The morning I packed up to leave on my first-ever book tour, the phone rang at 7 AM. The call was from a radio station that wanted to set up an interview the day after my arrival in Washington, DC. I was happy to oblige, and thanked my publicist, but still I wondered: why me?
The usual suspects are the title of my book, the curious destinations of my travelogue, and the blurb on the cover. The book is called Into Thick Air, a memorable and obvious rip-off of Into Thin Air. I’d written Jon Krakauer, and he graciously did not object. After all, the title fits: I ventured into thick air, to the lowest point on six continents, places below sea level yet above water.
It was an odd quest, and that, too, may have caught the interest of the radio folk. Most people go up, not down, and this apparently can be a kind of news that surfaces above the riptides of publicity. Because this has nothing to do with my writing, there is a nagging sense that I’m a one-man freak show.
And then there is my gold-medal winning blurb from Ms. K, whose words my publisher promptly slapped on the cover. The odd thing is this: she doesn’t do blurbs. She is a friend of many years who wonders why anyone would grant an interview (or buy a book) simply because of the recommendation of another writer.
She’s right, so far as I myself read authors whose stories doesn’t resemble mine in the slightest. I like the devilish prose of J. Coetzee, for instance, who shares with me only an apparent lack of body fat. If called upon I would certainly give praise to Coetzee, but it would mean worse than nothing to reader expecting something akin to my stuff.
But writing as a living is irrevocably tied to selling, and I suppose it should be no surprise that blurbs plays a role. As another writer friend, Maryalice Yakutchik, pointed out, why should writing be different from the rest of our lives, in which who you know plays as much of a role as what you know?