A little over a month ago, my new book came out. I was so thankful my publisher organized a tour for me because my favorite part of being an author is meeting readers. In this post, I want to share with you a research trip I took while writing the book, but first I'll share some pics from the tour that were a result of finally...finally!...finishing WHAT LIGHT.
The first stop on my tour began as perfectly as I'd hoped. I had a great school visit, and then gave a talk at a local bookstore where I saw my book's floor display for the first time. So beautiful!
After spending a full day speaking and meeting people, signing books, and taking selfies, there can be a lonely adjustment period. So even if it's late, I often grab a dinner and read before going up to my room. This time, I noticed John Cho sitting at a nearby table, but I didn't want to interrupt his dinner. And then Kal Penn joined him, and I...well...come on! So I told them I just started a book tour and would love to get a photo if it wasn't an inconvenience. But those two were so cool, and said they were huge readers, they invited me to join them for dinner. How cool is that!?
(It's very cool.)
Throughout the tour, the school visits were incredible. I'm so grateful that I continue to get asked to speak about the serious issues in THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, and I love discussing how much fun I had writing THE FUTURE OF US, but it's been so nice to also talk about the uplifitng aspects of my new book. And schools used its setting to create some very festive art for my visits!
Schools also used the concepts of forgiveness and reaching out to others for projects, like writing encouraging thoughts...
...and words of kindness on thematic art hung throughout the library.
Bookstores got into the theme, as well. Many offered hot cocoa (with the WHAT LIGHT hot cocoa packets my publisher provided), to be stirred with candycanes like Sierra does in the book.
All of that was wonderful and made me feel great. But it was still all about the students!
So about that research trip...
The idea for WHAT LIGHT came from a newspaper article about a family that lives seventeen hours to the north of me, but for one month a year, they turn this local lot...
...into this Christmas tree paradise!
The idea of having two homes during the year, one on a small lot selling trees while living in a trailer, and the other living in a house on hundreds of acres of farmland, intrigued me. So I headed seventeen hours to the north!
I visited the Hopper Bros. farm and received a tour by the owner, Dennis (who makes a cameo in my book as the owner of the other tree lot in town). Before I went on my research trip, I read a few books on growing and selling Christmas trees so I could ask specific questions instead of merely getting a feel for the basics.
Something that makes me feel like a professional author is when I don't write interesting details I've learned that won't add to the feel or progress of the story. But I learned so much! And while I didn't use the majority of what I learned, the mere confidence I gained to write about people who live this life most definitely made it into the book.
I visited two other Christmas tree farms while in the Pacific Northwest, and sometimes things that I saw inspired scenes.
I also visited a Christmas tree farm tradeshow going on that weekend. My namebadge didn't list a farm or company. It said: author. And you don't walk around a tradeshow telling people you're writing about their business unless you do it. So I did!
It just took me more years than I expected.