Chick lit gets a bad rap sometimes as being a genre promulgating unrealistic fantasies. This is true to some extent; it’s certainly true of bad chick lit.
Good, well-written chick lit, though, is fun. It’s delightful, entertaining, escapist fun that makes you feel happy, if not the giddiness that accompanies love and romance.
Fortunately, What Goes on Tour is good chick lit. This is a fun, sweet read, although you might need to keep a tissue handy because it will provoke a tear or two.
Libby Myles is an almost-successful writer of a book series geared toward kids. She has her loyal followers, but she is by no means J.K. Rowling. At least not yet.
While on a book tour in her native Australia, she appears on a chat show. Nervous, she is convinced that one false word will cost her sales. As she sits nervously in the green room, she sees one of her fellow guests, an American rock star named Kent Downer. They barely acknowledge each other, but when the lights go out in the studio, Libby realizes that Kent is having a panic attack. She holds his hand, and soothingly strokes his arm, grounding him against a surge of anxiety.
Kent is grateful, but before he can thank her, Libby leaves. When he returns to his hotel suite, he’s greeted by his ten-year-old niece Kate, who turns out to be a big fan of Libby’s books. He agrees to take her to Libby’s signing the next day, but she hardly recognizes him. Gone is Kent Downer, rock star; in front of her stands Adrian Hart, a nice uncle.
Once Libby gets past Kent being the stage persona Adrian adopts, she finds herself enjoying getting to know him and Kate. When Adrian needs a new nanny to watch Kate during his Australian tour, he hires Kate.
Of course you can see where this is headed, but don’t let that stop you from the read. There are considerable obstacles for Libby and Adrian, and each will need to confront a family history that has caused them more harm than either cares to acknowledge.
Claire Boston’s writing style is sincere and heartfelt. Libby and Adrian are impossible to dislike, although I will say that Kate is almost too spunky to be true. Libby and Adrian, though, are interesting and engaging. I enjoyed reading about Libby’s writing and publishing process, and Adrian’s rock star scenes are fun too. It’s easy to see how he seeks refuge in Kent Downer, just as Libby does with her writing. Pretending, whether it’s as a rock star or within a fictional tale, oftentimes is preferable to reality. Especially Libby and Adrian’s realities.
The romance moves slowly and cautiously, with Kate’s presence ever controlling what Adrian and Libby decide to do and how they decide to behave. There are other considerations – neither trusts love, and neither trusts the motivations of others. As Boston unfolds it, though, the romance is sweet and gentle, and exactly what you hope Libby and Adrian will experience together.
Good chick lit makes you care about the characters, and it keeps you caring with a good story. What Goes on Tour is good chick lit.
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It is my honor to include an interview with Claire Boston. Keep reading to learn more about her, but be forewarned: this may include a few spoilers.
Q&A with Claire Boston
What research did you have to do for Adrian’s storyline? Do you have experience in the music business, or did you have to research what it would be like for him?
I did quite a bit of research for this story. Luckily the members of the Romance Writers of Australia are a varied and knowledgeable bunch. Sometimes I posted questions to the email loop and there would be a few people who would answer me. I got some of the details about the music industry from there and also detail about climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I also emailed a few people to get information. I emailed a lawyer in Texas to find out about child custody and I contacted an Australian talk show to get details about what happens back stage. In all cases, people were so helpful and it helped me build a more realistic story.
Adrian’s explanation for how he conceived of Kent was interesting, as was his need to differentiate between the two. Do you think celebrities in general compartmentalize themselves like that? What about writers? Do you have to put on your “writer face” as opposed to the real person?
I think everyone compartmentalizes themselves to some extent. The way you behave at work isn’t necessarily the way you behave at home. There are different expectations from each location. At work you’re expected to be professional, business-like and have a certain amount of grooming but at home you can sit around in board shorts and bathers and no one cares.
