on time and the not having of it

This post has been a long time coming and I suppose that’s fitting, since it’s mostly about not having time to write. Apparently that includes proper blog posts. Though this is not a proper blog post, this is a long rambling thing about what my life has been like lately.

I am not saying this is how it goes for every author, the more authors I meet the more I realize that it’s a strange sort of career where everyone’s experience is unique despite some overlapping elements. There’s a lot more to being a writer than writing, between book promotion and public speaking and signing things.

The Night Circus came out last September. I spent the weeks leading up to it doing interviews and Q&As and trying not to freak out about the whole thing. I’d also moved over the summer so I was still in cardboard box land.

From September until mid November I was on book tour, or doing book-related things abroad. This involved near-constant travel, I was never in any one location for more than a couple of days at most. I was on more airplanes in the first month than I’d been on in my entire life beforehand.

Here’s the thing about book tours: Yes they are fabulous and exciting and it’s wonderful to meet people in so many different cities but they are also physically and emotionally exhausting. I’m not sure it can be properly explained, it’s likely one of those situations that is near impossible to understand unless you’re the person in it. I feel like I have a better understanding of it now, having gone through it, and a better idea of how I react and what I need to do to keep myself sane, but it was a learn by doing sort of thing.

(And by “learn by doing” I mean “learn by having a near breakdown in the middle of an airport.”)

I am endlessly thankful that having a theatre background makes the whole public speaking thing easier to handle, but being a writer still involves more talking than I’d expected. And it’s hard to find a balance when I’m relating the same stories and answering similar questions, I start to feel repetitive and awkward and sometimes my social anxiety kicks in despite the actor training.

The strangest thing, for me, at least, and this might warrant a separate thoughtful post of its own, is the sudden transition between being the center of attention in a room filled with people to being alone in an unfamiliar hotel room.

(Side note: in two hotel rooms on my tour the concierge left a bottle of wine and two glasses. I still cannot decide if it would be more or less depressing to have a single glass. Which one is a harsher reminder that you’re alone?)

December should not count as a month off because it has holidays in it, and for most of January I was too tired to function.

At the end of January I was on a mini-tour, in a different city every day for a week, and then I had a few days off and then I was in Toronto in early February, which was actually lovely because I heart Canada.

But that means it was mid-February before I was really able to start properly recovering from tour mode.

And it would have been fabulous if that meant I could sit down and work on my next book that has been languishing for months but I also have long-neglected email to deal with and extra content type things to work on for various upcoming paperback editions. More Q&As, this time from more countries, and now people send me books they want me to read and say nice things about and did I mention that there are a few cardboard boxes kicking around from last summer and I’m likely going to be moving again this fall? I’m also just tired, still, and some days grocery shopping or laundry or putting on shoes takes more energy than it should.

Also, my desk chair is broken.

All these things take time. Sure, a lot of the individual things aren’t that complicated or time-consuming but once you start adding them up they eat a lot of time. And I need to allot time to blogging and tweeting and try to have a life in there somewhere, too.

It gets hard to separate work time from non-work time with this sort of job. I have an office (I ordered a new desk chair) but it’s not like I’m in there from 9 to 5 because I don’t have typical days so I end up feeling guilty at 10pm when I’m sitting around eating gelato instead of answering emails even when I’ve spent all day working. This is a mental thing I’m aware of but I still struggle with it, a lot. I’m trying to be better about taking weekends off.

And then there’s that added complication of having people actually waiting for this book. No one was waiting for the circus. I got to write the circus in a bubble, and now the bubble is gone, it will be the only bubble book, ever. I am thrilled that I already had several other stories in varying degrees of not-yet-novel-shaped because if I was staring at a blank page right now I know it would be worse.

For comparison: the circus took five years to write (and rewrite), and I wasn’t dealing with book tours and outside pressure while I was working on it. I am hoping that I will have a draft of my next novel done at some point this year, but right now I have a few months and then a fairly busy summer (my sister is getting married in August, yay!) and then I’ll be touring again in the fall and then it will be Mayan calendar end of the world time and then 2013 because when you reach the end of a calendar you get a new one.

I’m also not going to write faster just for the sake of having the next book out sooner. I want to write the best book I can despite the complications of time and the general busyness my life has taken on. If I can do that this year, that’ll be fabulous. It’ll also mean the earliest that book could possibly be available would be very late next year or more likely sometime in 2014, because once I’m done with it it’s still a long way from being a finished shiny book.

