Sunday, June 24, 2012
Over the years I have been to a handful of book-launch parties. The most recent—and most impressive—was for the hardcover debut of John Lescroart's The Hunter. There was food, live music, book-signing (of course), and an overflow crowd of a couple hundred people. On the other hand, I've been to book events where chairs are set up for forty and only a quarter of them get used. That can be dispiriting.
Naturally I'm concerned that my own book events—which begin next month (watch this space for more specfics)—not be wash-outs. I want crowds of eager people to hang on my every word and congregate in lines to get my autograph. Of course I do!
Sensible people know that this is not a particularly reasonable expectation for a no-name, first-time novelist, especially one whose publisher is a small academic press. Although one can never tell what strange things might occur against all expectations (after all, people bought Twilight), sometimes a bit of divine intervention might help.
Exactly! And that's what I got!
Later this summer I will be featured at a book-launch event that is expected to draw 300 people. They will treat me with the utmost respect and consideration and it's likely that several will buy my book and get my autograph. The event can hardly go wrong, for it will be sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church.
Perhaps you are goggling in perplexity. Perhaps I took you by surprise, despite the giveaway title of this post. Why on earth would the Church be so nice to one of its lost sheep? I'll explain.
If my novel were not about a significant era in the history of Portuguese immigration to the West Coast, it would not have found a publisher so quickly. The university press that is bringing it out has a special interest in the Azorean diaspora and the professor who is its founder and senior editor was himself an Azorean immigrant to California. One of his older brothers became a priest (as so often happens in Portuguese families). As a favor to his younger brother, the priest is hosting my book-launch event. When the senior pastor of a parish crooks his finger in summons, the parishioners turn out in droves—especially in a parish full of doughty Azorean-Americans. If Father says he expects about 300 people to show up, then they'll show up. One needn't doubt it for a moment.
Has Father read my book? I don't know and I haven't asked. It probably doesn't matter. My novel treats the Church rather gently, given that the cast of characters is replete with devout Catholics. (The book is also dedicated to the memory of my baptismal godmother.) Sure, the character based on me clearly lapses in his religious practice as the plot progresses, but he's not the central figure in the novel and he doesn't spend any time on a soapbox denouncing the Church. Furthermore, his best friend heads off to enroll in a seminary.
I think Father can read my book without adding to his gray hairs. What's more, he gets to preside over a celebration of Portuguese-American culture and history, things dear to his heart. In return, I may have to sit through a mass or two. Not a problem.
Oh, and Father would appreciate it if I were to say a few words to the assembled throng in Portuguese.
This is going to take a little work, after all.