It’s that time. This Tuesday, August 25, is publication day for The Book of CarolSue and I will enter the horrifying world of covid-era book launch, which means that all “events” are online. Like on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whatever else I’ve forgotten I’m supposed to be doing. (No, not Tinder! That’s not the one.) Some events are on Facebook Live and Instagram Live TV (like the first on Tuesday!) and right after those were scheduled, I went stupid with terror, as I realized that I didn’t even know how to turn on Facebook Live or Instagram Live TV. Two days later, I hired a social media instructor to coach me.
My whole first hour lesson was by phone, about how to find the Instagram Live show on which I’m to be interviewed and turn it on. I took copious notes.
“Next week, we’re going to practice. A dress rehearsal,” she said before we hung up. “I want you in the top you plan to wear, do your hair and makeup, and have your book description ready to explain in brief, clear sentences, because any interviewer is going to ask you what the novel is about.”
A week later I washed my hair, put on makeup, including lipstick! And I’d bought—online, of course–a pretty, blue and white striped shirt. The call came and my coach only needed the first ten minutes to explain how I needed to turn my camera around to see myself and see her, too, for a Facebook Live practice session. Huh. That camera was not my friend. Those stripes were, shall we say, not flattering. I’d go so far as to say they were quite a surprise as I don’t believe I’m actually shaped that way. “You probably want to wear a different top,” my coach said tactfully. “Way different. And don’t forget about wearing makeup.”
I couldn’t make myself tell her I was wearing makeup. She went on to say, “You want color in your face. You know, blush. Do you have any blush? Eyeshadow. Mascara.” With each word, she was pointing on herself showing me where to put the stuff I was already wearing. This was not going well.
“Maybe try sitting closer to the camera,” she said. I did.
“Oh, no,” she said quickly. “Let’s try having you back up.” After that, I noticed she stopped suggesting I get a better camera. I’m not exactly sure what that means. “You’ll want to delete this from your page,” she said. I could practically see her stuff down the urge to yell, “NOW!”
She didn’t have to stuff it down twice. I hit delete.
Honestly, it used to be a lot easier when what an author needed to do was write a really good book. But I still hope that’s what I’ve done, and that you’ll love CarolSue and her story.
The Book of CarolSue is follow up to The Testament of Harold’s Wife—because I loved those characters and that setting so much, and readers did too, that CarolSue wanted a story, and oh my, does she ever have one. Louisa’s adult son, Gary, gets himself in trouble—again—because he fell for a scam run by “Brother Zachariah,” a fake religious cult leader. But the serious theme has to do with the plight of undocumented immigrants, what brings them here, what happens to them, how things spin out of control. In The Book of CarolSue, the realities behind immigration were what I wanted to learn about and dramatize simply by showing one human story, Rosalina’s.
I researched by watching YouTube videos and reading the published accounts by American missionaries, secular volunteers, and professional workers in Honduras, as well as the stories recorded by Honduran immigrants. I searched out news accounts and learned of the extreme violence by gangs who commonly kidnap and rape teenage girls in Honduras. Drug activity is often unavoidable, with young boys forced to join gangs, and the poverty crushing. The only way to survive may be to flee. But The Book of CarolSue isn’t primarily about Rosalina, though I needed her part to be authentic. I also had to research immigration raids and deportation, so I understood the entire picture and saw it with clear eyes and empathy for the people on both sides of the border.
CarolSue has her own story, of course, and she’s the focus. At the opening of the novel, she finds her husband dead, for one thing. Never a good day when that happens. And Louisa takes over to help her, which works for a while, but when CarolSue figures out how much Louisa has been hiding—easy enough to do when all your communication is over the phone—she’s really not hurt. But she is way more than annoyed. And then, Gary shows up. With a baby? Yup. A baby. Is his story credible? That’s for you to decide. And what about that county sheriff, Gus? Why does Louisa have him hanging around all the time? Hmmm.
There’s no need to read The Testament of Harold’s Wife to read The Book of CarolSue—but I end up talking about them together because CarolSue came about when I just wasn’t finished living in that world or with those people. I hope you’ll come to love them as much as I do. Chatting with readers is also something I love, and I’m always available to meet with book clubs by Skype, Facetime, or Zoom to answer questions, share a glass of wine or cup or tea—the tea with or without Louisa’s special ingredient. Most of all, I hope you and your families stay safe and well, and that my novels will bring you some escape, laughter, comfort, and meaning. I offer them from my heart.
(P.S. You can check out whether I got any better at Instagram Live TV or Facebook Live. The opportunities I’ll have to embarrass myself in real time are listed on my Events page. And one other piece of information: if you’ve not read The Testament of Harold’s Wife, the publisher is putting the e-book on sale for three days, starting 8/25 and running through midnight 8/28. Price is only $1.99 for those three days! The opening chapters of The Book of CarolSue have been added at the end, a bonus/teaser.)