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sâmbătă, 27 aprilie 2013

Blog Tour: Guest post by Brian Sweany

I am to happy to introduce you to Brian Sweany, the author of the new book "Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer". He has a great story to share with you all. Read here my review. Enjoy!
The Day I Got to Hang Out with Alice Walker
Writing is not my day job. Since 1999, I’ve worked for audiobook publisher Recorded Books, first as a library sales rep, and starting in 2000 as Director of Acquisitions, a position I continue to hold today. When books are sold, agents or publishers parse out various rights: hardcover rights, paperback rights, foreign rights, movie rights, serial rights, and audio rights. That last one is where I come in. I review probably fifteen to twenty manuscripts a week, decide whether they’re audio-friendly, then make an offer on the audio rights or decline accordingly. In essence, I get paid to read books. I’m not saving the world any time soon, but short of being a full-time writer, it’s as close to the perfect job as I will ever have.  Along the way, I’ve met some interesting characters.

The first author I remember meeting face-to-face was Jonathan Franzen. He was in the Recorded Books studios in New York to do an author interview, and he was so intelligent and earnest I thought each word that came out of his mouth made me that much smarter for having heard it. I had a champagne toast with Alice Sebold and her husband Glen David Gold to celebrate her yet-to-be-published debut novel THE LOVELY BONES. I got stuck on an escalator at a Los Angeles book convention behind Tom Sizemore and Heidi Fleiss and watched as Tom proceeded to lick the side of Heidi’s face. I had breakfast with Richard Dreyfuss, who proceeded to recount the time he and Billy Zane discovered a Colorado museum dedicated to bison that also happened to own an authentic Shakespeare folio. I met Gene Simmons from KISS, and he autographed a lunch box for me. But my high water mark had to be the day I got to hang out with Alice Walker.

When I was promoted into the acquisitions department at Recorded Books, I made my own personal “honey do” list of classic evergreen titles I couldn’t find in audio. One of these titles was Alice Walker’s seminal classic, THE COLOR PURPLE. I called her agent, the late Wendy Weil, who I would come to regard as one of my most cherished mentors in all of publishing. Wendy was straight with me about the audio rights. She told me plenty of interested parties had come knocking on her door over the years, that Alice Walker very much wanted to see THE COLOR PURPLE produced in audio, but that it was under the condition that only Alice get to narrate the book, and that presently Alice simply didn’t have the time to do so, and that I was to check back later. 

I called Wendy once a month asking for the rights…for nine years.

Long story short, in 2009 Recorded Books consummated a deal for the audio rights to THE COLOR PURPLE, with Alice Walker as our narrator. In recognition of that production, we invited Ms. Walker to be our special guest at a librarian dinner for the March 2010 PLA Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Now, these events aren’t unusual for Recorded Books. Previous author events at the big national shows—PLA, ALA and BEA—had included the award-winning memoirist Alexandra Fuller, beloved mystery writer Alexander McCall Smith and blockbuster best-selling author Jodi Picoult. Normally, all the logistics—the car to and from the airport, the hotel, the meals, etc.—would be handled by one of my assistants, or perhaps the library sales director, or even a local rep familiar with the area. But not this time. When Alice Walker got off that plane at Portland International Airport, I was the one who was going to meet her, and nobody else. 

I had this preconceived image of Alice Walker as a sort of Nubian queen based largely on just the photos of her circulating on the Internet. She was usually at a podium, no doubt saying something profound, her hair in dreads, sometimes wearing reading glasses, with a knowing smile. As she approached me in the airport, she didn’t disappoint. Her dreads were gone, replaced by a short salt-and-pepper swirl of tight curls, but those high golden cheek bones and piercing eyes were still unmistakable. I introduced myself. She leaned in and shook my hand. Her greeting was courteous and cautious, what I expected from an intellectual.

I picked Alice up at the airport a little before noon on Saturday, but our event wasn’t scheduled until 7 PM that night. In between those times, Alice and I spent roughly four hours sightseeing in Portland before I dropped her off at her hotel. We had lunch, a couple sandwiches I don’t even remember eating because I was so smitten. We talked about a lot of things, things out of respect to Ms. Walker I prefer to keep between us. I’ll say only that she’s as beautiful, as wise and as intense as you think she is. I know I struck Alice as a bit of an oddity. There I was, this clean-cut white boy from Indiana, who called himself a social progressive, a liberal, and at least as much as he could claim to be, a feminist. Truthfully, she asked most of the questions, as if I was a figment of her imagination. 

