Thursday, June 30, 2011

On the road with James Rollins

Novelist James Rollins in devil horns [insert joke of your choice here].

I spent last weekend on book tour.  Obviously, I wasn't on tour.  No, I was on the road with Jimbo.  (For those that haven't been following along, "Jimbo" is novelist James Rollins.  We've been close friends for more than a decade.  And, no, most people don't call him Jimbo.)  As I type, Jim's been on the road for about a week and a half, and he's only at the midpoint of this tour promoting his new novel, The Devil Colony.  (Hence the photo above.)  For him, this is work--and as glamorous as the *idea* of touring may seem, the reality is grueling.  For instance, the other day he did a book launch event in California, took the red-eye to New York, spent 12 hours on the ground, and flew back to Portland, Oregon without ever sleeping.

It was lucky for the two of us that he had multiple events scheduled for the Bay Area, and that the signings happened to fall over the weekend.  Generally speaking, I have trouble luring him to the big city, and I'm pretty sure the two nights he spent in San Francisco was the longest he's stayed in town in the decade that I've lived here.  We're both busy people, and we don't get to spend as much time together as we once did.  So, a chore for him, but a pleasure for me.  It was truly lovely having so much quality time together!

We kicked off the weekend doing what we do best: eat.  Man, do we like to eat!  We were reminiscing, and realized that more than a few of our all-time best meals have been enjoyed together.  But we were both tired after our long work weeks, so on Friday night, we shared a very nice meal in the excellent hotel restaurant.  Afterwards we sat by the fireplace in the lobby and kibitzed until we were both about to fall asleep.  We said goodnight, and agreed that we wouldn't meet again before noon the next day.  And actually, it was after 1:00pm before we reconnected.

Which brings us to our next favorite activity: shopping.  Or, more like window shopping, 'cause I don't recall us buying anything.  But there's always the potential.  Being poor in San Francisco, I don't pay that much attention to the many gorgeous shops and plentiful offerings all around me.  But when I'm with Jim, I see it all through different eyes.  Several years ago, we were browsing in an art galley and we saw the most fabulous painting.  I call it the "Angry Bunny," and it's rare that I see Jimbo and don't inquire after it.  I think it was love at first sight for both of us.  It wasn't an expensive piece by anyone's standards, but even so there's something exciting about that firm, unquestioning, "Yes, I'll take it."  Even I could have afforded the Angry Bunny, but I wouldn't have bought it.  I'm glad he took it, and I'm glad I get to visit it in his office.

We actually didn't have that much time to goof around before we had to get over to Borderlands Books in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood.  We wanted to leave plenty of time to cab over, because it was Pride Weekend in San Francisco, and as you can imagine, it's a pretty major event.  Borderlands is an independent bookstore that specializes in new and used science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  Regular readers of this blog will realize that I'm not a big consumer of those genres.  Therefore, it's telling that I consider this my favorite bookstore in San Francisco.  It's a very special place.  When I was still new to San Francisco, I walked in one day and announced, "I hate science fiction."  Rather than show me to the door, the staff has spent the past 10 years learning what I do like, and where my interests intersect with theirs.  If manager Jude Feldman tells me that I'll like a book, I buy it on the spot.  These people are real professionals as well as good friends, and this store exemplifies why I value independent booksellers in my community.

Jimbo feels much as I do about this store.  He's not the perfect match for their readership, but they like him and he likes them, and it all works.  They also host lovely events, and a respectable crowd had come out to see Jimbo on an exceptionally lovely Saturday afternoon.  As it happens, the audience even included another best-selling author, Scott Sigler, a friend of Jim's and very much a part of the Borderlands circle. 

Below I'm posting, in it's entirety, Jimbo's appearance at Borderlands on Saturday, June 25, 2011.  If you wanted to catch him on tour, but he didn't swing through Podunk, well, this is the James Rollins experience.  Here's the thing...  I recorded some or all of Jim's talk at three different book shops that weekend.  I thought about trying to cut together a "best of" version with snippets of all three.  For instance, he does "the Chuck story" best at Borderlands, but did a much better job talking about the plot elements of The Devil Colony at M is for Mystery the next day.  But overall, there's a shocking (and slightly disturbing) sameness to all of these signing events.  He tells the same stories.  He gets asked the same questions--and he answers them in the exact same way.  Mostly.  Obviously, each event is unique.

So, I decided that I would start by posting the Borderlands footage first.  If you're going to see him in Boston next week, maybe you don't want to watch this.  Wait and see him live.  But, if you won't have a chance to see him on tour, enjoy this.  He's a lot of fun!  And if there's interest, perhaps I'll post some more of the footage from the other events later to compare and contrast.  You can even critique his performance, LOL.  (Let me know in the comments if you want to see more.)  For now, here's how things opened, along with some info on his professional background, and the infamous Chuck story.  Poor Chuck...

In this second section, he discusses the worst question you can ask an author. Scott Sigler gets it on the first guess. Jimbo then discusses some of the science and history behind The Devil Colony.

In part 3, he wraps up the history and begins the Q & A. This leads to a discussion of the travel he does for research.

More Q & A regarding his work habits, writing style, his favorite among his novels, and film options.

More questions about The Skeleton Key, thoughts on ebooks, the "Rollins" brand, his other alter-egos, book covers, and titles. Plus, he announces an upcoming charitable campaign for the first time!

In this final Q & A segment, Jim discusses the schedule of forthcoming books, the editorial process, mistakes in the novels--including the most embarrassing mistake he ever published. Bonus discussion of his terrible handwriting.

So, this has gotten very long.  I hope you enjoyed seeing Jim on tour.  Do let me know in the comments if you want to hear more about our weekend and/or see more footage of his book tour events.

One more thing...  If you've read this far, you are a serious James Rollins fan.  The question is, have you discovered Boyd Morrison yet?  Boyd is a friend of Jim's, and both Jim and I are fans of his work.  Boyd writes the sort of page-turning science and adventure thrillers that should appeal to any Rollins fan.  His latest novel, The Vault, goes on sale this Tuesday, July 5th, but I'm giving away a copy on the blog right HERE.  I definitely encourage all Rollins fans to enter this giveaway.  And even if you don't win, you might want to give Boyd a try.  You'll thank me.  :-)


  1. Thanks for the videos Susan, I'm yet debating whether to attend Jim's signing in NYC. Its a 7 hour trip and hopefully will be able to make it. But its really good to see Jim is in top form (as usual).


  2. Mihir,

    Were your ears burning? We were totally talking about you. You would have blushed, we had such nice things to say. I didn't know that you'd relocated until Jimbo told me. We were wondering if you might show for the NYC signing, but I didn't realize it was a 7-hour drive. (Really? How is that possible? I thought NY was like 4 hours from end to end.) That's a long way to travel, but let me know if you'll be there. I'd LOVE to finally meet you face to face!

  3. Catherine DiGennaroJuly 10, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Got here from Jim's tweet today. Thanks for posting the videos, enjoyed watching them as he is not coming to our area so I get to enjoy from my house :-)
    Also will check out the author you suggested at the end of the post.

  4. Hi, Susan,

    Since you haven't posted in over a week, I hope you are doing OK and your family is doing well. I'll keep everyone in my thoughts.

    Take care,


  5. Susan, that was great! I also found your blog from Jim's tweets. Thanks for posting those vids. I, for one, would be interested in more tidbits from your weekend. Thanks too, for the info about Boyd Morrison. Hopefully my local library will have some of his work.

  6. Susan, The Devil Colony finally made it to the top of my TBR pile. I'm done and wrote my review of it. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.