Writer Cool – Laura McBride

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By Laura McBride

I came to the world of writing novels both improbably and late (these are two of my best looks actually) and because I am a very suave sort, I did not embarrass myself on every single outing. Just a few of them.♥

I wrote a good portion of my first novel at Yaddo, a prestigious artist residency program in upstate New York. I had no business being accepted to it, and I had no idea what it really was when I arrived. In fact, it’s a posh enough place – in which one lives and works in a mansion and is served food morning and night in an elegant dining room – but I showed up with camping equipment, a can of Mace, and the vague sense that it was some sort of wilderness retreat.

Awkwardly, I tucked my flannel shirt into my hiking shorts and wandered down to my first breakfast. A fellow artist asked me how I’d slept, and the truth was that I’d slept rather badly. All night long, a woman in a caftan had screamed at me in frantic nightmares that included the nifty trick of not abating even when I thought I had awakened. When morning finally arrived, with sunlight streaming through the windows of my cupola-shaped study, my bedcovers, pillows, and camping equipment were strewn about the room. I made the mistake of admitting this at breakfast, and then endured no end of stories about the ghosts that haunted that celebrated mansion. Needless to say, I slept like a baby after that.

Something sweet happened though. A video artist noticed that my lights stayed on into the wee hours and slipped me a pirated flash drive of the first season of Game of Thrones, which I binge-watched as a sort of chamomile tea relaxer before falling asleep to those caftan-hooded ghosts.

About a year later, I flew to New York to see my editor for the first time. I didn’t know it, but she’d arranged for me to meet with a host of Simon & Schuster bigwigs, perhaps so that they could evaluate whether I was worth their investment or not. We were to meet at noon, but I was in my hotel room completely ready to go well before 11 am, so to calm my nerves, I unlatched my watch, turned off my phone, and meditated for an hour.

I arrived at the imposing offices of Simon & Schuster, spanking clean and fully calm just before noon, and was greeted by my editor who seemed strangely agitated, perhaps even annoyed. As it turned out, I wasn’t ready in my hotel room well before 11 am. I was ready a short bit before noon and showed up spanking clean and fully calm, minus my phone or any other way to communicate with me, an hour late. There’s nothing like making a good first impression, is there?

And then there was publication day. That first book came out on a Tuesday, and Wednesday morning I was on a flight to Minneapolis to begin a book tour. I stepped off the plane and headed briskly to a taxi. On my way through baggage, a rather excited young man yelled “Ms. McBride, Laura McBride, is that you?” I turned around in surprise. Sure enough, he was holding my brand-new book. Barely 24 hours, and already I was being recognized by a stranger in an airport. Ha Ha. Simon & Schuster, perhaps wary of my ability to show up on time, had hired an escort to get me where I was supposed to be.

Tours are complicated affairs, brimming with the possibility of mishap. There was the time I called the front desk at the swanky Four Seasons in San Francisco, nearly incoherent because I was trapped in an elevator with the lights off. As it turned out, I hadn’t yet pushed the button to ascend. There was the time I was stuck in an airport in Buffalo and passed the time watching March Madness games and eating chicken wings. I didn’t feel quite right on that flight home and greeted my waiting husband by projectile vomiting in the arrivals area.

Oh, and there was that night in St. Louis, when the only people who showed up were some long-lost cousins and two homeless men (I think the bookstore owner might have paid them) and one of the homeless men took over the mike to discuss the Vietnam War and the other repeatedly slipped his hand onto my freckled knee. I considered snatching the mike from the first so that I could use it to wallop the second, but I wasn’t quite sure what affect this might have on those long-lost cousins. Opportunity missed, as they say.

One time, a reader who had waited about thirty minutes in a signing line handed me a scuffed-up book with a torn cover. I joked that my students would do the same to their textbooks, to disguise the fact they hadn’t read them, and the reader said, “Oh I haven’t read your book. I just didn’t want you to know.” (See photo above) It’s moments like these that are the glory of being a writer. And I mean that sincerely.

Laura McBride lives in Las Vegas and is the author of two novels, In the Midnight Room and We Are Called to Rise. In the Midnight Room has just been released in paperback. Titled ‘Round Midnight in hardcover, it was a 2017 Indie Next pick. We Are Called to Rise was a #1 Indie Next pick in 2014, as well as a Simon Mayo BBC Radio 2 book club choice in the UK.


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