Debut Diary #4: On Tour…With Ian Rankin?

By K.J. Howe          

THE FREEDOM BROKER is out in the world.

Thea Paris gets to meet readers.  It’s a special milestone, and although life is rather chaotic at the moment, I’m doing my best to cherish this wonderful opportunity.  As writers, we spend a lot of time alone, making daily sacrifices in our lives so we can create a fictional world where our characters face incredible odds and triumph.  Writing is such a personal and revealing process that we cannot help injecting so much of ourselves into our books.

When our novel comes out, we might be tempted to strap a Kevlar vest onto our newborn, protective parents that we are.  But since books wear covers instead of tactical gear, we need to be brave, and face reviews and opinions with a positive attitude.  I appreciate everyone who has reached out with their thoughts and impressions about THE FREEDOM BROKER.  And I was very surprised and pleased when Boyd Morrison wrote to tell me that TIME Magazine had mentioned THE FREEDOM BROKER in its list of seasonal reads.

With the launch, I’m on the road for 17 days for an “in conversation with” book tour.  Given I’m a debut author, it would be a seriously lonely experience to be at bookstores solo.  Instead, Quercus kindly sent me on a tour where I’m paired with established authors, so we can reach thriller fans in the various cities.  I’m grateful for the support of the thriller community, especially the talented, bestselling authors who took time out of their busy schedules to share an evening with me.  If I’m ever in a position to pay this favor forward, I’ll be delighted to do so.

I kicked off the tour in NYC at the Mysterious Bookshop with Lee Child. What an honor.  The former co-president of ITW, Lee has been a huge supporter of authors for years, and we are so pleased to honor him as our 2017 ThrillerMaster this July.  Come join us!

Having Lee interview me about THE FREEDOM BROKER was sensational.  He was insightful, funny, and supportive.  And it was incredible to have my NYC area friends there, including Jenny Milchman and crew, KJ Birch, Wan-Yi Tang, Frederic Colier, Max Shuppert, and many others.  That same evening, THE Ian Rankin, creator of Rebus and a real gentleman, was doing an event across town, so I appreciate all those who came to join us.  Ian is an icon in our genre, and I would have loved to attend his talk!

While in NYC, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Rob Taub, and it was a sensational experience to go to the studio and talk into one of those fuzzy microphones.  While you’re on tour, you do interviews whenever your publicist can book them while running through airports to make sure you don’t miss flights.  It’s an exhilarating experience.  Sometimes you have to do a double take to remember which city you are in.  No time to see the sights, just time to meet lovely readers willing to give a debut author a chance.

Next stop was Brookline in Boston with Joseph Finder—did I mention that blistering blizzard that torpedoed through the Northeast?  I was grounded in New York, and the event was cancelled due to the bookstore closing.  Ian Rankin was also supposed to be at an event at Harvard that same evening.  Hmm, starting to wonder if our publicists colluded. 

Touring in February means that the weather can be a villain in your story. That said, the Grand Hyatt in NYC is like a second home for me, so being stuck there was certainly no hardship.  We’re going to rebook the Boston event, but I was sad to miss seeing Joe Finder and all my Boston buddies, including Daniel Palmer, Jay Sheppard, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and others.

Good news—Florida was up next.  No snow!  And I was able to stay at my favorite five-star resort, Casa Berry.  Liz and Steve Berry are special people, and they treated me like a rock star.  I enjoyed Liz’s very delicious LizMcMuffins (Southern cooking!) and spent time chatting and watching the movie Fifty Shades Darker, which was quite something.  Just so you know, I didn’t see Ian Rankin at the theatre….

I can’t thank Liz and Steve enough for their unwavering support and advice as I embark on this journey.  At The Bookmark in Neptune Beach, bookstore owner Rona was extraordinary.  My ThrillerFest teammates Amanda Kelly and Jessica Johns came with their loved ones, and their kind effort warmed my heart.  I also had the pleasure of enjoying the company of my friend Chris Grall, a tactical genius.  When you’re on the road, a little slice of home can bring you joy.

And that’s exactly what I had in Asheville.  Author and renowned psychologist Bryan Robinson (wondering if I should “talk” to Bryan about this whole Ian Rankin thing) opened up his stunning mountain-side home to host me in this phenomenal city. Bryan and Jamey share this glorious abode that should be showcased in architectural digests.  The views were spectacular, and I was able to spend time in Jamey’s magical greenhouse, getting to know the beautiful parrots and birds, surrounding by tropical greenery.  If you ever have a chance, please visit Malaprop’s, as it is a special bookstore.  I was honored to be interviewed by Sara Gruen who wrote WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.  My fellow Canadian was exceptionally kind to be my host, and I had a wonderful time getting to know her as well as the amazing Cindy Norris. 

Continuing the trend towards warmer locales, I headed to Austin where I was paired with Jeff Abbott.  Jeff and I met at the very first ThrillerFest, and I’m so happy his career has skyrocketed.  He was an engaging host, asking in-depth questions about the kidnapping world in THE FREEDOM BROKER.  I also loved spending time with Walt and Jeri Gragg, Don and Angela Bentley, Marta and Dennis Sprout and the fabulous Carol Reed who I have been emailing with for years.

And guess what?  Ian Rankin had an event the next evening, as evidenced by this wonderful billboard that BookPeople use to showcase their guests.  Whew, I managed to get ahead of him this time…

Next up is Phoenix at the Poisoned Pen with the brilliant Stephen Coonts.  Then a wonderful visit with David Morrell in Santa Fe, a dockside event with John Lescroart in San Francisco, and a fun time in Seattle with Robert Dugoni where I will see Jeff Ayers.  Please stay tuned for the next debut diary where I will share my tales from the road, Part Two.

And I’d love to ask your advice…

Think I should just invite Ian Rankin to join me for the rest of the tour?

KJ Howe is an avid tennis player, cyclist, and swimmer. Travel and adventure still rank high on her priority list. She has had the pleasure of riding racing camels in Jordan, surfing in Hawaii, ziplining in the Costa Rican jungle, diving alongside Great White Sharks in South Africa, studying modern combat in the Arizona desert, and working with elephants in Botswana. Home is in Toronto, Canada, but she is often missing in action.

To pre-order a copy of THE FREEDOM BROKER, click HERE.