“1 concert. 2000 miles. 3 ex-best friends” reads the tag line for Reunited, the first novel by screenwriter, TV producer, and filmmaker Hilary Weisman Graham, published last month by Simon & Schuster. In the book, three teenage girls who are former best friends embark on a road trip to attend a reunion concert of a band named Level3. In real life, Graham teamed up with S&S and Curious City, a children’s book marketing firm based in Portland, Maine, to send the fictional band on a promotional tour – sort of.
As fate would have it, Level3 won’t be able to make any of the concerts on the tour, which kicked off at the Portland Public Library on July 13 and will make stops at a dozen libraries between New England and Texas in the coming weeks. The ersatz band has concocted a series of excuses – among them being stranded in Europe due to visa issues – for their gig no-shows. (All librarians who are hosting events are in on the joke.) Instead, those attending the concerts will be entertained by ukulele-playing indie rocker Dilly Dilly, Level3’s purported opening act.
But even before the band’s so-called tour, Graham went quite the distance to bring Level3 to life beyond the page. Using prize money from her Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ 2011 Launch Award, she assembled musicians to record two songs – alleged hits of the fictional band –and created a Web site featuring a music video, photos of the teen band members, and a pop-up documentary about them. The author also gave the band a Twitter, Facebook, and ReverbNation presence.
“I produced the songs and enlisted my musician pals to help me record them,” Graham explains. “And then I drew from my filmmaking background and cast three adorable teenagers – who I scouted out at a performance of our local high school’s musical – to do a photo shoot and music video, and created their back story. The deeper I got into it, the more fun it was to bring this band to life.”
Graham then brainstormed with Kirsten Cappy, owner of Curious City, and cooked up the faux tour scheme with Dilly Dilly as headliner. “I had seen her perform and she is completely charming,” says Cappy of the Portland-based musician. “I’d seen parents bring their tween and teen girls to watch her, and they were entirely captivated. I knew she’d be a perfect match for this book promotion.”
Curious City has also created a text message service for Level3, through which readers can get free MP3s and book chapters, and have a chance to win a $50 Ticketmaster gift card. Librarians and booksellers can share this opportunity with young readers by downloading posters and flyers online.
Instrumental in helping schedule the tour’s library events was Michael Whitaker, a librarian at Portland Public Library, who also hosted the launch event. “This fictional band with a real-live opening act is both a hilarious and a devious way to bring in new readers,” says Whitaker, who notes that his previous career booking tours for performing artists came in handy as he worked on this tour.
Graham hopes that bringing Level3 to life online, and on their subsequent “tour,” will enhance her fans’ reading experience. “What inspired all of this madness was the thought that we live in a world where people, and young adults in particular, have come to expect their entertainment to with ‘bonus content,’ like the idea of DVD ‘extras,’ ” she says. “So the concept of creating Reunited’s fictional band seemed like the perfect way to supplement the reading experience and to allow readers to remain in the book’s fictional world a bit longer.”
Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 June ISBN 978-1-4424-3984-9