Montclair Magazine Holiday 2020 - Page 20

the writing life

When Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Christina Baker Kline shares her best-selling fiction during challenging times WRITTEN BY JULIA MARTIN AND CINDY SCHWEICH HANDLER

For most authors , 2020

has proved to be alousy time to come out with a new book . Libraries and bookstores are closed , people are distracted , and book tours are impossible . But Christina Baker Kline , the longtime Montclair resident who moved to New York City two years ago , is not like most authors .
The Exiles , her novel about the British female convicts sent to an Australian prison in the mid-1800s , and an Aboriginal girl taken from her home asacuriosity for the colonial governor ’ s wife , was an instant New York Times , USA Today and Publishers Weekly best-seller . Itis being adapted for aTVseries by producer Bruna Papandrea with Kline as executive producer .
That Kline has beaten the pandemic odds is hardly surprising : The author of Orphan Train , APiece of the World , and five other novels has publisher HarperCollins and asolid fan base behind her . Orphan Train and APiece of the World were also best-sellers that have been optioned for movies .
But The Exiles might not have made the best-seller lists , Kline says , without her virtual book tour — a series of online appearances done in conjunction with libraries , book clubs , writers ’ conferences and other groups . Many of the events to promote her book paired her with other high-profile authors .
STAYING CONNECTED Best-selling author Christina Baker Kline has mastered the art of connecting with readers virtually during the pandemic .
“ My model for how Iwanted to run this tour was a ( virtual ) event the Montclair Literary Festival held with ( food writers ) Bill Buford and Ruth Reichel ,” she says . “ It was so entertaining . One was in California and one was inNew York , and they each had aglass of red wine . They seemed to be having an incredibly enjoyable time .” The official launch for The Exiles , hosted by the Center for Fiction in Brooklyn , put Kline in conversation with Amor Towles , best-selling author of A Gentleman in Moscow , and attracted 500 viewers .
In September , her “ Barnes and Noble in conversation with John Grisham ” event attracted 25,000 watchers nationwide . Other virtual events this fall featured such chart-topping authors as Kristin Hannah , Ann Patchett and Erik Larsen .
Even with so many literary heavyhitters on her Zoom calendar , Kline isn ’ tone to rest on her laurels . She preps for the talks by reading each author ’ s most recent book . Interviews she has given about The Exiles to the Chicago Review of Books , the Fiction Writers Review , and Entertainment