he’d put some John Williams music to it, maybe the Indiana Jones theme.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was actually on my fiancée’s computer, instead of the dusty and stained ten year old Mac on the other side of the office that I usually write on. Instead of writing I should have been updating my website, in the interest of accuracy.

As he had at the fire station, Olson filmed more footage than he would ever use, including the Storm Chaser manuscript, numerous shots of me typing, and of course me talking. Then he asked me to read something from the book, which I had already anticipated. I’d decided to read some of the opening scene, which has jaw-dropping excitement. Well, okay, not jaw-dropping. Maybe mouth-opening-a-little excitement.

“Read something racy,” he said.

Say huh?

I’d been doing okay until then. Well, sort of, if you can call stark terror okay. Now I was petrified. I hate reading my stuff out loud anyway, and now he wanted me to read the sex scenes into a TV camera? Besides, there really isn’t all that much racy stuff in Storm Chaser, which I would describe as a romantic-comedy action-adventure rather than a flat-out romance.

With sweaty hands (guess I’ll have to replace that part of the manuscript), I located a scene that was, shall we say, heavy PG-13, or maybe light R. I’m fairly sure my voice shook as I read the scene out loud, a little shocked at my own audacity for writing it in the first place. Then, to my surprise because I hadn’t thought ahead, the tender moment was interrupted by a stunning moment of action. Okay, not stunning, but definitely mildly surprising.

I looked up at Olson and, with a shaky laugh, muttered, “coitus interruptus”, even though it never came close to that.

And that was it. The story aired that very evening, less than a day and a half after I got the first call. I still haven’t figured out what the rush was – who did they think was going to scoop them?

Also, how do I keep interest up in the book for three more months? Where can I go after getting on TV? CNN? The Tonight Show?

I have a feeling that, like that scene I read, the rest of the countdown might be somewhat anticlimactic.