In the wild . . . Barnes & Noble!

So TOKYO HEIST was officially released into the world last Thursday!

That morning, my brother-in-law sent me a video of a NASA rocket launch. I watched the lift-off, mesmerized, a lump in my throat. It was the perfect video for that morning. I felt like I really was sending my book out into the world — with the aid of a highly trained crew — and now all I could do was squint at it in the distance and hope for the best.

I wrote the earliest scenes of what would become this book back in the fall of 2004. The book sold in 2010. It’s been a long journey, and a great one. (You can read more about my road to publication in a post I wrote for the Apocalypsies blog last week). So the book’s release week was an emotional one for me, and it’s been an ongoing celebration ever since. Here are some highlights!

Launch Day
I spent the morning trying to keep up with the amazing volume of well-wishers on Twitter and Facebook and email. I made what has become my daily trip to the post office to mail prizes to giveaway winners. I did a couple of blog interviews. In the afternoon I went to one of my favorite bookstores, Brookline Booksmith, and asked if they had any copies I could sign. They did! The books had just arrived, and were brought to me fresh from the box. I got to put autographed copy stickers on them. What a thrill! In the afternoon I hung out with my son at the park and tried to unplug for a bit. It felt good to do something grounding, even though mentally, a part of me was up there in the sky with my book, orbiting.

Launch Party

Saturday afternoon was the launch party at Newtonville Books, another one of my favorite local bookstores. We had a great turnout — a nice mix of family, friends, fellow writers (several Apocalypsies!) and people I did not bribe or strong-arm into coming. In other words, some people off the street! I was most delighted to see kids — actual teenagers and some pre-teens — coming into the store. We had around 20 I think. It’s been a dream of mine to see more young people come to author events like readings and book launches, so I was beyond happy when I peeked out of Mary’s office and saw so many people under 18.

Oh, and my amazingly talented editor from Viking, Leila Sales, was also in the audience! The icing on the cake! I was so thrilled that she could come share in this special day.

The store owners, Jaime Clark and Mary Cotton, could not have made me feel more welcome, and they graciously let my partners in crime vandalize — uh, I mean decorate — the store. Fellow Apocalypsie Gina Rosati did an amazing job stringing up yellow crime scene tape everywhere, which makes me wonder about her pre-author life. Perhaps she worked in law enforcement. Perhaps she has a checkered past. We put out Japanese candies (these were quickly devoured!), swag, and a raffle for some door prizes: gift bags with Japanese goodies. My friend and fellow author Julie Wu handed out red paper fans.

After being introduced, I talked for a bit about key support people in the audience, like my husband, my family, and my writing group buddies. I explained why I chose to hand out paper fans to celebrate this book birthday. I love the Japanese tradition of giving out fans for births and birthdays, and I love the symbolic idea of the base of a fan as a birth, or beginning, and the “spokes” of the fans as all the directions your life can take, the roads, the possibilities. It’s a great metaphor for writing as well. Where does a story begin? How do ideas develop and become more complex? What holds the whole construction together? I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about my book’s support structure: my husband, extended family, friends, critique group partners, etc, not to mention my entire publishing team. My goal was to sputter out my profuse thanks without crying, and somehow I managed to do so!

Then I read from the book for a bit. (By the way, choosing what to read aloud from a mystery is really, really hard! You can’t easily skip around, as people will miss key information and won’t know what’s going on, or you’ll be giving too much away. I spent a lot of last week agonizing over passage selection!)

During the Q&A session, I got a lot of great questions, including some from people I did not know, and one stunningly intelligent question from a young lady in the front row. “Why did you choose to start the book in Seattle?” she asked. That’s a really great question to ask a writer — we ask ourselves this question all the time — because deciding where to start is so difficult and so important. Those opening scenes have to do so much heavy lifting. And with this book, I definitely wrestled with where to begin. So I was happy to be asked this question.

After the talk, I signed some books. Can I tell you? So. Much. Fun. I got to speak personally with just about everyone who came. I signed books for lots of kids. Some were gifts adults were buying to give to aspiring writers or budding artists. I love the idea of books as gifts, and remember what it felt like to be a young aspiring writer myself and receive an autographed book with a few encouraging words.

Author friend Julie Wu, cooling off the hot display!

Funny, how there’s an endless learning curve to this process, and I’m constantly feeling like a beginner. When I arrived at the store to start setting up, I asked where the copies of my books would be displayed. “We’re just flapping them now,” I was told. Flapping? I nodded, staring blankly. During the signing, I got it. They put the book flap to the page where you should sign, so it’s fast and easy to open. Oh. Flapping. Got it. 

Break it up, ladies!

At some point during the signing, fellow Apocalypsie A.C. Gaughen witnessed a fight over the last remaining copy. Cops were brought in to break it up soon after she snapped this picture. (OK, I’m kidding). But we really did sell all the copies! (And yes, one of the ladies pictured here, battling Gina Rosati, is eesteemed author Randy Susan Meyers! I’m so flattered Randy would threaten to throw a punch for a copy of Tokyo Heist!)

After the signing, some of us went next door to a Chinese restaurant for drinks and appetizers. Nothing glamorous, just easy. It was so nice to kick back there and celebrate with friends and family.

At the party, it was fun to notice the wide span of YA reader! Here are some actual, authentic teenagers:

 And here are my youngest and oldest readers!

YA: not just for teens!

There were even a few lobsters eager to get their claws on Tokyo Heist.

Lobsters love YA too!

After the Launch
Festivities continued at my house that night, celebrating with immediate family. We had a smorgasbord of Japanese and Russian food. (Pickles, beets, and sushi! Yum!) And we capped the evening by saying the Shehechayanu, which is a Jewish blessing recited when performing an action for the first time, or offering thanks for new and unusual experiences (we figured a book launch fit that category). It’s basically a prayer of gratitude.

Thanks so much to everyone who came to the launch or was there in spirit. And thank you to everyone who’s been following this blog and the count-down to the launch. Your support and enthusiasm for my first novel has carried me along, and is deeply appreciated.