The Debutante Ball Welcomes Ellen Sussman!

Author Ellen SussmanWe’re so happy that Ellen Sussman is joining us today to talk about her new novel, French Lessons!

Ellen Sussman is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel, French Lessons, published by Ballantine in 2011. Her first novel, On a Night Like This, was a San Francisco Chronicle Best-Seller. It has been translated into six languages. She is also the editor of two anthologies, Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia Of Sex and Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave, which was a New York Times Editors Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle Best-Seller.

Why I Love the Book Tour

I just finished a two week book tour for the release of my novel, French Lessons, and I’m here to report:

I survived.
I experienced the best and the worst of bookstore appearances.
I loved it.

I’ve heard the grumblings from my writer friends. Book tours are hell. No one shows up. The hotels are crummy. The media escorts, if you’re lucky enough to get one, are annoying. And the publisher is never happy, no matter what.

Wrong. At least for me. I loved almost every minute of my book tour. I’m a social animal and I love a crowd. There’s also no better topic for me to talk about than writing, especially the writing of my latest novel. Well, that’s a recipe for a good evening’s entertainment! My favorite part of a reading is the audience questions – and I always got great questions – about my writing process, about publishing, about Paris. The folks who show up for author events are smart people – I had a blast chatting with them.

But here’s the trump card. I love booksellers. We need booksellers. Booksellers are a dying breed. At every store on my tour, the bookstore manager or owner or at least one of the booksellers sat down and listened to me talk about French Lessons. They asked questions and shared in on the conversation. And later, they told me they would hand-sell my novel to everyone who walked in the store. Call that a love affair in the making.

We write novels in isolation. When the book comes out into the world we often don’t get a good sense of that part of the process. And that’s the most important part. We write to communicate – to tell our story to readers. And the book tour is the beginning of reaping our rewards. Readers show up – to say they read the book or they’re half-way through. They tell me what they loved and what they hated. (the sex scenes! Everyone seems to love or hate the sex scenes.) They ask for my email address so they can email me when they’ve finished the book. Nothing could make me happier.

I got lucky on my book tour. I stayed in great hotels (except for a dump in Dayton), I met fabulous media escorts who kept the hours in between readings filled with good conversation, and I had a few events with huge crowds. But I also got unlucky – I was in the mid-west for that record-breaking heat wave, I had one reading where 3 people turned up, and I kept failing to recognize people from my childhood who showed up unexpectedly. But when I’m done balancing the good and the bad there’s no question: I loved my book tour.


French Lessons, by Ellen SussmanAnd we love you for sharing it with us, Ellen! Welcome home, and congratulations!

If you’d like to learn more about Ellen, you can visit with her on her website, Facebook, or Twitter!

About French Lessons:

A single day in Paris changes the lives of three Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning about language, love and loss, as their lives intersect in surprising ways.

Josie, Riley, and Jeremy have come to the City of Light for different reasons: Josie, a young high school teacher, arrives in hopes of healing a broken heart. Riley, a spirited but lonely ex-pat housewife, struggles to feel connected to her husband and her new country. And Jeremy, the reserved husband of a renowned actress, is accompanying his wife on a film shoot, yet he feels distant from her world.

As they meet with their tutors—Josie with Nico, a sensitive poet, Riley with Phillippe, a shameless flirt, and Jeremy with the consummately beautiful Chantal—each succumbs to unexpected passion and unpredictable adventures. Yet as they traverse the grand boulevards and intimate, winding streets, they uncover surprising secrets about one another—and come to understand long-buried truths about themselves.

How do you feel about book tours – as an author or a reader? Tell us and say hello to Ellen in the comments below!

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7 thoughts on “The Debutante Ball Welcomes Ellen Sussman!

  1. Hi Ellen! French Lessons sounds awesome! The idea of a book tour terrifies me, but I love your take on it and your positive outlook is definitely heartening. I’m an introvert naturally, so I don’t relish crowds, but who doesn’t love talking about their own work?

    Thanks for the insight into your tour.

  2. Ellen, FRENCH LESSONS sounds fantastic! Hubs and I spent some time in Paris (in the Dark Ages, BC — Before Children) and loved it. Sounds like your book will be a great way to revisit it.

    I love when authors come to my local bookstores. The chance to meet them face to face is always exciting. Not sure how I’ll feel if it’s ever me on a book tour — probably mildly terrified. But I bet it would be fun.

  3. Book tours are exhausting for the author, but I love them as a reader! I’m fortunate enough to live near Tattered Cover, which hosts great readings all the time, though I often miss them due to my own obligation. Nonetheless, I have a monthly goal of going to at least 2, and sometimes I get to go to even more!

    You know, I read Bad Girls because of Caroline Leavitt’s piece, not even knowing that you had edited it, until French Lessons came out! Congrats on all your success and thank you for visiting!

  4. Ellen–what a wonderful round-up of your experience. As Eleanor said, book tours are such fun for the reader but potentially tiring for the writer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on yours–and for reminding those of us who may have them down the road that getting to connect with readers and booksellers is such a gift! FRENCH LESSONS sounds truly delicious. Until I get to Paris in the flesh, I’ll look forward to a vicarious visit!

  5. I have loved every event in terms of the people who attended – and the Indie stores were the BEST. Vroman’s was amazing. The Learned Owl in Hudson Ohio is like home to me. The only real negative was in a LARGE CHAIN that is now closing – the manager never bothered to show up – the staff had me at a cafe sized table perched like a show dog in the middle of the store, when we had requested an area to have a presentation. They put us in the CAFE where people who pissed off that we were talking near them. When I kept asking for the manager it was, “He’s on his dinner break.” Had we wanted to (WE DID NOT) we could have walked out of the store with every book and no one would have known. It was the pits. The attendees were fabulous though.

  6. As a reader, I love the author visits. Learning about their road to publication, their methods, where the story came from. All of it adds to the experience of the book. It enriches the story for me and I love “meeting” the voice behind the words. As an aspiring novelist, it is a huge source of inspiration. Thank you!

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