There is more to being a writer than just writing a good book. Getting people to read your books is a job unto itself, and can be a full time one at that. But it doesn’t have to seem like work – it’s often a good excuse to talk about the craft, something most writers get a kick out of anyway. There are as many different ways to write as there are writers, and it’s often fun to compare notes.
I met Robin Spano last year at the Word on the Street festival, and she’s the reason I found out about this little get together, which was held inside the new Woodward building by Hastings, above the W2 Media Cafe.
I do mean little. Aside from the authors, there were only about 10 people there. But, you know, that’s not a bad thing. It made the afternoon intimate and the discussions candid. My only complaint was the background noise, ventilation or refrigerator or something, which made it difficult to hear at times. For most writers, this is where it happens, where you connect and get people interested in what you do, one venue at a time.
The speakers today were (from left to right) Robin Spano, Hilary Davidson, Ian Hamilton, and Deryn Collier.
Hilary Davidson started off by reading from The Next One To Fall, a mystery whose heroine is a travel writer. Being a travel writer herself, this falls into the ‘write what you know’ school of writing. When she visited Machu Pichu with her husband her first reaction to the view was, “This would be an amazing place to kill someone.”
To which her husband replied, “I don’t want to travel with you anymore.”
Watching these authors talk made me realize what problems can be faced during a public reading. Volume is of course vital, but a certain pacing and presence is also required. Hilary had excellent voice projection, but unfortunately Ian Hamilton has a soft educated voice, more suited for NPR radio than competing against whatever machines were running in the building. He read briefly from three of his books: Water Rat of Wanchai, Disciple of Las Vegas, and Wild Beasts of Wuhan. As opposed to murder mysteries, these feature a debt collector who specializes in huge (and therefore nearly impossible to collect) debts.
I also discovered later to my chagrin that we use the same blog template for our websites. Though our pages look different, they’re instantly recognizable as being cut from the same cloth. Ian stands out not only for being the ‘old fart’ of the group, but because he got his first book published at the age of 63, and now at 66 has a total of four released, with five and six on the way. Proof it’s never too late to start writing.
Robin Spano spoke next, reading the first chapter of Death Plays Poker. Out of the four she has the most enthusiasm and energy, and reads the most like I do when I’m reading stories to Gillian – dynamic and inflective, like she’s auditioning or reading to a classroom. The casual observer would think she’s an extrovert, but that’s not the case. She’s an introvert who can relish in the extrovert role when called upon.
The last reader was Deryn Collier, the self-proclaimed newbie of the group, who read from her first novel, Confined Space. This one follows an ex-military man turned coroner in a small mountain town, and a murder at a local brewery. Deryn had a good clear speaking voice, and after the reading she became the de-facto moderator of the group during the Q&A, asking follow up questions to those posed by the audience.
Tomorrow I’ll go into the topics discussed at that session.