Late on Tuesday morning I got to visit Algonquin’s Chapel Hill office to sign some books and meet some of the staff. The editors and some of the other staff were in New York for the spring sales conference, so I didn’t get to meet them, but I did get to meet my copy editor–who made sure the novel was free of grammatical and mechanical errors–and the art department, which came up with the gorgeous cover. They were all incredibly busy but took the time to say hello and ask me to think about what I might like on the paperback cover. I also met some very nice–and very young–interns. I signed something like three hundred books, then my publicist Brooke and Algonquin’s social media whiz Debra took me out to lunch and then to Flyleaf Books, where I signed their remaining stock and bought some thank-you notes.
Between the ages of 8 and 16, I lived in Winston-Salem, so driving into the small city was nostalgic in a strange way. As a kid, I had my own suburban neighborhood memorized, but I had not gone downtown very much, and I had not learned how to drive in Winston-Salem, so while some street names were familiar, I didn’t have a good internal map. Downtown Winston-Salem has also undergone a significant renaissance in the past thirty years–now there is a vibrant arts district and a general sense of growth and prosperity. (More on nostalgia and childhood in a subsequent post.)
Bookmarks is another interesting independent bookstore. For several years, Bookmarks has been a literary arts organization that puts on a yearly books festival, but this summer they opened a new brick-and-mortar bookstore. It’s non-profit, and Bookmarks supports a variety of things, including an authors in schools program.
The store looks a bit like an industrial loft, with concrete floors and bookshelves on casters so they can be wheeled away to make space for events. Charlie Lovett, an author and president of the board of directors of Bookmarks, interviewed me for a new podcast series he was creating, “Inside the Writer’s Studio.” I was to be the first author interviewed for the series. We sat in a pair of leather club chairs on a small stage in front of a small crowd of fifteen folks, including a few Woodberry grads, one current and one future Woodberry Tiger, and my old next-door neighbors in Winston-Salem. Charlie, himself a Woodberry grad (class of ’80), brought his Woodberry letter jacket and draped it over the back of his chair for our interview. I enjoyed the conversation, although as usual, despite Charlie’s assurances to the contrary, I maybe went on a bit too long in my answers. What was just as enjoyable was talking with folks before and afterwards. Jule Banzet, another Woodberry grad, brought his two sons, one a current fourth or fifth former and the other a hopeful future Tiger. His youngest son approached me afterward as I was signing books and asked me very politely why I had called my book Shadow of the Lions. Not sure I would have been able to do that at his age.