Last Sunday, my wife and I arrived in NYC at 7a.m. Thankfully, the hotel allowed us to check in early. My wife took a nap while I headed down the block to BookExpo.
I spent most of my time hanging around the Penguin area and got into some goosebump-inducing discussions with booksellers who’ve read galleys of Thirteen Reasons Why. It doesn’t officially come out for another four-and-a-half months, but I want it out now!
I also hung out with the Listening Library people. Kelly Galvin (my publicist) has a mighty impressive spiel about the benefits of audiobooks. And the cool thing is, I had a chance to impress her, too! Mid-spiel, R.L. Stine walked by. I approached him, shook his hand, and introduced myself. He happened to be halfway through reading my book…and was lovin’ it! When Mr. Stine and I parted ways, Kelly said, “Did you just walk up to R.L. Stine…and did he just say he was reading your book?” To which I nodded, then nearly passed out.
Me & Kelly
Sarah Beth Durst snapped the picMonday morning, Rebecca Bullene (my editor at Listening Library) took me to breakfast. We had a fascinating discussion about what makes a good audiobook and what doesn’t. And we both agreed that we could easily talk about the ins-and-outs of this business forever!
Then Kristen Pettit (my editor at Razorbill) took me to lunch. Ever heard of Manhattan clam chowder? It uses a tomato base instead of whatever that white sauce is…and it’s goooood! I’ve spoken about Kristen before, so if you wanna know what she’s like, just read this. (You'll love her!)
Tuesday morning, I visited Betsy Bird. Never heard of her? What about Fuse #8? Yep, that’s her! And this is us…
Does she know how to pose for a picture, or what! Someone needs to start a H.L.O.C.L list, cuz it’s long overdue…and librarians hate the O-word.
From there, I went straight to the reason for my NYC trip…the recording of my audiobook. On Day 1, I heard 7-pages worth of Joel Johnstone narrating the voice of Clay Jensen, my main male character. I sat in a tiny room with Orli Moscowitz (the producer), John Dylan Keith (the sound engineer), and Scott Creswell (the director), with Joel sitting in an even tinier soundproof room.
John, me, and ScottHere’s how it worked: We all had manuscript pages in front of us. Joel would narrate, Scott or Orli would catch a rushed or slurred word and ask him to repeat a line, or ask him to repeat a line with emphasis on a different word, and John took notes to keep track of takes and a million other details. What did I do? I smiled…constantly. Joel is Clay. While I wrote my book, his voice was the exact voice I heard. The dude's a star!
The Voice & The Words Then Orli walked me to Random House (which owns Listening Library and has an awesome lobby o’ bookshelves). She took me into a room full of audiobooks and wouldn’t let me leave until my arms were overflowing. She also gave me an Advance Reading Copy of a little book whose audio version she’s working on now…Love, Stargirl!
The next day included an event I was both excited and nervous about…a Meet the Author Tea at Penguin. Why was I nervous? Because I was the author. When Kristen introduced me, everyone in the room started applauding. And I, being the manly man that I am, grit my teeth to keep back the tears. In that room were the people responsible for taking my manuscript and turning it into a Book. Kristen started by reading e-mails she’d received from booksellers who’ve read my book…as well as an amazing e-mail from R.L. Stine, who finished it that morning. Then everyone lined up to introduce themselves. The marketing and sales people. Foreign rights. The website and jacket artists. Okay, go grab a thesaurus that includes photo illustrations. Now look up beautiful, kind, creative, enthusiastic, and kick-ass. Aren’t they adorable?
Then Kristen and I went into the office of Ben Schrank, President and Publisher of Razorbill. Gulp! I felt like I was going to the principal’s office. Throughout the entire process of bringing my book to life, he’s been like the great and mighty Oz. Kristen would say things like “Ben says…” and “Ben thinks…” But I shouldn’t have been nervous, because the great and mighty Oz is…what’s a poetic way to say frickin’ cool?
Kristen and I then grabbed a taxi and met my wife outside the studio for Day 2 of the audiobook. This time, we were there to hear my main female character, Hannah Baker, brought to life by Debra Wiseman. We came in mid-recording, so I didn’t get a chance to meet Debra before I heard her…which created an eerie sensation. In my book, Hannah's recorded several cassette tapes, detailing the reasons she chose to end her life. It felt like we were actually eavesdropping on Hannah while she was making those tapes. Talk about freaky! I’ve heard picture book authors say that when they see the final product, they’re amazed at how the illustrator brought their words to a whole new level. Well, that’s what Debra was doing. The words coming through the monitor weren't the words I wrote. They were better than the words I wrote.
My wife, Debra, me, Orli, and Kristen
I love my life! Somehow, in the midst of doing all that “book business,” my wife and I managed to squeeze in visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ellis Island (where George W. Salinger stepped off the Lusitania so I could form the Disco Mermaids 96 years later), the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, the Empire State Building, a swing dance club, and two Broadway shows (The Lion King and Chicago).
But I’m back in California now. I’ve got a load of laundry in the dryer, I’ll empty the dishwasher once I’m done with this, then I’m heading to bed.
Back to reality.