Juliet Marillier, Jacqueline Carey & Sara Douglass
28th May to 16th June
Sorry about the map – it looks dreadful, but it was the best that I could do in a short time. Some of the cities are not in quite as precise a location as they could be, but you’ll get the general idea. Also sorry for any spelling errors, typos in this page – I’m too tired to go through with a fine tooth comb.
OK, Juliet and I left Australia on May 28th, heading with Qantas to Los Angeles. Should I say, we only just left. Tor’s travel agency had a small bit of trouble getting our flight tickets to us … basically, until about half an hour before the flight both Juliet and myself thought we weren’t going to go … and then finally the tickets came through. Those two sentences don’t convey the stress that we both went through – international calls, a huge effort on the part of Qantas staff and the desk staff of Melbourne Airport Hilton (both sets of staff went out of their way to help us, so thanks, guys)… both Juliet and myself think the whole thing could have been organised a little better – it was a foul way to start the trip.
But, hey, it just got worse! The Qantas flight was spectacular (we flew business class) … and then we landed in Los Angeles Airport (LAX), which is one of the hugest airports in the world. At that point Juliet and I had to make a connecting flight with American Airlines to Chicago … simple, you think? Not when American Airlines have recently earned themselves the ire of the travelling public by cancelling flights willy nilly. Juliet and I discovered that our flight had been cancelled, we were passed through several very uncaring American Airlines desk clerks who really couldn’t care less about whether we got to our destination or not, put on another flight, turned up at the gate for that flight, told it was full and we’d have to wait hours for another one (bear in mind that by this stage neither Juliet or I had had any sleep for over 28 hours), then, in the next breath told we could fly to Texas, Dallas Fort Worth, and catch a plane to Chicago from there, but that we’d have to leave NOW (the aircraft doors were about to close). Snap decision, Juliet and I both hated LAX so much by this stage that the prospect of different scenery seemed better than sitting around for yet another flight to be cancelled under us, so we grabbed the boarding passes and ran.
More drama. To put us on the flight to Texas American Airlines had pinched seats from a couple of other passengers who had just gone to the bathroom before their flight (never ever do that, better to go on the plane!). So we were pushed on the plane, and I was sat next to a very good looking woman who stared at me. “You’re not my husband,” she growled (yes, her husband was one of the unfortunates still in the bathroom and now seatless!). So here I was, sitting next to a woman whose husband had lost his seat to me, she was flying home to Texas but her car and house keys were stuck in the back pocket of her husband’s jeans (still in the bathroom!), and man was she angry! The entire plane heard about it, but once she had voiced her feelings she turned to me, smiled, patted my arm, and said, “I don’t blame you at all.” Which was lovely, because I thought she was just about to kill me!
So at least I didn’t get killed by the irate wife (who then proceeded to feed me sweets for the rest of the flight), but I was so stressed. Juliet and I were now well over 36 hours with no sleep (we’d both had a very early morning in Australia before the Qantas flight trying to work the damn tickets out of the uncaring travel agency … as also trying to reach our contacts in Tor to explain the dilemma … only to discover that it was Memorial Day in the USA and no one was answering their phones), we were heading to Texas when we should have been going to Chicago, and we had no idea if we were ever going to get OUT of Texas! Our opinion of American Airlines was now at an all-time low (I must hasten to add here that, with one extraordinary exception, every other airline we travelled on within the USA and Canada was fine, if not brilliant) , and the prospect of our hotel room in Chicago had become the shining unobtainable Grail. We finally landed in Texas and, amazingly, managed to catch a plane out of Texas to Chicago within an hour. We finally struggled into our hotel late that night and got into bed 42 hours after we’d both last slept.
It was an incredibly bad start to the trip, and consequently both Juliet and myself were stressed and jet-lagged for almost a week. We got one day to recover, and then were launched into Book Expo America. (Jacqueline Carey arrived in Chicago the day after us.)
Breathless silence. The BEA is massive – second only in size to Frankfurt book fair. It the publishing industry’s annual get together – a huge fair showcasing authors, books, products etc. The three of us were there for some 3 days, launching into Tor’s promotional “Women in Fantasy Tour” 2001, which was meant to showcase women writing fantasy, and Jacqueline, Juliet and myself in particular. At the BEA we did book signings, met and talked with a large number of book sellers (the tour was mainly aimed at introducing us to booksellers, some of whom have massive buying power), had many late night dinners (Juliet and I almost always nodding off over desert). Chicago remains a bit of a blur to me …
Having survived Chicago and BEA, and just managing to finally crawl out of jet-lag, we flew out of Chicago on Tuesday June 5th to Ann Arbor, Michigan, just a ways out of Detroit (the home of Borders Books).
We almost didn’t survive this flight. (Sara grins, remembering.) We were loaded onto the airplane, waiting to taxi off, when there was a bit of a noise from the back of the plane. The cockpit door opens and the first officer strides down the aisle to have a look-see. He was the Great American God in looks – all muscle, tanned skin, blue eyes, blond hair, perfect white teeth and a uniform to die for – and he strode down that aisle as if to set the world to rights.
