During my first phone meeting with my publisher, Taryn asked what my hopes were for the book. “To have it published!” I laughed. She laughed too, and explained she was trying to gauge my expectations. “The publishing house doesn’t typically have a large budget for author tours,” she said. “We can’t, for instance, fly you all across the country.”
I was parked in my old blue truck outside of work and slowly turning blue in the quickly-cooling cab (it was November and -20 degrees, but the conversation was very long and idling the engine felt environmentally irresponsible).
“That’s perfect,” I said. “It’s actually a relief. I have kids and a job and I love my home. The idea of a book tour just feels like it would be added pressure.”
She asked again what my hopes were, then. Best seller lists, big reviews, awards?
“Those things would be amazing,” I said, “But they’d just be extra. What I want is to see my book on a shelf. Everything after that is just bonus.”
A few mornings ago, a “mine-copy” was taken from the author collection of Always Brave, Sometimes Kind and added to a household shelf. I was thinking about that first conversation as I placed the book right there in the sun. How little did we know the ways in which the world would change, and how glad I am to have hinged happiness on a goal I had the power to fulfill.
In September 2020, because of the amount of spring 2020 books that were postponed due to the shut down, more books will launch around ABSK’s birthday than in any other time in history. I find this hilarious – finally my book is coming into the world… but with every other book at the same time!
Tidbits of knowledge like this are micro lessons in letting go: I have no power over how many new releases the book will compete with, or if anyone notices or reads it, if it makes any lists and competes for awards, and never mind a book tour – not even a launch party makes sense!
What I could do, I have done: I wrote a book and improved it and championed it until it became real.
I put it on a shelf.
Set in the cities and rural reaches of Alberta, Katie Bickell’s debut novel is told in a series of stories that span the years from 1990 to 2016, through cycles of boom and bust in the oil fields, government budget cuts and workers rights policies, the rising opioid crisis, and the intersecting lives of people whose communities sometimes stretch farther than they know.
We meet a teenage runaway who goes into labour at West Edmonton Mall, a doctor managing hospital overflow in a time of healthcare cutbacks, a broke dad making extra pay through a phone sex line, a young musician who dreams of fame beyond the reserve, and a dedicated hockey mom grappling with sense of self when she’s no longer needed―or welcome―at the rink.
Always Brave, Sometimes Kind captures a network of friends, caregivers, in-laws, and near misses, with each character’s life coming into greater focus as we learn more about the people around them. Tracing alliances and betrayals from different perspectives over decades, Bickell writes an ode to home and community that is both warm and gritty, well-defined and utterly complicated.
Are you part of a book club? Please consider reading Always Brave, Sometimes Kind. The author is available for virtual readings and Q&A, and has a whole page devoted to ABSK Book Club Freebies on this website!