I’ll be on Oprah for my new book.
A few things have happened to me twice in a lifetime (being a bride, being a newborn mother, being financially okay one night and penniless the next moring).
This one, I have to say, is unique.
The tape is taped. My teen daughters and I went to Los Angeles last June and had a ball horsing around in the fancy hotel and the studio.
I looked good in purple. Oprah Winfrey changed from her yellow sweater to a wine color so that we wouldn’t clash. My makeup was done by someone not just with skill, but with powers that verged on sorcery. I wanted to have my face decoupaged, so all I’d have to do each day would be to use the spray attachment in the kitchen sink to hose it off.
Granted, “being on Oprah with my book” is not the way that “being on Oprah with my book” used to be. The first time this happened to me (which also was the first time it happened to anybody) was a golden ticket. If your book was featured on the The Oprah Winfrey Show on NBC, particularly if it was in the form of one of the book club books (and my first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, started all that) your book would become a major bestseller.
Oprah may indeed still have the clout that can bring the beef industry to its knees (remember the hamburgers?). But her book club’s heyday is over, and nothing and no one has that kind of clout anymore. It’s a diffuse world. The equivalent of what it once meant to be on NBC is now going viral on youtube and then writing a book about how you did that … and even that isn’t a guarantee. The world is diffuse, and everyone today really is famous for fifteen minutes, but only fifteen minutes – really maybe only eight minutes.
I was of two minds about telling my riches-to-rags-and-my-new-book story on a show called Where Are They Now on the OWN cable network (the show will be broadcast on OWN March 19).
I wasn’t sure about the question, where is she now? Presumably, that’s like the how much does it cost question. If you have to ask … you don’t want to know, or you really do want to know, for not very good reasons.
My mother-in-law thought I would be perceived as the literary equivalent of David Cassidy. She scared me into thinking that people would believe I’d done something seamy, like get hooked on cocaine, as if I could ever afford that, or gotten religion, as if I could afford that.
But as it turned out, Ms. Winfrey wanted to do stories about people who’d made a big splash on her show, for good or ill, and mine was good. When The Deep End of the Ocean was the first book in the storied (as it were) Oprah Winfrey Book Club, that was a really good day that led to a really good decade. However, the half of a decade that followed, when all my money was stolen by a miscreant investment advisor my husband somehow trusted, was … not so hot.
At the end of that time, however, I finished a book called Two if By Sea that is just the best thing I’ve written in a long, long, long time. I want everybody who likes to read big adventures that break your heart to read this book, and I’m not ashamed to say so. So I had to ignore my mother-in-law’s advice, as I have, I must confess, on a couple of other occasions, such as when she told me not to ask my husband direct questions but instead to just observe him closely to try to interpret what he was thinking. I tried it once, but he said, “Why are you staring at me like that?”
As for Oprah and me, it’s the right time. It’s also probably the last time, for Oprah and me. Shortly after this taping, she stopped personally doing the interviews for the Where Are They Now? show. She’s a good interviewer, and, although I talked about some painful things, I also had fun. I knew that, in some way, she wished me well. I knew she wished my book well. And I do, too.
But what happens to that book, well, that’s up to you.