We waited a few minutes. The First Officer suddenly hurries back down to aisle towards the cockpit, his face all white, his uniform all sweaty and creased. The cockpit door slams. Silence. Then the captain comes on the intercom (please imagine a southern drawl here). “UM, ladies and gentlemen … um … ah … I am afraid there will be a slight delay as … um … as we attempt to put the back door back on the aircraft.”
!! To cut a long story short we sat on the tarmac for at least an hour as various engineers and sundry airport staff put the door back on again (with lots of welding and cursing). To be honest, most of the people on the plane were terrified, not of the door falling off in flight, but that we’d be asked to change planes. The American domestic airline industry is in huge strife at the moment (and to support my case I cite all the articles that appeared in the American press while I was over there) – huge delays, and having a ticket does not necessarily mean you’re going to get a seat. We were on a plane, we had seats, and damned if any of us were going to relinquish them!
Finally the back door was nailed/welded/gummed on to everyone’s satisfaction, and we took off. Most of us had our belts adjusted real tight … just in case the thing blew off again. (I’ve since talked to a friend, who claims that she had a friend who had the same experience in Russia – except that then they couldn’t get the back door on again … they took off anyway, but they flew real low, everyone dressed up in as many woollies as they could find.)
We finally arrived in Detroit (thence to Ann Arbor) safely! At Ann Arbor we were to spend less than 24 hours, the main purpose of our visit to have a dinner with book buyers from the Borders and Waldenbooks chains (we’re talking people with the ability to purchases tens of thousands of copies of our books here!). That was actually a very enjoyable dinner, and we all fell into our beds happy little authors … only to face a 4.30 am rise the next morning to fly into Cleveland … and to discover that our Ann Arbor hotel was unable to supply coffee that early in the morning. We were 3 very cranky authors on the drive to the airport (where we finally managed to get some coffee – thank God for Starbucks!).
Cleveland was Wednesday June 6th, and here we had a lovely evening talking and signing books at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, a lovely shop, and even lovelier staff!
Next morning it was off to New York and a couple of very full days. On the day we arrived we had lunch with Jim Killen, who was the fantasy buyer for Barnes and Noble Bookstores (another 20,000 sales, please God!), and then the three of us went in turn to a New York apartment where a film crew shot short clips of us doing talks about ourselves and our books. These clips will (eventually) appear on sites like Amazon.com etc. as clips next to our books, so you’ll get to see them eventually. It’s a very new service, and authors are in the process of being filmed around America – Juliet and I were lucky we were there at the right time. We were filmed in an apartment so it looked ‘homely’ rather than a tv studio … and what I remember most about that experience was that the owner of the apartment had a pet tortoise that wandered about the apartment – most people were terrified they were going to step on it at some stage! Always in the background would be this ‘click click click’, as if a woman’s high heels on the wood floor – it was the tortoise scurrying around (or as fast as a tortoise can scurry).
That took up most of the afternoon – and that evening Tom Doherty of Tor books took us out to dinner on top of the World Trade Centre – what a view!! A third of a mile up (your ears pop in the elevator). Fabulous meal, and afterward Tom took us on one of his famous walks (Tom loves to suddenly spring walks on people) along the New York harbour-front. It was spectacular – I remember standing on the banks of the Hudson River, staring down the waterfront to the Statue of Liberty … it was a clear night, and overhead you could see jet aircraft lined up for 30-40 miles on their approach route past the Statue of Liberty to La Guadia Airport. It reminded me of the immigration ships that used to pass the statue on their way in to Ellis Island (or where-ever) – now was the same, save instead of sailing ships there were aircraft lined up high above the Hudson River.
Next day (I’m leaving out all the physical and mental exhaustion here, but please imagine it) we headed off to Tor’s offices in the Flat Iron Building on Fifth Avenue for a morning tea and heaps of signings, before we headed off to Washington DC where we did an event at Borders books – a lovely night, and I should be getting a great snap of the 3 of us through at some stage.
Next day we stayed in the same city for a change! Amazing! We did a single function at Books-a-Million, and thus managed to do a bit of sightseeing either side of the function. I joined the crowds outside the White House … and was amazed at how small it was. I’m not too sure what I was expecting … but the overall concept of the White House is of world power – the actuality was a little disappointing (and George didn’t invite me in for a cuppa, I felt quite snubbed).
Next day (Sunday June 10) we were off to Toronto! Arrived early, and feeling OK for a change, so did a harbour cruise … then back to the hotel for a snooze. I should explain that the 3 of us were so mentally and physicaly tired throughout this tour that even when we had a free afternoon or evening we tended to snooze rather than sightsee. We’d struggle into some hotel, put our bags down, look out the windows, say “Yeah, yeah, so that’s Chicago/Cleveland/San Francisco,” and then head straight to bed.
