For weeks now, ever since The Darcys of Pemberley came out, I’ve been doing “virtual” book tour appearances to spread the word. That’s how things are done these days – online, which is all well and good. In fact it has some distinct advantages. I’m saving a bundle on travel expenses. I’m reaching more people than I ever could in person. Also, I find I’m much more intelligent when I get a chance to edit my words than when I’m speaking off the cuff 😉
Still, there’s nothing like being there. My husband and I just got back from a wonderful trip to Washington DC (and surrounding area), where we spent two weeks exploring the monuments to our country’s past, and the national treasures preserved in museums and archives. Now, we already knew a lot about American history from books. We had viewed images on TV of the people, places, and artifacts involved. Yet we experienced a real thrill upon seeing the actual Liberty Bell and the real Star Spangled Banner. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington came alive for us as we walked in their footsteps – in the halls of government and at their private homes.
The same thing is true in my experience so far as a writer. Yes, I’m ecstatic to know that electronic versions of my novel are being purchased across the country and around the world by hundreds of people I’ve never met! But it all seems a little unreal. It only begins to sink in when I sign a paper copy and place it into the hands of a real, live reader, or in a face-to-face meeting with someone who has already enjoyed the book (see related post: Making Connections).
That’s why, when I look back on our vacation, my favorite memories will not be of marble monuments, but of flesh and blood people: the hours spent getting reacquainted with the friend from high school we stayed with; the opportunity to attend (as guest speaker) a Central New Jersey chapter meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. I’d already been in contact with these lovely women online (via Facebook and Twitter), but how much better it was to be with them in person!
“No, indeed,” cried Emma, most happy to begin, “not in the least. I am paricularly glad to see and shake hands with you – and to give you joy in person.” He thanked her with all his heart… (Emma, chapter 18)
Perhaps, as an increasing amount of our interactions (business and personal) are reduced to electronic chatter in cyberspace, we begin to crave genuine human contact more than before. Am I being too philosophical? Maybe it’s because I’m a hugger (yes, it’s true; you’ve been warned), or I’m just too old to adjust to the new order.