Driving Miss Crazy

First-time novelist seeks full-time chauffeur for 24-city, 25-day book tour

James Macgowan
The Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Have a lot of free time? Need to get away? Love to drive? Always wanted to hang out with a real-life author? Now’s your chance. You may not have heard of Amanda Stern — hey buddy, she’s never heard of you either — but if you have a car, she definitely wants to hear from you.

Why? Simple. Stern, 33, has written her first novel, appropriately titled, The Long Haul, and wants to sell, sell, sell it. So she’s doing the book-tour thing. We’re not talking air miles here, we’re talking road miles, which brings about a not insignificant problem: She can’t drive. She’s learning, but she’s not there yet, though she would like you to know the driving will be shared.

“I may make them do the night driving,” she says, via e-mail, the only way she would agree to be interviewed. “I haven’t gotten that far yet in my driving lessons. ”

To be considered you must fill out the “tour companion questionnaire” at amandastern. com. She’s received about 30 responses. “They are pretty serious, but I have to say, that the more serious the responses, the more hesitant I am. The questions reflect my humour, and if someone doesn’t get it, I don’t really want to subject myself to them for a month, nor do I want to subject them to me for a month. That said, there are a handful of people whose answers made me laugh out loud and they are the most ‘serious’ contenders.”

The penetrating questions include, “Are you a ‘hummer?’ Do you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Do you have friends? Foot odour? Do you have a trust fund? Can I have some?”

As for expenses, Stern, who lives in Greenwich Village — and once spent a year traveling with Cirque du Soleil — says most will be paid by her publisher. Sort of. Actually, she’s going to get creative with expenses.

“Soft Skull (her publisher) is providing me with an unlimited Shell Gas Card and I was just told by an industrious friend that gas is not the only thing one can purchase with a Shell Gas Card. But don’t tell Soft Skull I told you.

I know people in a lot of the cities I’m travelling to, so they’re putting me and my tour companion up. The cities where I don’t know people, my publisher will try to hook me up and failing that, I will need to make friends fast. ”

The month long trip will begin in November and take in 24 cities in 25 days, from Madison, Wisconsin on Day One to San Diego on Day 12 to Richmond, Virginia on Day 25, with many, many points in between. It seems like a punishing schedule, though Stern points out it is VERY tentative.

Still, isn’t it rather odd to spend a full month with a stranger? “It’s no odder them one of those hemped up reality shows, but it’s a little creepy, yes,” she agrees. “I have pretty strong intuition, and because I know that tone is often lost in an application, I will be meeting with prospective applicants to avoid choosing a lemon, or the next Ted Bundy. I did, afterall, spend one year with clowns and acrobats, so I’m up for the challenge. ”

Question is: Is anyone else?