Author tours and drinking go together. Nowhere is this more true than in the southern states, where anyone who has toured to New Orleans, Savannah, or Louisville can rightfully expect their evening to end with a glass of bourbon. Author Daren Wang, who is also the long-serving executive director at Georgia’s Decatur Book Festival, is anticipating, nee planning, as much as he tours this summer to support the August 29 publication of his debut novel from Thomas Dunne Books, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires,
“I have more than fifty tour stops organized and at each, I’m going to meet up with a local celebrity author and we’re going to go out for the best bourbon cocktail in town.” For example. Wang will meet with Charles Frazier after reading at Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville, N.C., Robert Hicks after reading at Parnassus Books in Nashville, and Haven Kimmel after reading at Regulator Books in Durham, N.C.
“The reason I’m doing cocktails instead of a straight bourbon pour is because you can’t localize a neat bourbon. A cocktail tells you a lot more about the character of the place.”
The inspiration, Wang told PW, was twofold. First, the Decatur Book Festival has a tradition of creating and naming a cocktail after a recently departed southern author (this year’s will be named for poet Thomas Lux). Second, one of Wang’s heroes is writer Jim Atkinson who in 1987 published The View from Nowhere, a guide to the best “bar bars” in the United States. “The book has 77 rules of the ‘bar bar’ all of which self-contradict.” Wang will be documenting his quest for The Bitter Southerner website, but demurs when asked if he’s thinking of turning the tour into a book of its own.
“For me, my career — from working at the book festival to the 20 years I spent working in public radio — has always been about interacting with readers and writers,” says Wang. “Adding a little bourbon to it makes it all the more fun. And let’s face it, you couldn’t do a book tour of the south drinking scotch.”