Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Planes, trains and ferries

Barbara here, looking at next month’s agenda book (I still use the paper kind that I can cart around in my purse) and wondering whether I ought to sprout wings. Who ever said the life of a writer consists of hunkering down in a lonely garret for months on end, pouring out a masterpiece that no one else sees until he shoves it in the mail to his editor? And then when it comes out, the publisher fires off a few review copies to the New York Times, books a couple of appearances on Oprah, and sits back to rake in the millions.


Oh right. I forgot the blogs, the launch parties, the tweets and the general internet deluge to trumpet the book’s arrival, followed by the mall signings, library readings, community centre talks, book club visits, and endless tours to places close enough to reach by car. In the case of my home town of Ottawa, that includes Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Petit de Gras, Cape Breton.

This month, I will be flying to the Atlantic coastal city of Halifax one weekend, and to the Pacific coastal city of Victoria the next. A total distance of 6200 km, or about 4200 miles. Canada is approximately 9300 kms, or 5800 miles across, from Cape Spear, Newfoundland to northern British Columbia. Put this way, my coast-to-coast journey doesn’t seem so bad. Perhaps you could tell my credit card company that.

All of this is in an effort to promote my Ottawa-based Inspector Green series, and other Canadian crime novels, to Canadian audiences. In Halifax at the Canadian Library Association Annual Convention, and in Victoria at Bloody Words, Canada’s Premiere Mystery Conference. It’s an uphill battle. When customers across the country walk into their local bookstore or even click on the mystery selections of the major online sellers, they are confronted with Dan Brown, Stieg Larssen, or the latest release from PD James or John Grisham. The books are piled in mountains by the entrance and peering face out from the “Hot and new Fiction” shelves. It takes money to make money in this business, like any other, and the big guys have the advantage. With a population of 35 million spread over 9300 kms, Canadian readers don’t wield much clout. Even if they have managed to hear of us.

So here I go, tilting at windmills but enjoying every moment of my quest. Cramming a mall signing into my Halifax weekend and a Vancouver library reading into my west coast trip. I am sharing my Halifax appearances with my friends and fellow Canadian crime writers Mary Jane Maffini and Tom Curran, and my Vancouver appearance with another dear friend and colleague RJ Harlick. Talented writers all, with stories to tell about our own land. Tom writes about Newfoundland, Mary Jane about Ottawa and RJ about Quebec and the First Nations. Their stories are universal and should touch any mystery lover’s heart, but they are particular as well. To touch the Canadian heart. If not us, who will tell these stories?

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H. L. Banks said...

Travelling can be so exhausting but as a huge fan of your Detective Green mysteries, I am sooo excited about having the chance to see you in Halifax at the mall signing. We Canadians are small and spread out, but we know and love our Canadian authors.

Barbara Fradkin said...

Thanks, H.L! What fun to discover friends from coast to coast, and I look forward to meeting you.

Hannah Dennison said...

Great post, Barbara ... I must admit I never expected to have to travel so much when I got published (and foot the bill ...) BUT I so enjoy it. I would never have visited many parts of the USA otherwise. Have a great time - I wish I could stowaway in your suitcase!