It was fun, though, to sell a beach book while actually on the beach, to sit in palm-thatched bars talking about the novel and to make island-style arrangements for sales. (Naqqi picks up books on his way to Grand Turk, delivers them to the museum there, then carries the money back to me.)
Answering questions about the book was also interesting, giving me a better sense of how my readers think and what captures them. I found they were most interested in the characters, but there were also questions about publishing and structure.
CHARACTERS. The Number One question I got was, "Which character is you?" My truthful answer: all of them. I'd explain that no single person in Fish-Eye Lens corresponds to me, but bits of me are in Liz, Phyl, Kate, Cherry, and even Chip and Ed.
Because many of these readers are from or have lived on the island that inspired East Taino, there were also guesses and questions about the models for certain characters. "That's my cousin!" Addison exclaimed, only a few pages into the book. One night at the bar, I overheard a guy ask another, "So who do you think Zeke is?" And on Middle Caicos, one friend leaned toward me and named a real-life developer. I just smiled.
We all had fun with the guessing game, but the truth is that the characters blend the traits and situations of several real people, plus some things that are just plain made up. You know the drill: Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
PUBLISHING. My biggest surprise was how curious people were about the process of getting a novel published. Well, maybe it's not a surprise; I did it, and I'm still curious. It would always lead to an interesting discussion. Many have read about the current changes in the publishing world, and I suppose they want to hear about it "from the trenches." I'm not sure I did any enlightening, because the whole process is still a mystery to me.
STRUCTURE. The question would be, "Why did you write it that way?" I'd know they were referring to the fact that most of the book is dialogue, with only a few short chapters of description and narration. For the most part, readers have to form their own pictures of characters from what they say and what others say about them, and the story has to be pieced together from a mass of raw material - the interviews that Cherry conducts.
Some people didn't like having to work their imaginations so hard. Others thought it was fun, but wondered why. My explanation always contained the phrase, "the language of gossip." I wanted Fish-Eye Lens to be an island story the way islanders tell one: bit by bit, slanted according to who's telling it, and hardly ever unflattering to the teller.
I think it's a good answer, but it's only half true. In fact, much of my work on the novel was intuitive. I told the story that way because it wanted to be told like that. Answering the questions of others forces me to explain what I didn't myself question.
So I found this "book tour" as informative to me as to those I met. And lots of fun. Thank you, North, Middle, Provo and Grand Turk.