For me, I don’t think I have a “writer face” – it’s pretty much what you see is what you get. Although in saying that, I am a little bit more careful about what I say on Twitter, Facebook and in blogs because you never know how people might interpret the things you write. I have the same issue at work. I’m always getting in trouble with the emails I write because people read more into them than I mean.
Both Adrian and Libby came from dysfunctional families. While Adrian’s abuse was physical, Libby’s was just as harmful and deliberate. How much of that personal history of theirs factored into their success as a couple? Did you ever intend for one of them to be from a more stable family, or did you think that only by sharing such instability could they be together?
I knew from the outset that Adrian came from a dysfunctional family but I wasn’t sure how dysfunctional it was until I delved a bit deeper into the story. For Libby, I didn’t expect her to come from the emotionally neglectful family she came from and it was a bit of a surprise when I discovered that was at the root of some of Libby’s issues. In the end I think it worked because they had some idea where they were both coming from, but it wasn’t a conscious decision.
There is some social commentary in the book regarding the public’s obsession with celebrity and our willingness to believe anything salacious over the more mundane reality. Why do you think we would rather think that Adrian fired Emily because of a new love interest rather than the truth?
I never meant What Goes on Tour to be a social commentary about the public’s obsession with celebrity but I can see how it can be interpreted that way. I think the idea of Adrian firing Emily because of a new love interest is more salacious and buys into that expectation that rock stars have a different woman on their arm every week. It’s not as interesting to think Adrian might have fired Emily because of her actions because it goes against the public expectation that rock stars are promiscuous.
Quite a bit of the novel deals with appearance versus reality (the appearance of Kent versus the reality of Adrian, the appearance of Libby “masterminding” Kate’s press conference versus her horror and concern), and it’s difficult for any of the characters to see reality on their own. Each of them needs some sort of help from another character. Was this an intentional decision, or did you use it primarily as a plot device?
It wasn’t an intentional decision but I do think that sometimes it’s difficult to see all sides of an issue by yourself. I’ve noticed people have a tendency to jump to the most negative conclusion instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt and so I think it’s good to point out other options. I like my husband’s take on drivers who speed past you on the freeway, and weave in and out of traffic dangerously. He always says, “Maybe the driver is busting for the toilet.” Sometimes it’s nicer to give people the benefit of the doubt – in my experience it’s definitely less stressful.
Libby gives Kate some advice regarding writing novels. What advice would you give any prospective writers?
Make sure you write. Don’t spend your time talking about wanting to be a writer, make some time to write as often as you can and preferably on a regular basis. I get up at 5.30am to do an hour’s writing before work because that way I get my writing time when the house is quiet. Find something that works for you whether it be on the bus or train on the way to work, at 10pm when the house has gone to bed, or on your lunch break. Just make sure you write.
Then when you’ve written something, put it aside. I was told time is the best editor and it’s true. Put your novel aside and work on the next one. When you’ve finished that one, go back to the original novel and you’ll see all the things you couldn’t see when you first finished it.
Will we ever see Adrian and Libby again, perhaps as supporting characters in George’s story?
I’m not sure. I’ve had some ideas about writing George’s story and maybe Piper’s as well but there’s nothing definite yet.
Who are some of your literary influences?
As a child I was a massive Enid Blyton fan and as I grew older, Nora Roberts became my favourite author.
You share with us Libby’s moment when she realizes that she can be a full-time writer. What was that moment like for you? Libby doesn’t have anyone to share it with, which made me sad for her. With whom did you share your news?
It hasn’t happened yet! I work full time and write before work and on weekends. When I first got the news that my book was going to be published I think I may have screamed and done a happy dance before ringing my husband at work. I left a slightly garbled message on his mobile for him to call me and then decided I couldn’t wait for him to check his messages and called the ward (he’s a nurse). It was the first time I’d called the ward and I told the lady who answered to get him to call me back as soon as he could. By the time he had a chance to call he was sure something bad had happened and was relieved when he heard my news.