Thursday 17 August 2006

an interview with ayun halliday: virtual book tour stop #17

[Copy of today's post on the baby blog.]

So I get an email in my inbox from a lady called Ayun Halliday, asking if I'd like to participate in her virtual book tour for her new book Mama Lama Ding Dong. Suuuuuuure, I thought as my fingers flew to look her up on Amazon. Oh good lord, she's a real author who's published stuff and everything! Rightyo, sign me up then.

It's touted as a "mothering memoir", although that doesn't really do it justice. It's a fun, witty, razor-sharp collection of observations from a mother who can write. We here at blog from : a baby headquarters had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Halliday for today's stop on her virtual book tour. Please, no shoving and no flash photography.
1. Welcome to blog from : a baby! Are there any demands* you would like to make for this particular stop on your tour? *(I worked in bookstores for many years in Montreal and witnessed peculiar author requests during book signings. For example, Anne Rice demanded Puffs tissues and Tab cola, neither of which was actually available for purchase in Canada. Indeed.)

Oh my god, I can make demands? Shoot, I wish I'd known about this clause for the 16 virtual venues preceding yours on this tour!

As for Puffs, I don't need no stinkin' designer Kleenex! Toilet paper's fine for the likes of me.

2. How about this weather, eh? Pffft! (Lisa's note to Ayun: in Britain, it is mandatory to begin all conversations by complaining about the weather.)

I can't get too complain-y with it today, mate! It was a sunny 82 in NYC today - The kids & I took the subway to the beach at Coney Island! They went on the Free Fall and the Tilt-A-Whirl. We took in the freak show. The East German guy who pulls a surgical glove over his head and inflates it by exhaling in short bursts was there. I bought a $3 Corona from an enterprising, unlicensed vendor patrolling the filthy sand. So, I don't feel inclined to complain about the weather. Not today.

3. Why do an online tour of mummy blogs to promote Mama Lama Ding Dong? How did you come up with the idea?

I had to delay the bricks-and-mortar tour for my most recent book, Dirty Sugar Cookies, because my husband's new play was slated to begin previews the same week that the book was published, and one of us needed to be emotionally and physically available for the children. Afraid that, deprived of the usual shuck and jive, the book might sink like a stone, I went on a virtual tour in support of it, and while that was a lot of work, it was also a lot of fun, not to mention good for sales. Dirty Sugar Cookies is a culinary memoir, so most of the stops on that tour were food blogs, with the occasional lit blog thrown in to spice things up a bit. For Mama Lama Ding Dong, there was never any question that mummy bloggers would provide the most appropriate and enthusiastic venues. While it's thrilling to see one's name in the newspaper, it's important to remember that yesterday's newspaper lines today's bird cages. Web content, for better or worse, hangs around much longer.

I have to admit that I cribbed the blog tour idea (with permission) from my fellow author (and mummy blogger), Andi Buchanan. I'm not sure where she got the idea, but apparently there are a bunch of inspirational business-shelf authors who've been making the virtual rounds for years!

4. Online writing is becoming more prevalent and "regular people" are becoming as well known as published authors through mediums such as blogs. Do you think that people are buying less books on topics like motherhood because they can read boatloads of advice for free on web sites? How do you "compete" with this as a published author?

I think the two compliment each other. People who like to read like to read, period. I enjoy the information superhighway aspect of the web, the fun of clicking through dozens of links, unsure of what I'm going to find, but I also enjoy the sensual aspects of the printed page, the weight of a book in my purse, the idea that I can sneak in a couple of paragraphs while waiting in line at the post office.

Also, my sense of most blogs is that the posts come pretty much off the top of the author's head, which is what gives them their sense of immediacy, however inflammatory it may be. Books go through numerous edits, so presumably, the author has given some thought to what she's saying; it's not so much of a postcard from the id.

Look at it this way: homemade chocolate chip cookies taste great. So does half a tube of Pillsbury Ready-to-Bake, nuked for 30 seconds in the microwave. Must one cancel out the other? I think not.

5. How do you think your book will be received by a British audience? Is the subject matter universal?

The Secretary of Defense assures me the citizens will rush into the streets throwing rose petals. If your intelligence contradicts this, please advise ASAP.

I think the subject matter is fairly universal, at least throughout the Western World. Mothers who can't relate at all are probably inhabit the extreme ends of social class - to a desperately strapped single mother who can barely scrape together her child's daycare with the minimum wage she receives at Walmart, I must seem like a pampered matron who doesn't have anything to complain about. And to the wealthiest of the wealthy, whose employees handle the laundry and meals, I'm some sort of boho kook, rolling around in a hovel. And that's just the Western world! I'm sure your average mom in Darfur has completely different parameters for what constitutes stress.

As far as loving our children, and hoping for their continued health and happiness, and comprehending that life as we knew it before children has been irrevocably altered, yes, that I think is universal.

6. What's surprised you most about being a mother?

The physically grueling aspect. The carrying, the juggling, the deferment of one's own comfort to accommodate the human being squirming on one's lap at meal time, the alarum that bids one to wake in the middle of the night, trying to use a public toilet without putting the baby on the floor, the constant dressing and undressing, the impossibility of anything but the most military of showers.

7. What is the most annoying myth about motherhood you've come across, either in everyday life or in the media?

That motherhood confers frumpiness rather than respect. Though Saturday Night Live's "Mom Jeans" commercial is pretty funny.

8. And finally, will you promise to tell all of your American friends that it doesn't always rain in England, the food is actually quite tasty, and surprisingly, some people have rather nice sets of teeth?

Oh, we've heard all about your heat wave and Nigella Lawson and your dazzling choppers! But I'll endeavor to keep spreading the word.

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