Here, Caroline tells the unfortunate story of her television appearance from hell...
Sometimes publicity comes at you from an angle. When I wrote a piece about infidelity for a popular anthology, the editor, a friend of mine, and I were invited on a really prominent national television show. I was so thrilled! “It’ll be a fantastic opportunity to talk about your new novel,” my friend advised. Another friend, a media coach reminded me, that no matter what happened on the show, I could turn the questions in the direction I wanted by saying, “As a novelist, I feel…”
I thought I was prepared. I told everyone on the planet that I was going to be on national television, especially my mother. I spent hours changing my clothes and got to the NYC television studio hours in advance. The makeup girl swiped off all my makeup, sighing and reapplied it. The hair person frowned. “We like curly hair, but it has to be TV curly hair,” she said, and proceeded to flat iron my curls so I looked like someone’s prom date in the 1960s. It didn’t matter. I was going to be on national television and I was going to talk about my novels.
The studio is chilly, and it’s me, and three other women, and to my surprise, I’m not introduced as a novelist or even as a writer. I’m just “one of the women in the anthology.” Well, I figure people will know I’m a writer, right? My piece in the anthology is about a time in my life when my first husband cheated on me, and my best friend, his sister, had actually brokered the deal. I’m asked a few questions, but I’m never able to turn anything around to the fact that I am a writer, and then I happen to look at the monitor, and I see under my image, the legend, in big red letters: HER HUSBAND CHEATED ON HER. Nothing about my novel, nothing about my being a writer, nothing about the fact that it’s my first husband who did this and not my darling second. Not even my name! Every question I’m asked is about infidelity. Finally, during the break, my friend, who sees my discomfort, blurts out to the program host, “Did you know Caroline wrote all these novels? That she has a new one coming out? Maybe it would be good to mention it.”
The host smiles and waves her hand. “Oh, of course I know that. I’ll mention it on air after the break.” She pats my knee encouragingly.
“And did you know it was a betrayal by her first husband, not her current one?” my friend says. “The monitor just said husband.”
The host looks sympathetic. “Of course, I know that,” she says. “We’ll fix it immediately.”
The break is over, and I try to sit up straighter. The interviewer turns to me. “So, how did it feel to be cheated on?” This time I’m prepared. “Well, as a novelist—“ I start to say, when another guest interrupts me and goes off on a tangent about the psychology of infidelity. It’s at that moment that I feel everything is lost. I look up at the monitor and under my picture it now says, “BETRAYED BY HUSBAND.”
I come home. My hair is gluey with spray and I feel like I look ridiculous, my eyes are weighted down with mascara and I’m on a busy urban block. I pass a bus stop and two women suddenly turn and look at me. One of them frankly stares. “Hey, I saw you on television!” she crows and I smile weakly. Maybe they’ll remember my frantic quip about my book. “You’re the one whose husband cheated on you, right?” one woman says.
I sit down on the bench beside them. I tell them I’m an author and that I was upset about the show because it was my first husband, not my current one who cheated, and that I really wanted to promote my novels. One of the women nods sympathetically. When I tell them the name of my latest book and what it’s about, one of the women ferrets in her purse and pulls out a pen and writes the name down. “I’m going to buy it!” one of the women says. “Me, too,” says her friend.
I get up and walk home. My hair still looks stupid, but I feel a little better. You never know what kind of doors publicity can open.
Caroline Leavitt’s new novel, Pictures of You, is a Costco Pennie’s Pick and was in its third printing before publication. For an engaging interview in which Leavitt actually does get to talk about her work, see this recent piece by novelist Susan Henderson at The Nervous Breakdown. Leavitt can be reached at www.carolineleavitt.com.