The Island Packet
Lynda Bouchard has spent her days finding directions for James Patterson. She’s taken Mary Jane Clark on a walking tour of Beaufort and made travel arrangements for Dorothea Benton Frank.
Bouchard is an author concierge. The Hilton Head Island resident provides Southern hospitality to a niche market — the published author.
If an author swings through the South on a book tour, Bouchard can be there to make sure they have a ride from the airport, a good place to eat and, in general, a smooth tour.
“I think being an author is such a great accomplishment,” she said. “This is the perfect job for me.”
Publishing companies hire Bouchard to serve as a sort of personal assistant for an author if he or she is traveling through the Southeast. She can be there all day any day for an author on a book tour. It’s a rare job — one that Bouchard created herself.
The Vermont native graduated with a bachelor’s degree in British literature and a master’s degree in broadcast communications from Boston University. But shortly after graduating, she got a job in the airline industry as a flight attendant.
The author concierge idea came about more than a decade ago when she was on a flight with Danielle Steele, who was on a book tour. The famed novelist was seeking advice on the cities she was hitting. Bouchard thought that she could use a tour guide — someone who knew the ins and outs of the cities. Then she realized that she was that person. Her job as a flight attendant took her all over the country. She knew plenty of cities, especially those in the Southeast.
She started pitching her services to publishing companies. And, somewhat surprisingly, they showed interest. One of her first clients was James Patterson, author of “Kiss the Girls” and other popular thrillers. Bouchard remembers printing out reams of MapQuest directions for the novelist in the days before GPS.
She was an author concierge on her off days from flying. But after 9/11, she said, the airline industry changed. Tension filled the flights. Pay cuts and furloughs hit hard.
“It wasn’t fun anymore,” she said.
She quit her job as a flight attendant after 20 years and focused on her concierge business. But then her husband, Yates Davis, fell ill with a liver disease. They moved to Hilton Head in 2006, and she dedicated her life to taking care of him. He needed a liver replacement, but he didn’t get it in time. He died last year. She now does volunteer work for Donate Life, an nonprofit organization that encourages organ donation.
She also decided to jump-start her concierge business again, picking up more tours in addition to working as a personal assistant on the island. She now has associates across the Southeast, mostly former flight attendant friends, who help out.
Spring and fall are the busy season. She guided four authors in March and recently got off a South Carolina tour with native and New York Times best-selling author Dorothea Benton Frank.
Her Booking Authors Inc. also serves as a consulting business, giving guidance to publishers about places to hold signings and appropriate media outlets for stories or advertising. But the job can also be about the little things, such as finding a good cup of coffee or making a run to the drug store for a new pair of stockings. Sometimes the best part of a job is just a few minutes spent talking with the authors. In that time, they say the right words that give her comfort in knowing she’s made the right decision with her business.
“So many times they’ve told me their stories about when they started writing,” she said. “They were in a similar spot to what I was in. They were at a crossroads and they decided to take a different direction.”