By far the book signing in Cincinnati is my favorite because my whole family and husband came out to support me. This tour has flown by so fast though. Columbus went well. Now I'm onto Cleveland with fourteen cities left. Had I not gone on tour with my husband, my book signing tour would have probably been absolute hell. Thank God I had Michael to show me the ropes when it came to touring. Although touring with him was tiresome and too much at times, it prepared me for my own tour life. Imagine being someone who didn't get to tour before having a tour of their own... I would have probably been exhausted from everything by now.
Remi and I sat in the manager's office at Books and Trinkets to prepare for the book signing. She couldn't wait to get out of Columbus and was more than excited to get to Cleveland. I'm not sure what she sees in Cleveland that I don't, but I've never liked it and to be frank, I can't wait to leave.
"Shayla, there are twice as many people out there than normal," Remi bit her lip in nervousness. "You must have a pretty big following in Cleveland."
"You know what's crazy? I've never even liked Cleveland, so it's ironic that its people like my work."
"You're telling me... I've worked with a lot of authors before and not to gas you up, but I've never seen this many people show up to a book signing."
"Is it really that many?"
"You'll see," Remi pressed her lips together which only made me nervous. She made it seem like a bad thing that so many people were here. But in the same breath, I'm excited. Who would have thought that here in Cleveland, of all places, I'd have a large following?
"Mrs. Shayla-Elizabeth," the manager knocked on the door before she opened it. "Everyone is waiting for you. I've got to say, I've never seen this many people in here before. If we reach capacity, I just might have to change some things. Keep that in mind, okay?"
"Thank you. I'll be down in two minutes, Kathy." I told her as she left. "Since so many people are here, we're gonna keep the Q&A short. I'll shorten the part where I talk about the book itself, that way we'll have more time for the actual book signing. I want them to actually have more time with me. So in order to accommodate everyone, we'll shorten everything else so they can have more one on one time with me."
"Sounds like a good idea to me," Remi nodded. "Ready?"
I took a deep breath, "yep." I opened the door and made my way to the waiting audience. As soon as I opened the door, a series of gasps erupted from the crowd. A mass amount of photos were taken, reminiscent of the evenings I spent with Michael on the red carpets. I've never gotten a welcome like this before. Why now? Remi was hot on my heels as I walked over to my table. She was probably in an effort to protect me from all the photos being taken. Once I got to my table I waved and sat down. The cameras did not cease. I looked at Remi.
Remi cleared her throat, "ladies and gentlemen if you could please set aside your cameras for the next thirty minutes. Shayla-Elizabeth is more than ready to speak to you as I'm sure you all have been waiting a while for her to arrive." I sat at the table looking out at the crowd as nervous as ever. I don't even know why I'm so nervous this time around. The room was filled with people! We expected thirty people at the most, but there was standing room only at this point. Well, I knew it was going to get to this point. May as well embrace it.
"Hi everyone," I waved. "As many of you know, I'm Shayla-Elizabeth, the author of 'The Beauty Within the Madness' and many others. I don't know if y'all heard or not, but I'm nervous up here," I laughed. The entire room erupted in laughter with me. "This is my thirteenth city and I felt like the nervousness was beginning to go away, but when Remi told me the room was filled with people, I just got nervous all over again, so bear with me." I picked up a copy of my book, "Many of you are probably here for this book and I'm sure some of you are here for the other books I've written. I'm open to answering questions about both when the time comes. But as I've done many times before, I'll tell you all a little bit about myself. Let me tell you, I'm glad to be in my home state. Ohio born and reared," I smiled as everyone cheered. "More specifically Cincinnati. I just finished up a book signing there, and I thought that one was my favorite? This one is a close second so far... I live in California now and it wasn't until I was forced to quit my job as a teacher that I realized my gift as a writer..." I gave them the same spiel I had given everyone else. It was like every time I told this story, I told something new to my fans that I didn't realize was something so near and dear to me. Although the spiel was repetitive in nature, I did my best to add a personalized touch to it. Connecting my life to certain characters in my books or even by asking my audience members questions. However, this spiel would be quicker than the rest. "So, now that I've told you all about me. Do you all have any questions? I'm going to keep this portion short so that we can get on with the actual book signing, but ask away," I opened the floor to my audience. As soon as I said that, the entire room raised their hands to ask questions. Something I was certainly unprepared for. This would be harder than any other city. "Um, the gentleman in the purple," I pointed out a man with a purple shirt and a fedora.
He stood up and showed me a copy of 'Pop Life,' "Hi, Shayla-Elizabeth. My name is Gary and I just want to say I'm a big fan of your work. It's funny because you said you didn't expect a ton of people to be here, I honestly didn't either. I thought it'd be easier to get to you today, but apparently not. Anyway, I wanted to know, Prince has a song of the same name as one of your books. Was this in any way inspired by that song?"
