Monday, May 23, 2011

Ten Things I Learned on My Book Tour (that have nothing to do with books) by Diane Chamberlain

Diane is the bestselling author of twenty novels, including her newest, The Midwife’s Confession.  She grew up in New Jersey and lived for long periods in San Diego and Northern Virginia, but her heart was in North Carolina long before she moved to the state and many of her novels are set there. Formerly a medical social worker and psychotherapist in private practice, she’s been writing “forever” and loves that the imagination that got her into trouble as a kid now pays the mortgage.  Diane lives in North Carolina with her significant other and her two Shetland Sheepdogs. 

Ten Things I learned on My Book Tour (that have nothing to do with books)
by Diane Chamberlain

I need to get out more! Yes, I write most mornings at the Opium Den (my local Starbucks), but after touring the past couple of weeks for my novel, The Midwife's Confession, I realized the world has more to offer than the scenery between my house and Starbucks. I thought I'd share with you some of the things I learned.
1.  First, and most important, recipes.
In Wilmington, North Carolina--the setting for Midwife--my publicist, Tori, invited me over for dinner. She and her housemate, Judy, treated me to some great company as well as some super salmon. I'm always looking for a new way to make salmon, since John and I eat it two or three times a week (in an attempt to make up for all the pizza and take-out Chinese we consume). I don't have the exact recipe, but I watched pretty closely as Tori did her thing, and here's what I saw.
Tori's Roasted Salmon Provencal 

Amounts vary according to how many people you want to serve

-cooked potatoes (boiled, baked or nuked) cut into chunks
-veggies cut into chunks (Tori used zucchini and red peppers)
-calamata olives, pitted

Place salmon in a roasting pan, surround with the veggies. Then splash your favorite light bottled Italian dressing over everything and bake uncovered about half an hour. Delish!


I also visited an amazing book club in Charlotte. These women not only read well, they eat well, too. On a perfect evening, I met with thirty club members in the stunning garden of the hostess, Sharon. We sat at tables scattered on the lawn and ate and ate and ate. Oh, yes, we also discussed the book they'd read (my The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes) and they asked thoughtful and provocative questions, but what will stay in my mind for a long time is the ambience, the camaraderie . . . and the lamb! This was far and away the best lamb I've ever tasted, and the woman who made it, Janice Habash, was kind enough to send me the recipe along with permission to share it with you here.
Janice's Leg of Lamb Recipe (adapted from a recipe in Ken Hom's Travels with a Hot Wok )

-Boneless leg of Australian lamb (Janice gets hers at Costco). Trim all the white fat. Janice says this is where the gamey flavor resides. Cutting the fat breaks the lamb up into different sized pieces. One leg is enough for 12+ servings.       

Marinate for  1-2 hours in a combo of:

-Soy sauce 
-Sesame oil (can use olive oil)
-Rosemary- fresh or dried
-Thyme- fresh or dried
-Some type of chili (flakes, cayenne or a garlic chili paste)
-Salt and Pepper

-To cook lamb, broil on high for 15 minutes, turn over and cook for 10-15.  Cooking times depend on the thickness of the pieces. You can also cook on the grill. The mixed sizes means you will have some well done and some med rare at the same cooking time.

2. Il Divo
The second thing I learned came from Tori's housemate, Judy. She introduced me to Il Divo. I knew nothing about Il Divo! I feel so out of it. As I said, I really need to get out more. Their music played in the background as we ate and chatted and it was so beautiful I finally had to ask what it was.  Judy told me about the four tenors Simon Cowell had brought together, and later, she sent me this video, which is pretty enticing whether you have the sound on or not!


3. It's Possible to use an Electric Toothbrush on your Dogs

I stayed with old friends, Joyce and Rachid, in Charlotte, and there I picked up a great tip. . . sort of. I have two Shelties, thanks to Joyce. When my beloved three-legged Bernese Mountain Dog, Bruin, went to the Rainbow Bridge, I decided it was time to downsize.  Rheumatoid Arthritis had left me a bit "imbalanced" (though some friends would argue I'd been that way for a long time already), and a big dog was getting hard to manage. Joyce is a Sheltie lover and she took me to visit a breeder where I was instantly surrounded by balls of energetic fluff. I ended up with two of those fluffballs, Keeper and Jet, brothers from different litters. Shelties are wonderful dogs. Sweet, loyal, great guardians, gentle with kids. But they have terrible teeth. Terrible! I think my vet loves to see a Sheltie walk through his door because he knows he has a guaranteed income stream for the life of the dog. I've tried brushing Keeper and Jet's teeth. It's sort of the same way I am with exercise: I go at it full tilt for a couple of weeks, then I miss a day and the next thing I know I'm paying my monthly fee for nothing. Shelties have these long snouts with hard to reach teeth and they loathe the whole process. Anyway, that's Rachid told me he cleans Mini's teeth (that's adorable Mini in the picture) with a battery-operated toothbrush. So I tried this when I got home. Hmm. I couldn't get near their mouths because just the sound of the brush made them hide, Jet in the laundry room and Keeper under the guest room bed.  Dog owners, I'm open to your suggestions!


