Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Grateful Author's Tale

This story got me all choked up. I was going to save it till Thanksgiving, but decided it's just too good to hold onto for that long.

From Bev Marshall, author of Walking Through Shadows, Right As Rain and Hot Fudge Sundae Blues:

Last fall, my third novel came out the day after Katrina hit. I'm from the Gulf Coast and live on the outskirts of New Orleans. Half of my planned book tour was eliminated by wind and water, and my heart was as broken as the levees in the city.

Nevertheless, I set out on tour with my kind friend Silas House. Birmingham was our first stop and the only book I sold was to a woman who had evacuated there after losing her home and everything she owned. Crying with her, I tried to give her the book, but she was having none of that. When I returned to my hotel room and turned on the television, I learned another hurricane was brewing and headed for Louisiana yet again.

With thoughts of my home being swept away, on the way to Fairhope, Alabama, my car broke down on the interstate, and since it was lovebug season, Silas's reddish hair was covered with co-joined black bugs as we stood on the road waiting for the wrecker. There was no rental car to be had and it would take a day to fix mine.

Then to my amazement, a woman I'd met at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans showed up after learning at the bookstore that we were stranded, and she gave us a ride into town. She'd lost her home in Pensacola when Ivan hit there. She bought a book, too, and once again, I tried to give it to her, but she, like the woman in Birmingham, refused. My publicist at Ballantine/Random House called again and again with "Are you all right? What can I do to help?" I would cry and laugh every time she called. It was like an angel was flying along beside me wherever I went.

Back home the hurricane arrived, but there was no damage at my house except that we lost power again, so I caught my flight to Lexington, Kentucky, where Silas and I were reunited. From bookstore to television station to radio station, the entire week was unbelievable. Every person I met, at every place I went was kinder than anyone could imagine. I was truly overwhelmed. My angel continued to call, "What else can I do? Are you all right?" We got caught in traffic and missed one television morning show, but otherwise, Silas and I kept all of our dates and showed up on time.

There were tears and laughter when we parted. We'd been on a tour like none either of us will ever have again. Did I sell a lot of books? Probably not enough to suit my publisher, but that seemed beside the point on this tour.

And after all this time, the owner of one of those swept-away bookstores just emailed me, saying Pass Christian Books had been rebuilt and could I at long last do a book signing there. I'm going; it's on my birthday.
# # #

I asked Bev how she and her home fared after Katrina. She responded:

There's a journal on my website [scroll down to "Hot Fudge Sundae Blues Tour"] that tells what happened on that tour day by day. I will forever be grateful to Silas House and to Cindy Murray at Random House, and to all those booksellers and readers who got me through that terrible time.

We were fortunate in many ways. I live in Ponchatoula, which is across the lake from New Orleans, and although we suffered a lot of damage in my neighborhood, we were very lucky and had to deal with only near-misses of trees, no water, food, gasoline, etc. My mother-in-law, who lives in Gulfport, was missing for four days, but we found her safe in her apartment. Other relatives and friends who live in New Orleans and on the coast of Mississippi weren't so lucky. Many of them lost everything they owned, and there's no way to say how differently we all view our lives now.

Since I'm an optimist, I'll end by saying that we're all just grateful that we all still have each other. Possessions can be replaced, but not our loved ones!


Dorothy said...

Wow...I loved this story! Found your blog on an internet search. Bev Marshall was a trooper, I gotta hand that much to her. Love your blog!

JR's Thumbprints said...

Those book tours can be grueling, even without hurricanes. I enjoyed reading about Bev Marshall's ordeal and how people can be nice in times of desperation.