By Kendra Saunders
It’s afternoon, the beginning of June and I’m sitting outside of Starbucks in Concord, New Hampshire. This Starbucks holds special meaning, from the friendly staff to the two electric plugs that all of the laptop-happy-customers fight over. It’s very windy today and a Ben Kingsley lookalike sits in the parking lot watching me and blasting a news program from the windows of his Jeep. It’s surreal to be here, in a place that has been my home for so long, in the place where I wrote Death and Mr. Right, after visiting the gray and grime tinged rush of New York City.
I don’t belong here.
Last year, I pitched a novel to Kate Kaynak in New York City, as we carpooled back to New Hampshire together. It was my first time in America’s best city and I was overwhelmed with exhaustion, inspiration and lyrics from Interpol songs. Death and Mr. Right had a title and it had already been written as a short story. The premise: the agent of nightmares falls in love, loses his job and is exiled into the modern world. Kate loved the idea and asked me to write it and submit it to her. I returned home, my head buzzing, and wrote Death and Mr. Right in only a few months. I edited it and put the finishing touches on it Halloween 2012. The next morning I began writing The Unlove Spell, a novel I’d been kicking around my head for weeks.
Death and Mr. Right was accepted by Spence City in late 2012 and I wrote The Unlove Spell in a few brief, joyous months. Both books were comedies, full of light and dark, in-jokes, colorful characters and tributes to my friends, muses and heroes. They were the easiest books I’d ever written. Both were also surprisingly personal – much of Death’s backstory was linked to my own youthful neuroses, brought to life through the safety of humor. Viktor’s struggles to balance a demanding family member with responsibility and his own dreams of being a writer reflected my own familial troubles as an eldest child with a difficult relationship with a cruel parental figure. But both were full of bliss, a cathartic experience, a creative binge that left me worn out in the best possible way and glowing afterward.
When my publisher said we would have review copies of D&MR to sign at Book Expo America, I planned my whole year around the trip, reserving a room at the Jane Hotel as much for its special meaning to my best friend (her favorite building in the city) as for the inexpensive price.
All of my books are written like movies, with a complete cast of muses. The Unlove Spell had been inspired by Clemence Poesy as my impulsive witch, Marling, Lana Del Rey as my crazy fae queen (perfect, right?) and Dmitry Sholokhov as the honorable, rock star writer who is also hiding a huge secret – he doesn’t write about magical beings. He IS one.
I met Dmitry at his Lord & Taylor event to launch his capsule dress collection and told him how much he’d inspired me, both because he’d worked so hard to get where he was (a kick for me to get moving!) and as a muse for Viktor. Fast forward to May and Dmitry was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to drop by the Javits Center for a bit, as my guest.
BEA seemed busier this year than the year before, but as I sashayed my way through the Javits in my gorgeous Sholokhov dress and six-inch heels, I noticed a more subdued attitude in the crowd. There weren’t nearly as many free books and from what I could tell, the biggest draw of Friday would be Grumpy Cat.
My signing took place between 12:30 and 1:30, deep inside the air-conditioned safety of the Javits. Handing my book to bloggers, librarians and reviewers was absolutely enchanting and nerve-wracking, in the right portions. One gentleman caught sight of it as he walked by, wandered over to investigate and ultimately asked for a copy. I guzzled two water bottles to suppress nerves, and received a steady stream of compliments on my dress, shoes and book cover.
Books and fashion? Win-win!
Dmitry arrived at the end of my signing and I handed him a special unbound copy of The Unlove Spell’s unedited manuscript, told him all about Viktor and then posed for pictures. Though it was a blur, I do remember looking out and seeing a line of ten? fifteen? digital cameras, professional cameras, cell phones and a pink iPad. It was crazy.
After wandering a bit, laughing about Grumpy Cat’s impending appearance and signing some silly messages in Dmitry’s copy of my books, we said our goodbyes and headed out into the blistering afternoon. All I could think of, over and over, was The Great Gatsby. My friend Megan and my sister hopped into a cab with me and we escaped to Greenwich Village, intending to hide out in the cool of our hotel, just as the protagonists of Gatsby had. I’d only taken a few steps away from the cab when my shoe broke.
I took this as a good omen. I’d traveled to the big city, brought along some dear friends, been aided by several fairy godmothers (complete with lip balm, tissues, and bottles of water!)
Death and Mr. Right lives in the hands of bloggers, reviewers, librarians, teachers, a few authors, a lovely young woman who travelled from Maryland to meet me and Dmitry. Between now and October 1, I will have interviews and promotional events to keep me busy, but June in New Hampshire might as well be the dark side of the moon in most respects. I’m ready to hear what everyone thinks of little blue haired Death and his misadventures, ready to unleash The Unlove Spell on the world, and I’m dying to return to New York City.
If the broken shoe is any sign of the future, I should be headed back that way soon, ready to begin a new volume in the book of life.