Launching a Book During Coronavirus
Launching a book during coronavirus is a challenge for even the best known and most loved authors. So if you haven’t heard of Andrea Bartz or read one of her books (yet!), I’m not surprised. But if you don’t know her work, you’re in for a treat. What better time than now during a quarantine to start a new book and discover a new author?
By all accounts, Andrea Bartz is a writer you want to read. A Brooklyn-based journalist, Bartz is the author of the new thriller THE HERD. Her debut novel, THE LOST NIGHT, is being developed for TV by Mila Kunis. That novel was named a best book of the year by Real Simple, Glamour, Marie Claire, Library Journal, Crime Reads, and Popsugar. Andrea Bartz’s articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and many other outlets, and she’s held editorial positions at Glamour, Psychology Today, and Self.
She’s in the midst of launching her new novel. A book launch is not an easy task in the best of times (ask me how I know). An especially tough task when the world is obsessed with all things COVID-19, especially quarantines, lockdowns, and stress relief in times of trouble. So we invited Andrea Bartz (virtually) into the studio (a figure of speech in this case) to pick her brilliant brain about launching her book and her new thriller, THE HERD. You can’t go see her read at Barnes and Noble (yet!) but you certainly can read on…
JM: So, we gotta start with the elephant in the room before we talk about your book. Where do you live and what’s the coronavirus situation like for you right now?
AB: I’m holed up in my studio apartment in Brooklyn, trying to avoid the 8.6 million other residents of NYC. I’m safe and healthy and spending a lot of time with my cat, but the anxiety and isolation definitely aren’t great for productivity!
JM: Another coronavirus question: What’s it like launching a book during the coronavirus epidemic, in the midst of a nationwide obsession with infection?
AB: Not great! It’s not the launch I was imagining—I love having events and connecting with friends and readers face to face, so to have that taken away was a blow. Of course, I knew this was far from the worst COVID-related issue out there, but it really was tough. My therapist helped remind me that acknowledging that sadness and frustration and anxiety over my book’s sales performance in this shaky new world would actually help me cope with it; you can’t deal with an emotion without letting yourself feel it and showing yourself some compassion. I’ve been trying to check in with myself and if I need to call a friend or breathe for a minute or even have a quick cry, I do that and then get back to business.
There’s no comparison to the real life events, but I’ve been working with influencers, bookstores, podcasts, and Facebook groups to set up virtual events that are live-streamed (and, ideally recorded so people can watch them later). For the most part, we chat about the book the way I’d be in conversation with someone in an in-person bookstore event. What’s nice is that folks from all over the world can tune in—there’s definitely something to be said for modern technology!
JM: So now that I got those questions about launching a book during coronavirus out of the way, where did you get the idea to write this book?
AB: I love trying to capture the complex dynamics of a close-knit, closed-door social milieu—that’s why I set THE LOST NIGHT behind the graffiti-splattered doors of Calhoun Lofts, a hipster playground in deep-recession Brooklyn. I wanted to set my second book inside an equally fascinating, exclusive world. While I’m not a member of any all-female coworking spaces, I’ve visited many as a guest, and I’ve read the articles debating their merit as “flashpoint[s] for debates over feminism, money, and power,” as one article dubbed them. I thought it would be fun to set a thriller full of secrets, lies, and hidden agendas in such an airy, beautiful, positive setting. In a flash, I saw THE HERD’s logo with the H-E-R in purple, and I was off and running.
JM: How long did it take you to write THE HERD?
AB: I sold the idea based on the premise and a few sample chapters in late September 2018 and turned in a first draft January 15, 2019. (Yes, less than four months later.) I worked on a few rounds of revisions with my editor and submitted my final version in June 2019. It was quite the sprint!
JM: Wow, that’s an impressive turn-around time. You must have been working like mad. What’s your writing process like? Do you have a certain number of words to complete or hours that you force yourself to write per day?
AB: When I’m in drafting mode, I have a target word-count goal for the day—but I’m flexible, and I care more about hitting targets by the end of the week. To get words on the page, I use the Pomodoro method: I set a timer and do 20 minutes of uninterrupted work, followed by a 5-minute break. Repeat as necessary!
JM: When you were little did you think to yourself that you wanted to be a novelist? Or when did you have that realization?
AB: I loved books as a little kid, so of course I wanted to be an author—I typed up stories on a typewriter and added my own illustrations, that kind of thing. In college, though, I discovered magazine journalism and grew laser-focused on a new industry. I did have a career as a magazine editor, and I loved it, but magazines I worked at kept folding. I was tired of having work I loved yanked out from under me, so I decided to start working on my first manuscript (which eventually become The Lost Night, my debut)—I figured it was one thing nobody could take away from me.
JM: So if we can get readers to think about something else besides Covid-19, and despite launching a book during coronavirus, what are you hoping readers take away from THE HERD?
AB: I hope it makes readers think about the double standards surrounding how women are “supposed” to behave—we’re constantly walking a tightrope between seeming competent but not bossy, ambitious but not work-obsessed, agreeable but not weak, authoritative but not intimidating, pretty but not superficial, and so on. And likable—always likable! Those contradictions set us up for failure and take up so much of our energy and mental space. With THE HERD, I wanted to drill down into the ramifications of living in a society that works hard to keep one gender down—and explore how far women will go in the name of self-preservation and getting ahead. That said, at the end of the day, I hope it’s just a super entertaining, escapist page-turner!
AB: Just write! You don’t need to know how it ends. There’s this pervasive myth that you need to outline your book before you start writing, but many authors—like myself—figure out the plot by writing it. Let it be bad and know that you can go back and fix it later. You can’t edit a blank page!
JM: Thanks so much for being here (um, you know what I mean).
AB: Thanks for having me.
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