Thursday, August 23, 2012

On the Road

Elizabeth Zelvin

I’m actually on the road as this post appears: halfway between home in New York City and Nashville, 900 miles away, where I’ll attend the Killer Nashville mystery conference this weekend. Crammed into my trunk are boxes of my three mysteries and my Outrageous Older Woman CD as well as my guitar, my dress-up duds, my Kindle in case I have to do any waiting for long enough to want to read, my netbook in case I get a chance to write, my running shoes in case I get a chance to run, my bathing suit in case I get a chance to swim, three or four umbrellas as a magical-thinking preemptive strike against rain….Underwear? Who do you think I am—Jack Reacher?

I had to go back to my last four tax returns to figure out how many miles I’ve driven to promote my mysteries since the first one, Death Will Get You Sober, was published. Back in the olden days, in 2008, the physical book tour was still a viable means of promotion for midlist writers who were paying their own way.
On the principle of leaving no highway unrolled-on, I drove a rental car around Arizona, another from Florida to New York, my own car into the American heartland, as far as Madison WI, and another rental car from Seattle down to San Diego and over to Anaheim for ALA, the American Library Association convention, before flying home.

I’ve driven to Malice every year since 2007, and I drove to Bouchercon in Indianapolis and various lesser distances. (I have friends in the DC area and in-laws in Columbus, OH, which has helped with the expense of lodging.) All told, that makes 22,050 miles. If we count New York to North Florida and back in 2006 for a writers’ master class at the Atlantic Center for the Arts with SJ Rozan, where I worked on the changes that legendary editor Ruth Cavin wanted before she would offer me a contract as well as new material that became Death Will Help You Leave Him, that brings the total up over 24,000 miles. At the same distance, I could have “put a girdle round the earth,” as Shakespeare said, though not in Puck’s forty minutes.

I do have friends along the way: my best friend from high school in Lexington, VA, a writer friend from that residency in Florida in Roanoke, my Guppy buddy bestselling author Krista Davis in New Bern, NC—which was evidently a much more happening town back in the 18th century, the days about which Diana Gabaldon has written in her Outlander series.
But it’s mostly about the driving: just me and my car and my country cassettes and CDs that range from my own music (both with and without lead vocals, the latter allowing me to indulge in a kind of narcissistic karaoke) to the sound track of Crazy Heart (great movie about two topics of interest to me: songwriting and alcoholism, and a superb sound track including classics you barely hear in the movie from such greats as Lightning Hopkins and Townes Van Zandt) to Mozart symphonies. There’s nothing like Mozart when you’re stuck in a traffic jam in a ring road around a city you’re just trying to get past along the way. I sing along to everything but the Mozart.


Sheila Connolly said...

Brave soul, putting in all those miles. I hate driving alone, even with great music (and Crazy Heart is one of my favorite car CDs). But way back when I first started writing, I was camping out in Boston and going home to Pennsylvania weekends while my daughter finished high school. I spent a lot of time working out plots on the Wilbur Cross and Merritt Parkways! Can't do it with music playing, though. And other drivers must have thought I was nuts because I talk myself through story twists.

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