Cara Sue Achterberg: The Glamorous Life of a Famous Author

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“You’re famous!” my friend commented on Facebook after seeing me on a regional TV news program.

That week I was a guest on an abc affiliate news show as the author spotlight – a popular reoccurring 2-3 minute feature. Months ago, I watched a few other authors – some were excellent, some awkward, but it was reassuring. I thought, I can handle this.

The morning of my appearance, I sprang out of my bed, nerves already tingling. I took the dogs for a 3-mile hike, trying to steady my racing heart. I didn’t mention my appearance to my kids as they swirled around preparing for school, negotiating car rights, and searching for the sweatshirt that somehow walked away all on its own.

Once they departed, I argued with my hair and lost, changed my clothes five or six (or maybe twelve) times before settling on black sweater, black pants and purple scarf – hoping it would make me look professional and trim and in control, none of which I felt that morning.

I arrived at the station and checked in. Then I waited with the other guests making nervous non-conversation about nothing. We were given a tour of the studio, which reminded me of my teen’s bedrooms – messy, cluttered, with odd messages tacked to the wall that made no sense to me. Then we were left in the green room to wait for the host to brief us.

The other guests on the show seemed like grownups. There was a lawyer, plus his handler – a marketing specialist hired by his firm to prep him and support him. I wished I had my own handler like him who kept saying, “You got this, man, no worries.” Another guest was an elegant older gentleman who had the I’ve-seen-it-all attitude of a veteran of regional television guest appearances.

They shared ‘guy talk’ – business, stock market, mutual friends, while I tried to focus on my ‘lines.’ Prior to our appearance, all the guests had to write out the questions the host should ask and the answers we would give. This should have made it less stressful – knowing what she would ask and what I would answer – but in reality, it made it more stressful for me. What if she asked one of my questions and I couldn’t remember my answer? I looked over my lines and wished I’d thought of better questions. Where did this book come from? Duh. My life. My heart. Instead, I’d written a lengthy explanation of why I wrote the book. Now, it sounded pathetic.

Finally, it was my turn. The very cool, Gen-X producer escorted me to the stage and I watched the tail end of the cooking segment before another person handed me a microphone and had me snake the cord up through my sweater. The director reminded me to look at Amy, the host, and not any of the cameras. I noted that she had a teleprompter at every camera with the questions I’d written. (My answers were not included.)

Moments later, Amy whisked in. She smiled at me, “Doesn’t it look great?” she asked nodding toward the screen behind us that was now filed with the gorgeous blue water of my book’s cover. It did, but I couldn’t say anything, my nerves had locked my vocal chords so I only nodded. We sat in silence as Josh, the producer, called, “30 seconds.” I tried to think of small talk to engage her in, but snatches of my answers reeled through my head and I had a momentary panic in which I couldn’t even remember the names of my three main characters. Just before Josh called, “5,4,3,2, and go,” I thought, I am never doing this again.

The interview went by in a blur as I tried to still my nervous hands and not to speak at my normal cheetah-pace. Amy introduced the book and said, “So, tell us what the book is about.”
That wasn’t one of my questions!

What was I supposed to say? She’d just summed up the book in her introduction, “Girls’ Weekend is about three moms who go away for a weekend and don’t return.”

I panicked and then I reached up and touched my nose – for no reason, and I found myself thinking, not what the book was about, but – why did I just touch my nose? Finally, survival instincts kicked in and I recited one of my answers – not caring if it really answered her question, only focused on surviving the moment and NOT touching my nose again.

Amy asked me two or three more questions and I fumbled through the answers without touching my nose and then she asked, “So how can we find your book?” to which I said something about my website instead of saying – “Anywhere books are sold” which was the line I had written. In the end, it’s probably a moot point because anyone watching this particular episode was unlikely to go out in search of the book written by the nose touching, nonsense spewing author all in black.

So, yeah, being an author is incredibly glamourous. And now I’m famous, too, sort of.

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On June 30, 2016
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