4. Southern Women can still be Yankee Fans

Isn't Facebook the greatest invention? I've made so many honest-to-goodness friends there. They may have started out as "fans" of my books, but as we've communicated via Facebook, we've become something more than just "readers" and "writer". Before my signing in Wilmington, I had dinner with FB friends, Tina and Linda, and Tina's "Momma". Of course I loved meeting Tina and Linda after chatting with them on Facebook for a few years, but it was Momma who was the biggest surprise and delight. This born and bred southerner is a diehard Yankee fan. Who would have guessed it? Long ago, she made her passion known to Yankees management and was treated to a special seat in the old Yankee Stadium shortly before its demolition. Plus, she was hugged by Reggie Jackson!  Talking to her reminded me of my father's passion for the Yankees, but he was a) a guy and b) a New Jerseyite. Momma, on the other hand, is an original!


5. I do have male readers!
Okay, they didn't exactly come out in droves, but every place I went, I met at least one or two. Here's Carl from Charlotte, who I believe has read every one of my books. (He says he has a special place in his heart for Annie in Keeper of the Light.) He's surrounded in this picture by some more wonderful 'Facebook friends who've become real-life friends', Debbie and Terri and a few of their family members.


6. Signing Books in an Airport is a Humbling Experience
My fans come to my signings. They make me feel loved, appreciated and accomplished. They sometimes even make me feel famous! But the bookstore at the Charlotte Airport invited me to sign books there two afternoons and the experience definitely cut me down to size, since people were just passing through and no one was there specifically to see me. ("Diane Who??") In two afternoons, I met only one person who'd heard of me. He told me that he and his wife hit the flea markets every weekend looking for my old books, and he bought a signed copy of The Midwife's Confession from me to surprise her.  But sitting there surrounded by Grisham and Picoult and all the other Big Names was humbling indeed.


7. Never Forget to Laugh
When you're working your butt off as I have been the last few years, it's easy to take life too seriously and forget to just kick back. Staying with Joyce and Rachid was such a treat for that reason. It was so relaxed and Joyce and I laughed about stuff from our pasts and our--ahem--aging processes, and our men and our dogs and just life in general. It made me realize how little I let my hair down these days and I hereby resolve to do more of it!


8. It's Nice to Meet People in the Green Room, but Even Better to Meet a Dog

I did some TV interviews on this trip. They're second nature to me now, but with each new book, I find the first interview unnerving. This all goes back to an interview I did about ten years ago. I had a rocky time getting to the station. It was a two-hour drive away from home and an ice storm hit as I was on the road. The car in front of me spun out and I just made it onto the shoulder to avoid a collision. By the time I reached the town where I was to do the interview, I was pretty shaken and I stopped at a 7-11 for a bracing cup of coffee. Back in my car, I found the engine wouldn't turn over. A helpful 7-11 customer fiddled with something under the hood as the minutes edged closer to the time for my interview.  Soon I was on the road again. I rushed into the station and they whisked me onto the live set.  The cameras started rolling even before I caught my breath.  "Tell us what your book's about?" the interviewer asked me.  I stared at the book on the table between us, my mind a complete blank. Seriously. Total dead air on TV. What was my book about??  The interviewer saved me, but I've never forgotten those few seconds of that near-death experience.  Anyhow, all this is to say that the first TV interview of the season always makes me a little nervous. This time, in the green room I chatted with a few other people waiting to be interviewed, but it wasn't until Harold arrived that I truly relaxed. Harold was the adoptable pet of the day. He bounded into the room and I was instantly in love. A huge, friendly hound, he was in my lap and my arms and there he stayed, communing with me in his doggy way until I was called for my interview. This is Harold in the picture. He may still be available for adoption, so if you're interested (he's in the Raleigh area), let me know and I'll get you in touch with the agency. (note: he's BIG).


9. "Forgiveness is a way of Taking Control"
This is the most profound thing I learned on my tour. In addition to eating and listening to Il Divo, Tori and Judy and I got into some heavy discussions--ethical, spiritual, emotional.  During that talk, Judy made the statement above and it has really stuck with me. I don't understand why, but my books nearly always have a theme of forgiveness in them. That's certainly the case with The Midwife's Confession. I'd never thought of forgiving as a way of taking control of a situation, though. It was a real "aha" moment for me. Kind of a heavy thought to ponder, no? I'd love to hear your take on it.

10. There's no place like home
Well, I already knew that, but it's still worth saying!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Looks like the tour was a lot of fun...if exhausting! Thanks for sharing the tasty recipes and your experiences. Think I'll give the Charlotte airport a pass if I ever get that far!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Diane, hi and welcome!!!!

I just loved your post, thank you!!

And like Elizabeth (Hi, Elizabeth!), I thank you for these tasty recipes. I'm a lover of salmon and a lover of lamb - unfortunately, Donald cares for neither. But. I'm going to try both these recipes.

Also wanted to tell you I've ordered The Midwife's Confession - it sounds wonderful. I "hope" I'm able to resist it for a few weeks though, 'cause I'm putting some books by my favorite writers aside to take to take on vacation with us.

Debbie Hearne said...

Loved the blog & photos! The Midwife's Confession is a wonderful book (you won't be able to put it down)! Who are grisham & picoult?

Diane Chamberlain said...

Thanks, all. Kaye, it's always a treat to be part of your blog. Next time I'll share a nice simple chicken recipe for Donald. :)

Bobbi Mumm said...

Diane, I love your life lessons. Harold the dog looks too much like my beagle, Baxter, who qualifies daily for the bad dog award. Cute but naughty. I enjoyed so much your post!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

I'll take you up on the chicken recipe offer, Diane. My imagination for all things chicken is running on empty, I'm afraid. big sigh.

Debbie - LOVED your "who are grisham & picoult" line!

Bobbi - That Baxter of yours is too adorable! Maybe he'd like Harold to come and live with y'all?

AM said...

great post... wonderful blog. glad to have stopped by :)