The time finally came for the event. Our library director was emcee for the night. He took the stage, saying a few words to a crowd of roughly 200 librarians, then he ceded the floor to Alice. She told the story she had probably told a thousand times about how she came to be a writer and an activist. We hung on her every word: mesmerized, entranced, whatever you want to call it. There are just people who are that impressive, who transcend the moment. Several times that day, I found myself trying to slow things down and step outside myself, just so I could take a mental snapshot. Alice progressed into the story of THE COLOR PURPLE itself: the book, the movie, and then the Broadway musical. She talked about the time Quincy Jones and Steven Spielberg showed up at her house “in a limousine longer than my driveway.”  She talked about Oprah. Alice weaved one anecdote into another. None of us wanted the night to end, but it looked like it was going to. “After the Broadway show,” Alice said, “I thought the story of THE COLOR PURPLE was over.” 

And that’s when it happened.  That’s when Alice Walker looked down from the stage at this clean-cut white boy from Indiana and said, “But then there was Brian.” 

She told the story about me calling her agent every month for nine years. She talked about the audio production and about how she fought through some laryngitis. She even talked a little bit about our day in Portland. She ended her story by giving me a personal standing ovation. After Alice finished and graciously posed with librarians for a few pictures, a handful insisted that they get their pictures taken with both Alice and me. It was humbling. It was surreal. It was whatever superlative you could possibly imagine.

I’d like to say there was a poignant goodbye, but life can’t be that poetic all the time. Alice was on an early flight out the next morning and wanted to get to bed early. I still had some glad-handing to do with librarians, not to mention at least an hour of power drinking in the hopes of somehow bringing me down off my euphoric high. Alice said goodnight to me just outside the banquet hall before going to her room. She leaned in, kissed me on the cheek, and we hugged. Her goodbye was sweet and tender, what I expected from a friend.

I had come into that weekend in Portland fairly depressed. A closet writer, I had a manuscript that had been on submission to publishing houses for three years. I had got a few nibbles and been to a couple ed board meetings, but the rejections were starting to pile up, and I was teetering on hopelessness. Alice Walker changed all that.Maybe I’d get published someday, but maybe I wouldn’t. So what? All Ineeded to do was be a better person, to appreciate everyone and everything around me—to“walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and notice it”—and the rest would take care of itself.

About Brian Sweany: 
Since 2000, Brian Sweany has been the Director of Acquisitions for Recorded Books, the world’s largest publisher of unabridged audiobooks. Prior to that he edited cookbooks and computer manuals and claims to have saved a major pharmaceutical company from being crippled by the Y2K bug. Brian has a BS in English from Eastern Michigan University, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1995. He's a retired semi-professional student, with stopovers at Wabash College—the all-male school that reputedly fired Ezra Pound from its faculty for having sex with a prostitute, Marian University—the former all-female school founded by Franciscan nuns that, if you don't count Brian's expulsion, has fired no one of consequence and is relatively prostitute-free, and Indiana University via a high school honors course he has no recollection of ever attending.

Brian has spent most of his life in the Midwest and now lives near Indianapolis with his wife, three children, and a neurotic Husky/Border mix named Hank. He’s currently working on his next project, Making Out with Blowfish, which is the sequel to Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer and the second book in a planned trilogy.
For future details, check out the author’s website at : www.briansweany.com

Blog Tour: Review: Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer by Brian Sweany