I smiled, "I've waited for someone to ask me this question, so thank you for asking, Gary. So, Prince and I are great friends actually. I'm a fan of his work and he's a fan of mine. One day, he gave me a title of one of his songs and I asked him what he wanted me to do with it, to which he simply told me to write a story. And... I did," I shrugged. "Prince loved it. In fact, he was insistent on owning the second copy released. I had to go through a couple of people, but I got him that second copy. Here's a secret," I picked up a copy and flipped to the third page in the book. "For the dedication, I have it dedicated to 'Alexander Nevermind' which is actually Prince. It was supposed to be a secret. The whole conception of the novel was supposed to be a secret actually, but since you asked, now everyone in this room knows this book was all Prince's idea and it's dedicated to him. If you ever go to a concert, try to have him sign the book and tell him Shayla sent you," I winked at him. Gary was in awe as he sat down, clutching the book close to his chest. He was dressed the part too. Even if he hadn't asked the question, I would have certainly asked if he was a fan of Prince. "Next question?"
A woman stood up with a copy of 'The Beauty Within the Madness,' "Hi, Shayla. My name is Cassidy. I just have a really quick question. Is Ava black or white?"
That's a joke, right? "She's black..." I nodded slowly.
"I actually identify with Ava and in my mind, I pictured her as a black woman, although I wanted so badly to see her as a white woman like myself. Do you ever see yourself writing about white characters?"
I cleared my throat, "could you ask a white author if they see themselves writing about black characters?" I asked her.
"Well..." Cassidy thought to herself. "No. I don't think I could ask a white author that actually."
"If you don't mind me asking, was there any reason you felt comfortable enough to ask me that?"
"Because I'm a fan of your work," she retorted as though she was offended by my question.
"Well, I appreciate the fact that you feel comfortable to ask me anything, but as a black woman, I don't see myself writing about white people simply because I'm not white, Cassidy. I don't know the white experience. I don't know how white people think. And to be honest, I'm not interested in writing about white characters just as much as I'm sure white authors aren't interested in writing about black characters."
"Don't you think that's a tad bit racist to say?"
"Don't you think you asking me to write about white characters was a racist question?" Cassidy slowly sat down. Her face a bright red of embarrassment. I'm unsure as to why she felt the need to ask me that question. The question was racist in itself and she didn't see that. To her, it made sense to ask that question for God knows what. Racist superiority complex, I guess. This is why I don't like Cleveland. Next question.
"I have a question," someone immediately stood up.
"Hi! What's your name?" I asked her.
"Are you married to Michael Jackson?" She stared at me. My eyes grew wide. I was stuck. I opened my mouth to speak. "I've never read any of your books, but I've seen you on red carpets with Michael. He talked about you on Oprah, so I decided to investigate and in the back of each of your books, you have that you live in California with your husband and a host of pets. Your last name is Jackson, so are you married to Michael Jackson?" Everyone stared at me waiting for me to answer the question. It's not something I can deny. The proof is written in every novel of mine. You just have to pay attention and connect the dots.
"Um," I cleared my throat. "There are certain parts of my private life that I'd personally like to keep to myself."
"Shayla-Elizabeth," another woman stood up. "We've seen it. You flaunt it. If Michael Jackson is not your husband, how does your husband feel about Michael Jackson calling you his soulmate?"
A gentleman stood up, "I'm not even going to lie, that's the only reason I'm here. I just want to hear you talk about your life with Michael Jackson." Murmurs came from the audience in agreement. Oh. So that's why everyone is here. See, there was always a reason I didn't like Cleveland, but this just topped them all. None of these people are here for my work. They're just here to hear me talk about being married to Michael. And because of that and the fact that Michael wants us to announce our marriage together, I'm not going to answer. I motioned for Remi to come over so I could tell her I'm not answering their prodding questions.
Remi cleared her throat, "if anyone has any more questions about Shayla's books, she'll be more than happy to answer them. She will not be taking questions about her personal life, so if that's your intent on coming here, I've been alerted that we've reached capacity and that we need to clear the room anyway."
"You're married to Michael Jackson! You have it printed in your books. I don't know why you just won't answer the damn question!" Someone shouted before leaving. I've gone to thirteen cities without needing security. Now would be a good time to get Roland to join me on tour because from here on out, I don't know if the people who attend my book signings are genuine or not. Michael has always had some crazy fans. We haven't even announced our marriage yet and I'm already getting heckled for having a relationship with him. Yeah, I'm not coming back to Cleveland. I knew this was too good to be true.
Authors Note: The "Cassidy" question was inspired by a small portion in this Toni Morrison interview that starts at 1:48. Enjoy if you're interested in watching this classy clap back ☺️