In Toronto we did interviews for Space Television, and did a reading at Toronto university (where I met fang). Next day, having read in the morning newspaper that Canadian Air pilots tend to fall asleep at the controls an awful lot because of their heavy schedules, we flew off to Seattle in north-west USA. This is where Sara stupidly lost her US visa! We went through US Immigration in Toronto, where I had to endure a grilling by the Immigration Officer on the nature of my work and morals. Being a fantasy author didn’t appeal to him at all! He wanted to know what kind of fantasy I wrote, and how notorious I was. Finally he gave me another visa and I was off (I found the original one a couple of hours later, so if anyone wants a spare US visa, current through to September of this year …).
Seattle was gorgeous – we flew in during a long long northern summer’s evening – it was still light at about 10 at night, and the air had a beautiful quality about it. My main memory of Seattle (where we did another talk/signing at University bookstore) was stumbling across the quilt store and finding the Amish quilt that hopefully will be arriving in Australia any day soon.
Then down to San Francisco next day, and one of the highlights of the trip – Alaskan Airlines and Greg, the flight attendant. Anyone who has done a reasonable amount of flying will know the aircraft voiceovers almost by heart – the safety procedures, the collecting of baggage procedures. They hardly differ from airline to airline … save for Alaskan airlines. It’s going to be difficult to get across the actual hilarity of this, because it was done in such a bored deadpan voice that itincreased its effectiveness ten-fold, but here goes. This is Greg, the cabin crew member from Alaskan Airlines.
Greg on smoking in the toilets: (this is the first indication that he was about to depart from the usual voice over) “If we find anyone smoking in the toilets, and we’d truly hate to do this, we’ll have to ask you to step outside.”
People slowly looked up from magazines, wondering if they’d heard aright.
Then Greg launched into a description of the food about to be served: “The flight attendants will shortly serve you a snack. Alaskan Airlines have asked us to call this a breakfast snack, but I’m not going to insult your intelligence by doing so. We know what you think of airline food, and we agree with you. If it is any consolation, we’ll be bringing the beverage cart along right after the food so you can wash it down as quickly as you can.”
Greg serving me my ‘snack’: “Here is madam’s cinnamon roll. If madam doesn’t want to eat it she can always use it as a weapon.”
Greg on the coffee: “Alaskan Airlines has spared no expense in ensuring that you have the widest selection of coffee available. We have black, we have black with cream, we have black with sugar, and we have black with cream and sugar. We also have decaf black, decaf black with cream, decaf black with sugar, and decaf black with cream and sugar.”
Greg on the extensive range of wines available during the fight: “We have red and we have white. If you want blush, then you may have one glass of red, one of white, and one empty glass for mixing.”
Greg on landing: “If you were silly enough to check in baggage, you may collect your bags from the baggage claim, carousel 14, in 15-20 business days.”
“Thank you for flying Alaskan Airlines – it’s been our pleasure to take you for a ride. We like taking your money, so fly with us again soon. May I remind you that California is a non-smoking state, so if you want to light up you’ll have to go to Nevada.”
Greg on taxi-ing to the terminal: “Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened until we have docked and the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign. Please don’t stand while taxi-ing as this aircraft has an unfortunate habit of coming to sudden stops, and we’d hate for any one of you to reach the terminal before the rest of us.”
As the plane docks and people’s hands creep to their seatbelt catches: “Don’t even THINK about it!”
As the seatbelt sign is switched off: “Go! Go! Go!”
As we’re waiting to file off: “Please check your seat and overhead locker for personal belongings. If you don’t want them, there’s no reason to suppose that we do.”
On explaining that the flight is to continue on to Mexico: “This flight continues on to Mexico. It is a customs requirement that, even if you are continuing on this flight, you must take all personal belongings off the plane so that customs can inspect the plane. Anything left behind will be confiscated by customs and disposed of. Please resist the temptation to leave behind your unwanted children.”
I suppose you had to be there, but it was one of the highlights of the entire trip. I love Alaskan Airlines!
In San Francisco (hot!) we did an event at a bookstore called Borderlands books then, next morning, flew into San Diego for the last few events! yeah! Our very last event was at a delightful shop called Mysterious Galaxy (where I met Teal and avoided telling my tasteless sheep joke for the sake of her children). Then Juliet and I flew to LAX once more (Jacqueline to Michigan), then on to Melbourne, it was so good to get home!
All in all, I made two great new friends (Juliet and Jacqueline) without whom I doubt I would have survived. All three of us found it totally exhausting – and we weren’t wimps! Our escort for the San Diego part of the trip told us that she’d recently escorted a rock star (his name escapes me now, but it was one that I recognised) on a book tour recently. He’d said that he loved doing rock tours, but found the book tour unbelievably exhausting. I feel vindicated. I was so tired during the tour, in fact, that even though I had taken my camera with me, I took not one picture!
Now, I must crawl off to bed and try to get rid of this terrible throat infection that I picked up on the way home.
©2001 Sara Douglass Enterprises