So yeah, that’s the rough idea of why I don’t have as much time to write as I’d like.  I am learning to make time for it, though, all of this is a learning process. I have a whole new life and I’m trying to get the hang of it but I’m still a toddler so I have tendencies to fall down and cry and need a cookie and a hug.

And if blog posts are few and far between and I’m slow on email replies for the next while, I’m sorry. I’m trying to write another book, because really, that part is my actual job.

If you read this whole thing I’m impressed and I feel you deserve a picture of a kitten. (If you skimmed just to get to the kitten, that’s okay, too.)


post mini-tour, caffeinated yet sleepy

I am back in Boston after a whirlwind tour last week. The theme of the winter tour seemed to be “chocolate.” I got chocolate in Nashville, too, look how pretty the labels are:

Also in Nashville I got to see the marionette storage room at the Nashville Public Library, which was both delightful and sort of creepy.

They look like they want to move, don’t they? I think there is something inherently disturbing about something created to move when it’s at rest. Like it’s just waiting.

But Nashville was splendid and so was FoxTale near Atlanta where I definitely received the most hugs of any tour stop and had a huge crowd that stood the whole time and I do apologize to anyone who did not have comfortable shoes while listening to me babble.

I truly thank everyone who came to all of last week’s events, I had a wonderful time despite being so busy and I am again so incredibly grateful, both for readers and marvelous, enthusiastic booksellers.

And now here we are, back in post-tour recovery mode. Not nearly as exhausted as I was after the fall tour but still rather beat and it is nice to be able to stay in one place for a while. I probably am somewhat exhausted as I keep falling asleep unintentionally. Am trying to ward off the sleepiness with coffee, which appears to be working, though I also keep forgetting what day it is.

Still working on catching up on all sorts of things, including FAQ-esque posts for the blog. If you have sent me something that required a reply and have not heard back please do re-send. I am still learning (mostly by doing) how to keep up with everything and sometimes things get away from me. Also I have a terrible short term memory and sometimes I do this thing where I think about replying and then my brain thinks I did even though there was no actual reply involved.

For now I am trying to take it easy for a few days, slowly but surely working on the to-do list and also sleeping a lot and trying to read and possibly write if my tired brain can handle it.

quick mid-tour update

Hello! I am in Nashville! It is rainy here but otherwise lovely and I am very much looking forward to my event at the library tonight especially since it is called a Salon and that just sounds fancy.

My events in Cincinnati (technically near Cincinnati) and Lexington, Kentucky were both fantastic, thanks so much to everyone who came out for them and to all the lovely booksellers at both Joseph Beth locations.

Also, thanks to absolutely lovely people who came to my Lexington event last night I now have chocolate shaped like Kentucky and also ponies! I don’t think I’ve ever had state-shaped chocolate before. I apologize that Kentucky is upside-down in this photo, I was trying to get the label oriented properly.

I am sure it will be very tasty.

I am incapable of deep thought or poignant tour recounting as everything is mostly a blur of people and hotel rooms and interviews and perfectly placed pops of red amongst the black & white. It is dizzying in a good way, and I am still both baffled and humbled that so many people are interested in listening to me babble.

cephalopods & hats

Hello internet, I was avoiding you all week, please don’t take it personally and if anything exciting happened in my absence please let me know.

Exciting thing I already heard about despite not being on the internet (much): The Night Circus was nominated for a Kitschie award which is delightful regardless but made even more delightful by cephalopod-y-ness. More awards should involve tentacles, truly.

In non-internet news, I have a top hat!

This fabulous hat was sent to me by the marvelous booksellers at The Booksmith in San Francisco. I love it because it actually fits my gigantic head even though it is quite difficult to photograph properly, I had to resort to laptop webcam photo which is not terribly dapper but you get the general impression. I am not smiling as much as I should be because I had been trying to get a proper photo on three different cameras but it is difficult under the best circumstances to take a decent photo of one’s own self and extra difficult when one is wearing a very tall hat. But thank you thank you thank you to my Booksmith darlings, you are more wonderful than my photographic skills can convey.

In other news I am working on long sprawling blog posts about Stuff and I will be at Newtonville Books in Newton, MA tomorrow at 2pm. I will probably not be wearing the top hat.

january things

So far 2012 has been cold. I always want to hibernate this time of year, post-holidays and winter chilled. Curling up in cups of coffee and trying to get the hang of a brand new year, though I also like to think of this time of year as a trial period, an in-between time before Chinese New Year arrives and the Year can be New all over again, and dragon-y as well.