Synopsis (Goodreads):
Hank Fitzpatrick’s life is what you might expect from a man-child stumbling his way through and beyond adolescence in the late 1980s in small town Indiana: hypersexual, drunk, stoned, prone to fits of spontaneous masturbation, occasionally Catholic, and accidentally well-intentioned. His life is in perpetual conflict as he confuses sex for love, heartache for passion, desperation for honesty, and abuse for affection.
Caught in the crossfire of raging hormones, bad decisions and family tragedy, Hank is just a boy not yet ready to be a man. And like many boys growing up, Hank is desperate to impress his father. The impossibly perfect patriarch of the family, John Fitzpatrick decides at age forty-two he wants to have a vasectomy reversal. Is Hank ready to be a brother again at age seventeen? What about his mother’s narcotics and gimlet-soaked uterus? A child will come of this, but not without consequences.
Laura is Hank’s first true love. From their stolen nights together as high-school sweethearts to their final encounter as twentysomething adults, they never figure out how to stop hurting one another. Beth, the girl who loves Hank unconditionally, can only wait for so long before longing turns to regret. But everything will be okay as long as Hank’s best friend Hatch is there to help him exorcise his demons with a half-gallon of bourbon and a bottle of cough syrup.
Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer is more than just a tribute to the last uninhibited pre-9/11, pre-Facebook generation. It’s a comedy. It’s a tragedy. It’s a love story. It’s a subversive yet empathetic, warts-and-all portrait rooted in real-life that kids will read behind their parents’ backs. And if somewhere along the way we can all share in the redemptive power of a belly dancer’s love…well, that’s okay, too.

My rate: 

I liked it very much!

My review:

I wasn’t expecting much to happen when I started this book. After reading the description I thought it wasn’t my type, but I give it a try and I don’t regret it. Hank Fitzpatrick is a troubled kid who had a tough childhood, so he manages to get through that by throwing a tantrum at everybody. Since he was five he has been molested by his godfather Mitch, (who happened to be his father's best friend), but he doesn't let anyone know. At first I was annoyed with Hank, because he was so out of place, so rude with his parents and he was acting like a wild teenager. So not my crowd... but he grew on me bit by bit.   

I was excited to learn more about late 80's, the period when my parents were also young and restless, so I could imagine them better. I'm sure they weren't as rebel as Hank, because they had to support themselves and go to school, but I want to believe they had fun and enjoyed their youth at the same time.
Brian Sweany did a good job in the way he created the story, he understood very well his main character and we, as readers, were able connect with him after we found out his background and the reason of his behaving. My mood changed many times, I was sad and terrified of what was happening, I was angry, or full of hope. From my perspective “Exotic Music of the Belly Dancer” has it all: action, drama and romance.  

I was happy to see Hank becoming a man, a grown-up who is capable of taking care of himself and able to decide what he really want from his life. He is now ready to take responsibility of his past actions and to handle them well. It is true he has done a lot of mistakes, but it was the only way he could evolve into a great person like his father John. His death was an important factor for him to become stronger, we can call it a necessary evil, but I was hurt when it happened. Then I saw that I made a connection with these characters, more than I was expecting. 

I cherished Laura and Hank's relationship, the kind we all had into our lives at some time, the one that brought us happiness, as well as hard times, but in the end my favorite was Beth, the girl who was always there when Hank needed someone close. And what can I say about Hatch - he is the perfect best friend we all wish to have. 

All in all, I really liked this book, it was a gulp of fresh air for me and a model of how the reality we all try to escape from can make a good story. 
I gave it only 4 butterflies out of 5, because I got lost a few times in the details of the sports, since I'm not familiar with USA's teams.            


I press my cheek against his. He’s still warm. I wrap my right arm around his head and run my fingers through his hair. I raise my left hand to his lips. “Hey Hank,” Dad said to me before I went back to school on Sunday night, “you think you’ll ever be too old to get a hug and kiss from your Dad?” I don’t even remember what I said. Did I let him hug me? Did I let him kiss me? Did I tell him I loved him? Why wasn’t I at least there on the other side of the phone to say, “Yes, Dad, I’d love to go to the Stanford game with you!”

“Where they taking Dad?”

“That’s his rocket ship to heaven.”

“Can we go?”

“Maybe someday.”

Jack smiles. “Cool!”

Some love can be idiotic, bumbling even, and still endure. But Laura and I lost the right to be stupid years ago. The saddest of human journeys is taken by shattered hearts dusting off old love. There is no eternal innocence for me and Laura to cling to. John Keats can take his Grecian urn and shove it straight up his ass. Truth is not beauty. Truth comes at the expense of beauty.

“You and the Tomster?”

“Be nice. Tom’s a good guy.”

“Once you get past the comb-over and the black spandex shorts you mean?”

“I said be nice.”

“Oh, I’ll admit Tom’s growing on me.”

“He is?”

“Like a fungus.”

Note: I received an ARC copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, as part of the blog tour.

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