My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands. Today's guest is Paul Malmont whose novel The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown has just been released by Simon & Schuster. His previous novels include The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise. Library Journal had this to say about The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown: "Anyone who loves the science fiction of the 1930s and 1940s will want to read this delightful romp. It’s so much fun that it virtually defines what light fiction should be." Malmont puts fact and fiction in the blender and presses Puree in a story that imagines Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and L. Ron Hubbard developing a death ray to defeat the Nazis. In his day job, Malmont is a Copy Director at an interactive advertising agency in New York. He grew up in Washington D.C., Virginia, Taiwan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He attended Interlochen Arts Academy, and is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of Film & Television. Visit his amazing and astounding website HERE. He Tweets at @pmalmont.
My First Book Tour
For some reason Modesto, California was on the schedule.
“Modesto?” I asked my publicist.
“It’ll be great,” she assured me. “The bookstore owner is totally into your book and guarantees he’ll bring in a crowd for you.”
“Cool,” I replied. “Because I don’t know anyone in Modesto.”
My first book tour was for The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, a novel that blended the real lives of 1930’s magazine writers with the pulp fiction they wrote about. The tour had been awesome to date. Washington D.C., Chicago, Houston, Austen, three different readings in my hometown of New York, San Francisco. Ahead lay Los Angeles, followed by a panel appearance at Comic Con in San Diego. All that stood in my way was Modesto, California. And all I knew about Modesto, California, was that it was the location for American Graffiti.
As far back as aught-six, authors used to appear in places in the real world, not just on Facebook and Twitter. People would come out to a bookstore to see a novelist in person, hear passages read aloud, ask some questions (How long did it take to write? How hard was it to find an agent? Will your agent read my book proposal?), buy a copy or two and even get them signed. The book reading is an odd beast. Basically it’s asking someone who’s engaged in a solitary act of creation day in and day, a lonely mental pursuit, to go out in front of a crowd and put on a performance. Without a doubt it is the strangest part of the job description.
What makes it worth-while though, is that there are people who still care about books and if they like the sound of yours, they’ll show up. And when you get up there in front of them and they seem genuinely pleased to meet you, it’s almost as gratifying as typing the words, “The End.”
I knew there was a slight chance of things going off-rails when one of my friends from San Francisco hedged about coming out for the reading. “It’s kind of far,” she explained.
She was right.
As my host drove and drove and drove, I began to get a little nervous. I realized that if one of my best friends wasn’t going to make this trek, then neither were the San Franciscans I knew as acquaintances. It was far. An hour and a half ticked away until we finally rolled into a strip mall parking lot.
There was no sign in the window announcing my reading—not even a copy of the book. We walked into the store and were greeted by a bookseller. A very nice person, but nonetheless, not the owner—not the person who I had been assured loved my book and guaranteed a crowd. No, the owner had been called away the week before on family business. There had been no outreach, no hustle.
No one knew I was coming.
Well, not exactly no one. Thanks to my web page, there were two people in the back, waiting for me. One man was young, in his twenties, while the other was in his seventies. I walked past all the empty chairs and introduced myself to the pair. I tried to put on a brave face, but I was disappointed. I knew this was a rite of passage for every writer—but every other reading had gone so well up to this point, how could the wheels have come off in such a big way? I wanted my tour to be over right then and there and I wanted to go home.
I begged off reading and just asked if it would be ok if we chatted. The elderly man was fine with it, but the younger man was irritated and jumpy. He clutched two pages of printed type, stapled together.
“What’s the list?” I asked him.
“Things you got wrong in your book,” he shot back and proceeded to challenge me on point after point until I disengaged as politely as I could.
I turned to the elderly man. Judging by his age, he must have been a pulp era fan. “Anything about the pulps you want to talk about?” I asked him.
“Oh, I don’t care,” he shrugged. “I just come here every Tuesday night to see whoever they bring in.”
I turned back to my interrogator. “What else did I screw up?”
He flipped to the second page.
Photo by James M. Graham