A strange dichotomy happens in the life of every writer. There is this chunk of time (maybe six months, maybe six years) where we sit alone, in a room taking Nothing and turning it into Something. There are stretches of time within this season where proper nutrition and good hygiene are sacrificed for the sake of Story. Though I am loathe to admit it now, there was a point while writing FLIGHT OF DREAMS where I was on the “bathe every other day” schedule. But here’s where it often gets surreal: books are finished, edited, and then published. The writer then enters into a new season where we have to put on grown-up clothes, and leave the house to discuss our novels. We go from private individual to public individual in the time it takes to get through the security checkpoint at an airport. Depending on a writer’s personality type, this can either be the really fun part or the really painful part. I’m an extrovert so this is fun for me. I love meeting readers. I love visiting bookstores. I love to travel (though having to do it without my husband always make a little sad). I am fortunate in that I love both parts of my job.
But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized the real point of book tour: human connection. Yes, I know it’s also about publicity and marketing and making sure readers know the book exists. All of that is true. And good. But at the end of the day we’re all humans. We crave connection and Story and a sense of belonging to something–even if that something is simply a community of readers gathered at a bookstore on a Tuesday night to drink wine and discuss a moment in history.
But in the rush of travel I often forget this. It’s easy to focus on whether my carry-on will fill in the overhead bin and whether I’ve memorized all of my talking points for the signing that night. So when I walked into Page and Palette in Fairhope, Alabama my mind was on making sure I did a good job. I certainly didn’t see the older, white-haired gentleman standing at the front of the store, clutching a copy of FLIGHT OF DREAMS to his chest.
No sooner had I walked in the door however, than Stephanie (bookseller extraordinaire) called me over to meet Karl. He is 92 years old. He still speaks with a heavy German accent. He knows all about the Hindenburg, of course. BECAUSE HE’S ACTUALLY BEEN ON IT. As it turns out, Karl’s father took him to see the great airship in 1937, when he was 13 years old. They toured it just a few months before it exploded over Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Life is funny. For me. For Karl. For all of us. My new friend and his lovely wife immigrated to the United States fifty-six years ago. They retired and moved to Fairhope, Alabama thirty years ago. And two days before my signing at Page and Palette they wandered into the bookstore and saw FLIGHT OF DREAMS. Karl bought a copy simply because it was about the Hindenburg. It was a point of connection for him, a happy memory. And then they came to my signing to tell me their story. At the end of the my presentation I handed the microphone to Karl and we all asked him questions about the Hindenburg. Afterward he sat beside me and signed copies of the book.
I tell Karl’s story whenever I speak about the book now. Because the truth is he has become part of my story. Human connection. It’s the most meaningful part of this job.
You can buy a signed copy of FLIGHT OF DREAMS from Page and Palette here. I think Karl would approve.
From a dazzling new voice in historical fiction, FLIGHT OF DREAMS is an utterly suspenseful, heart-wrenching novel that vividly brings the fateful voyage of the Hindenburg to life.
On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.
FLIGHT OF DREAMS is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.
Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, FLIGHT OF DREAMS is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.
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