Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Real World

Is there life after book?

Last weekend as president of Sisters in Crime Northern California, I was responsible for coordinating our booth at the Bay Area Book festival. Thank goodness I turned in my latest book on Tuesday, giving me three days to see to little details like picking up a new banner, having flyers copied, arranging for posters to hang in the booth, learning how sales would be handled, etc.

Photo: Writers participating in the Bay Area Book Festival

It was a big effort, but participating fully in the festival reminded me that there is life outside of writing. I loved hanging out with my fellow writers who came to sell and sign books and to help with running the show. I loved talking to the people who stopped by the booth to ask questions. I had plenty of questions of my own: Do you like mysteries? If so, what kind? Often that sent us off on a great discussion of subgenres, writers we used to like to read and ones we liked to read now.

Some people said they didn’t like mysteries and I immediately asked what they did like to read. That’s because I read all kinds of books, and like to hear about them. I talked to a man who likes alternate history sci-fi, another who likes to read math books! Sometimes I saw my fellow writers looking askance at me for having in-depth discussions of other types of books. Weren’t we there to promote and sell mysteries?

Yes, but there is a method to my madness over and above the fact that I like to talk about books in general. There is still a stigma among some readers of “literary” fiction that mystery novels are somehow lesser—that they are not worth the time it takes to read them. I think that by engaging readers in conversations about books in general I promote the idea that mystery writers are well-read, intelligent people—which is true! And when I can, I gently slip in a suggestion that someone who likes a particular type of book may enjoy reading a mystery novel that is every bit as well written and compelling as “literary” fiction.

Although the weekend was exhausting, I also feel strangely exhilarated. I think it’s because I participated for several hours in the “real world.” People want to know where writers get their ideas, and it is from the real world. Even as I talked to people this weekend, there was a constant hum in the back of my head: Ooo, wouldn’t that be an interesting idea? Or, hmmm, that is a very unusual looking man. Maybe someone who looks like him will be on the pages of my next book.

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