When The Earth Moved came out, I traveled with a little plastic container holding a few live worms in dirt. When Flower Confidential came out, I picked up fresh cut flowers and took them into bookstores and TV studios. And for Wicked Plants, I carried around a box of poison seeds and sometimes picked up an actual wicked plant or two for show-and-tell. You need props on a book tour. You especially need them for TV shows.
And believe it or not, props are great on the radio, too. I brought live worms into Diane Rehm's studio, and she was so charming about the whole thing. "Oh, look!" she said. "Amy Tan travels with her little dogs, and you have your little worms!"
Yes. Well. I'm not bringing live wicked bugs on this tour, that's for sure. These bugs are wicked for a reason–they actually can kill you. Or inflict pain and suffering upon you. Or get you arrested.
But I did manage to round up some dead bugs, thanks to the very nice people at Evolution in Manhattan, who introduced me to their entomologist, Lawrence Forcella at God of Insects. We got on the phone and went through Wicked Bugs, page by page, to see what specimens he could provide. Bed bugs? No problem. Black widow? You want it dried on a pin or preserved in a vial? Body lice? Got it. Cockroach? You want German, American, or both? Let's do both.
So here's what I've got: Two little framed shadowboxes, cushioned to protect against the hazards of modern air travel, along with a few specimens in lucite. The larger box contains bugs that harm humans, and the smaller one holds bugs that harm plants:
Cool, huh? And if you think those are too gross, maybe you can tolerate them in plush form. I have bed bugs, fleas, mosquitoes, and microbes like the plague, all as stuffed animals, from Giant Microbes.
Cute! Those will be fun to toss out to the audience. Now all I have to do is find room in my suitcase for clothes!