It’s quiet here in these last year of the bunny weeks, which I need. Time off is not really time off when caught up in a rush of holiday stuff. I am cleaning my apartment and hiding from the cold outside. Slowly catching up on long neglected correspondence and apologizing to the patiently waiting books on the ever-growing to-read shelf. I am considering taking a week off from the internet next week, I’ll see how I feel on Monday. I am feeling extra thoughtful but the thoughts are all floating snowflake thoughts, drifting through my brain and not settling on anything.

Maybe I should just let them drift.


These are my January event dates, as far as I know. I’ll update any missing info when I have it.

Sunday, January 15

2:00-3:00pm Newtonville Books/Reading & Signing
296 Walnut Street, Newton, MA.

Tuesday, January 24

7:00pm Joseph-Beth Booksellers/Reading & Signing
2785 Dixie Hwy Crestview Hills, KY 41017

Wednesday, January 25

7:00pm Joseph-Beth Booksellers/Reading & Signing
161 Lexington Green Circle, Lexington, KY 40503

Thursday, January 26

6:00pm reception Salon@615 Series/Reading & Signing
6:30-7:30pm program Nashville Public Library,
615 Church St, Nashville, TN

Friday, January 27

7:00pm Foxtale Bookshop/Reading & Signing
105 E. Main Street, #138, Atlanta, GA 30188

belated post-tour musings & photos

I am always surprised by these last days of the year. They sneak up on me, hiding behind the holidays with a brand new year in tow. I think, “wait, what?” and then it’s January. Every time.

This year is probably worse than most, though, since the last few months have been so busy, though the fall tour is already seeming like a dream in these dwindling days of 2011. I know there are stories that I meant to share that never made it onto the blog (I had such grand plans to do a blog post per tour stop, I really did) but I suppose this will have to do, a late December post of camera-caught images and a few already gone moments in between.

Being on a book tour is a travel tease, you get to see cities from car windows and rarely if ever have proper time to explore. I found this particularly frustrating since I haven’t traveled much, but at the same time it’s like having a little sampler platter of cities. During my second trip to Toronto I had some free time and actually got to see the city from very high up:

One of many views from the CN Tower. I did get to see a fair amount of the city from the ground as well, including a lot of really good food, but it was the only city where I got to have a proper very high view.

Also falling into the interesting view category, on my second very short trip to London, this was the view from my hotel room window:

For those of you playing along, that is St Pancras station, and I was staying at the hotel that is the former Midland Grand, both of which appear in The Night Circus. Also I don’t believe I mentioned before that during that 24 hour trip to London I unexpectedly met Audrey Niffenegger because we both happened to be having lunch in the same teeny tiny restaurant and this is apparently the kind of thing that happens in my life now and also she is delightful & lovely.

I thought about doing book tour hotel superlatives, like Yummiest Room Service Breakfast (Raphael Hotel in Kansas City: portobello & goat cheese omelet with a parmesan potato cake!) or Largest Hotel Bathroom (the Alexis Hotel in Seattle, I have lived in apartments smaller than that bathroom) but then there were too many lovely hotels and I got into weird categories like Most Swoon-worthy Elevator Doors:

The Ambassador Hotel in Milwaukee, all fabulously art deco and you have to pull open those doors, of course. I have a thing for art deco anyway, I think the desk lady thought I was weird when I kept taking photos of the elevators and the light fixtures.

Also while in Milwaukee (in Oconomowoc, technically) I had an event I can’t say was Best or Favorite but it was a particularly nice, something extra thoughtful in the post-reading discussion, maybe I was in a thoughtful mood because I’d found out that Steve Jobs died just before we started (The Night Circus was written on several different Apple computers) and I don’t even remember everything I talked about but it stands out in my memory nonetheless.

There are so many things it seems like too much to have occurred in such a comparatively short amount of time. So many wonderful booksellers and red scarves and readers, it is still so strange to me that people can visit a place that existed in my head for so long, and it is so many people in so many different places. Maybe that’s why I am still dizzy from everything despite the fact that I’ve been post-tour for a while now, though the holidays are always dizzying in their own sugar plum way.

I took this photo in Austin, Texas:

I think perhaps it’s my favorite photo of the tour, for a lot of reasons but mostly because of that “so much” added in different handwriting. That’s what the tour was, really. That’s why it’s difficult to capture in words and pictures after the fact, because it was so much. So much. People and places and airplanes and books and wine and chocolate mice and love.

So much.