RB: How is this activity of going out and talking about and talking up your book?
BJ: Iâ€™ve loved it. Itâ€™s been great. Writing is such an isolated process and youâ€™re sitting and you are making all these choices you imagine people are going to be interested in, and itâ€™s great to get out and have your instincts confirmed. I feel this great confirmation of all these obscureâ€”I was reading a book on glaciology and there was a line about a guy who had dedicated his life to the study of the frost-resistant genitalia of beetles. I thought that was so great. How could you not want to know what that guyâ€™s story was? And so that is some of what I wrote about. Itâ€™s great to go out and have people say, â€˜That was great. I loved that. Where did you find that?â€™ And itâ€™s been confirming to find people interested in caring about books. People come out on a Tuesday night for a reading and they donâ€™t know you from Adam and they have read a little review of something or maybe they have read the book.
Do you enjoy doing readings?
I like doing readings. But the best part of a book tour is the audience Q&A.
How do you know when itâ€™s time to promote one book and work on the next?
Well, it’s pretty well mapped out. I tour right when the book is released and because I’m trying to write a book a year, I have to write at every free moment. Because I don’t have large chunks of free time anymore. My publicist is the one who points me in a given direction and says, TALK.
…I feel he is judging me more keenly when I ask him about his writing. As a former journalist himself, he has become “a curious consumer of other people’s interview techniques”. He tells me how disappointed he has been by interviews in eastern Europe where he expected intellectuals of the polo-necked, pipe-smoking school, but found himself on the receiving end of a very raw celebrity culture. “One journalist, working for the Polish equivalent of Hello! magazine, came into my room, took off his shoes and socks and lay down on my floor smoking a cigarette. He asked me if I preferred sleeping with black or white women. He wasn’t very enlightened on the race issue. I made the poor interpreter translate ‘F*** off’ into Polish.” He is wearied by the constant questions about how much money he has made and tells me that Indian Elle magazine even e-mailed a query about his credit-card balance.
This is a very effective way of ensuring this interview gives him the opportunity to air his intellectual credentials and discuss his new book. Surely I can do better than Indian Elle? It is slightly intimidating and clinchingly flattering.