Thanks to personal hygiene and a little luck, I met my favorite author, Paullina Simons, last Friday.
I just happened to pass the Book Revue – a wonderful gem of a place in Huntington, NY, where every major author stops on their book tour – on my way home from my waxing appointment (see ‘The In-Between’ for details). Stuck at a traffic light, I happened to glance over to see a huge sign in the window, PAULLINA SIMONS, APRIL 11th. The light turned green and I accelerated thinking, HOLY S—! My favorite author is going to be right here in Huntington, ten minutes from my house, on April 11th! When is April 11?
Oh God. It’s today. Without thought, I dialed my childhood bestie, who also loves Paullina.
We were the first ones to arrive at the bookstore that evening and decided to sit strategically at the back, right near the desk where Paullina would be signing her latest release, Bellagrand. We bought the book and sat, chatting, excited, catching up. Gradually the seats filled, but to my surprise, there wasn’t a large crowd – no one had to stand around the room. There were just the fifty or so of us. I couldn’t understand it. How was this store not packed wall to wall with her readers? How could I be so lucky to be here, one of only a few, privileged to meet this woman?
Paullina walked in and started to speak. She was gracious, humble, funny and endearing. I enjoyed her stories about her father, how he learned to speak English in the Gulag, so he could get his family out of Russia and to America. She spoke of Bellagrand, why she wrote the story about Alexander’s parents, Gina and Harry, how she related to Gina, an immigrant from Italy, and how Bellagrand is really, at it’s heart, a love story.
I regret now that I didn’t record her speaking so I can listen to her again and explain in more detail her entertaining, enlightening anecdotes. But at the time, I didn’t want to. I wanted to enjoy the experience first hand, fully present.
Paullina had the room under her spell until she stopped and opened her forum up to questions. Most of the people there wanted to know more about The Bronze Horseman, about Tatiana and Alexander, was there a movie in the works (Answer: trying, but need money). Not me. I wanted to know about her writing and asked her if she always knew she wanted to write.
To paraphrase her answer: Yes. After the company she worked for went under, “through no fault of her own,” she found herself unemployed and since she always thought she would write, decided to do it. Tully was her first book. She was 23.
I was the first one on line- my friend, Monica, behind me- clutching my book, waiting for Paullina to make her way to the table and sit. With a warm, welcoming smile, she looked at me and asked my name. This is what I said:
I’m sure I didn’t scare her. Well, almost sure.
Paullina seemed genuinely flattered and appreciative. In fact, she thanked the group more than once for coming out on a Friday night to see her (as if we had a choice!) She signed my book, wished me luck with my own book and I was on my way.
This is me spewing my fanatical one-word answer.
On the ride home, my friend held her copy and said: It was fate. What were the chances that we just read her books, written 10 years ago? That you happened to get your Brazilian on the 11th, happened to pass the Book Revue instead of going your normal route home (which is to not pass the Book Revue) and that we both happened to be available?
Yes, I agreed. Fate.
Then Monica verbalized my thoughts (as she usually does) : I want to have a cup of coffee with her. Again, I agreed. I want to talk with Paullina, hear her stories, discuss our writing, share a laugh. Because I truly believe that if we were to have met at any other time, in any other place, she would have been a friend.