The "professional cockroach story" is told in the video above, with Finch reading here.
The video above is from the infamous storage closet reading in Atlanta with writers Will Hindmarch and J.M. McDermott. Somehow--after beginning the 44-day book tour for Booklife and Finch as a guest of honor at the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, covering the National Book Awards and lecturing at both the Library of Congress and MIT--I had wound up at tour's end at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta, competing with a cover band in the space next-door that was playing as part of a charity event involving a contest for best mustache.
Given the adventures along the way, this seemed appropriate to me. Just the night before, I'd read with Mur Lafferty and Natania Barron at the awesome Chapel Hill Comic Book Shop, to a large and attentive audience, sharing the stage with giant microbes. That'd seemed like the true end of the tour, staying at the Carolina Inn, my dad in attendance, and going out for drinks afterwards with the audience. The Atlanta event, booked in a bar in part because of the paucity of really good reading spaces in area bookstores, was the dying fall.
With a different audience, different readers, it could've been a disaster. But I'd been hardened by so many days on the road, to the point that, bolstered by the good attendance and success of prior events, I could afford to take an amused and absurdist stance. We started out trying to compete with the band, McDermott leaning over a railing and shouting into the audience over the music, looking with his long beard like a deranged sea captain having an argument with the ocean. We retreated to the storage closet with audience in tow because giving the reading in the assigned space would've become a strange kind of mime or performance art rather than what it was meant to be.
Mur Lafferty, me, and Natania Barron at the Chapel Hill reading...
Ironically, that event, which author Philip Nutman proclaimed the craziest reading he'd seen in 30 years in the business, became the most blogged and tweeted of the tour. Reading from a utility ladder in a storage space was something different, something kind of exciting. For that, we must thank our audience, because they could've turned on us in a blink, or just left. Instead, it was a memorable experience.
As for what I learned along the way, I think it was all positive. I learned that a midlist writer, with the help of Facebook, Twitter, and sites like Booktour.com, can still pull in good-sized audiences even on a long tour. I learned that the book culture in this country is alive and well--that readers still really care about about books. I learned that bookstores still care about readings, and take pride in putting them on. Even better, in traveling to so many places I recharged my imagination in ways that will affect my fiction and nonfiction for years to come.
Here's a run-down of my prior posts from the road, for those who might've missed them. Thanks to Tom Nissley and Omnivoracious for giving me an opportunity to report back--it was a lot of fun.