Between January 27 and February 6, YA author Gayle Forman will crisscross the country promoting her new novel, I Was Here, on a tour with a rather unorthodox bent. Foreman, supported by Penguin Young Readers Group, will put a new spin on the notion of a group tour when she meets up with various kindred spirits – some fellow authors, some old friends – at various stops on her itinerary, which begins in New York City and wraps up in Phoenix, and includes events in Richmond, Va., Chapel Hill, N.C., Nashville, Seattle, Beaverton, Ore., and Pasadena in between.
Due from Viking on January 27 with a 250,000-copy first printing, I Was Here is Forman’s first standalone novel since companion titles If I Stay and Where She Went, and Just One Day and its sequels, Just One Year and Just One Night. Her new novel, which was inspired by a real-life tragedy, centers on a teen who embarks on a quest to get to the bottom of her best friend’s suicide, with nothing to go on but an e-mailed suicide note that includes no explanation for her desperate action.
Forman’s decision to invite writer friends to join her on her tour sprung from her belief – based on her past book promotion events – that there is, if not safety, at least entertainment in numbers. “Experience has shown me that standing by oneself reading from one’s book isn’t especially compelling – unless you’re David Sedaris,” observed Forman. “I’ve found that the most engaging and satisfying author events I’ve done are with other people, where the conversation is spontaneous. I think that is by far the better way to introduce and promote a book.”
The other factor driving the format of Forman’s multiple-guest tour for I Was Here is the novel’s sobering premise and ultimately comforting message about friendship. “The novel opens with a suicide note, and I didn’t want my tour appearances to be somber events based on that,” she explained. “The story is really about friendship, and I wanted to have the tour reflect that. What better way to do that than to appear with friends? I think the best author events involve open, honest exchanges – and that’s what I’m hoping for with this tour.”
The tour’s agenda and guest roster came together organically, resulting from a combination of who would be – or could be – where, when. For example, at the tour’s January 27th launch event at Barnes & Noble’s Tribeca location in Manhattan, authors Libba Bray and E. Lockhart, whom Forman says are “among my closest friends,” will join her in a discussion moderated by Maria Russo. “I’ve wanted to do something with them for a long time, but this is the first time we were able to make that happen,” Forman said. The following day, she will appear with another YA author, Maggie Stiefvater, at the Richmond Public Library at an event coordinated by Fountain Bookstore. This is another friend with whom Forman has long wanted to team up for a book event, and her visit to Stiefvater’s home turf finally made it possible.
Forman’s final tour stop, on February 6, will be Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix, where she’ll by joined by local author Christa Desir, whom she met last year at an author event, and T.M. Goeglein. “Christa and I bonded immediately and have stayed in touch by e-mail, and this is a chance to finally do an event together,” she said. Authors lined up to join Forman in other cities are Sarah Dessen, Ruta Sepetys, David Arnold, Courtney Stevens, Nina LaCour, Deb Caletti, Blake Nelson, and Margaret Stohl.
Forman also tapped into her past to recruit some tour participants she labeled “civilians.” In Los Angeles, she’ll be joined by Deanna Kizis, a close childhood friend who is now a screenwriter in that city. Another longtime friend who is a writer and musician will “hop on” in her Portland hometown, and Forman suggested that she “might even drag my sister out in Seattle, since she was my first best friend.”
“Since these are all people I really connect with, I think the tour events will be authentic and spontaneous – and maybe even a bit chaotic,” Forman predicted. “One thing I’m sure of, quite selfishly: I know I’m going to have fun!”