This is the one I’ve been waiting for! Despite living in Chicago for a good part of my adult life, I never managed to make it out to Naperville (far western suburb) to attend one of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ booksignings in her hometown. But finally, after years of hoping, she did an event not just close to my hometown, but in my hometown!
I had a feeling there would be a lot of people at the event, and I was right. However, I don’t think the bookstore was quite prepared for the size of the crowd. I was determined to arrive early in order to get a decent seat. I got there nearly 45 minutes before the event began and already about 70% of the seats were full. Initially the store had as many chairs out for the event as they’ve had for some lesser-known mystery author events I’ve attended. It was clear the setup wasn’t going to work. As people continued to pour into the store, the staff began putting out extra chairs. The author’s books were in numerous places throughout the bookstore. There was a large bookshelf right next to the microphone filled with The Great Escape; I should say filled until 15 minutes before the event started when one of the staff came and took every book from the shelf, as they were running out up front.
Last week I attended a booksigning at my local mystery book store, Aunt Agatha’s, featuring two popular cozy mystery writers, Denise Swanson and Casey Daniels/Kylie Logan. Denise Swanson is known for her Scumble River mystery series, featuring amateur sleuth and school psychologist Skye Denison. The 15-book series began with Murder of a Small Town Honey. Kasey Daniels has written a number of mystery series, but is most recently known for her Pepper Martin mysteries. Pepper was introduced in Don of the Dead, where while serving as a cemetery tour guide discovered she has the ability to communicate with ghosts.
The authors were in town to publicize new cozy mystery series they have each begun. Denise Swanson’s new series features the owner of a small town dime store, while Kasey Daniels, under the pen name Kylie Logan, has a new series featuring the owner of a button store in Chicago.
Kylie Logan told us that she got the idea for her button store series while sitting at a coffee shop on a previous trip to town. She said she was the only customer in the coffee shop until a couple came in and sat just a few feet from her. They proceeded to have a prolonged, very loud break-up. Ms. Logan had hoped to spend a long time in the coffee shop, sipping coffee and knitting. But finally she’d had enough of the break-up saga, packed up her knitting, and went into the store next door, which turned out to be a button store. And from there, the new series took shape.
Wow! It seems like forever since I’ve been to a booksigning. Fortunately, I have a couple coming up in the next few months to make up for the dearth of events the past few months. Over the next few months look for me to report on events with Lauren Willig and Julie Hyzy who are both coming to my home town.
I have managed to find a number of events around the country that AAR readers may be interested in. But, as always, I could use your help. Do you know of any authors who are coming to your home town? If so, please let us know about it. If you know of any events that we missed between now and mid-February, please post them in the comments section. If you know of any events occurring after mid-February, please send them to us at aarbooksign AT gmail.com and we’ll add them to our mid-February post.
Disclaimer: I found these signings by extensive searches of both author and bookseller Web sites. They all appear to be free, but please contact the bookstore before you attend an event for additional information. And please let us know if you do attend a booksigning, and how you liked it. A few of the authors on the list aren’t strictly romance authors, but have either been reviewed at AAR in the past, or have appeared in AAR forum discussions.
This past month I attended a booksigning for William Kent Krueger, who was promoting his latest Cork O’Connor mystery, Northwest Angle. I haven’t read the series, and still am not sure if they will suit me. But I love listening to authors speak, so jumped at the chance to attend.
There was a large audience, and many had attended previous signings by the author. As soon as the event began I knew why there were so many repeat attenders; he is one of the most engaging writers I’ve encountered. The time went by quickly as Mr. Krueger entertained us with stories about his writing process, his decisions about his characters, and future directions his writing might take.
Mr. Krueger commented that authors writing a series can either write a character that remains static over the series, or they can write a character that changes and ages over time. Mr. Krueger made the decision early on to have Cork O’Connor and his family age and change throughout the series. He noted that this has allowed him to bring some of his own experiences at different points in his life into the series.
Mr. Krueger writes every day in a local Minnesota coffee house. He said that he tried to write in his home office, but found it was both too quiet and too distracting. Until fairly recently he wrote in longhand, but has switched to a laptop. Cork O’Connor is part Irish and part Anishianaabe. Mr. Krueger did extensive research into the Anishianaabe culture before writing the first book in the series, Iron Lake, and continues to do research, and actually have most of his books vetted by Anishianaabe acquaintances. In the end, I ended up buying one of his books; he was just that entertaining.
I recently wrote about my love of historical mysteries with a touch of romance. You can well imagine my delight to discover a local book festival that featured a panel of Victorian Era historical mystery writers: Tasha Alexander, Stefanie Pintoff, and Maureen Jennings.
Tasha Alexander is one of my very favorite mystery writers, and her series that began with And Only to Deceive has a strong romantic thread. I gave a DIK to it here at AAR.
I have only read Stefanie Pintoff’s first mystery, In the Shadow of Gotham which introduces NYPD officer Simon Ziele and early criminal profiler Alistair Sinclair. The books are set in early 1900s New York City. They have a more difficult, and as yet unrealized, potential for romance. Simon is an immigrant and comes out of the lower East side. Isabelle is Alistair Sinclair’s former daughter-in-law, and is decidedly upper class. Clearly there’s an interest between the two, but their differing social backgrounds are a major obstacle.
I haven’t yet read Maureen Jennings books although several are in my TBR pile. Based on the comments of the audience, I intend to begin reading her books soon. Ms. Jennings is best known for her Detective Murdoch series set in late 19th century Toronto, which begins with the book Except the Dying. Detective Murdoch is also the victim of prejudices. As a Catholic living in a Protestant-dominated society, there is only so far he can go in his position. In fact, the moderator made the mistake of calling him “Inspector Murdoch,” and Ms. Jennings was quick to point out that because of his religion, Murdoch couldn’t rise to the rank of Inspector. The Murdoch books were turned into a television series first in Canada and later in many other countries. She has a new series set in Shropshire, England during World War II.
I recently attended a wonderful talk – and signing – featuring Louise Penny, the author of the Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries set both in Montreal and the fictional small town of Three Pines just outside of Montreal. The event was part of the Kerrytown Book Fest in Ann Arbor, and Ms. Penny was interviewed by Robin Agnew, the owner of the local mystery bookstore Aunt Agatha’s.
This was the largest book event I’ve attended. Every seat in the open-air tent was filled, and many people (including myself) had to stand just outside the tent. While the crowd was enormous, everyone was quiet, completely enthralled by the conversation between Ms. Penny and Ms. Agnew.
As I recently wrote a post here about romance in mysteries, I’ll have to state right from the first that there’s technically no romance in the series. Chief Inspector Gamache has been married for years to his beloved Reine Marie. Several of the people in Three Pines are part of an existing couple, but I’ve seen no new romances develop, nor do I expect to.
Despite the lack of romance, the series has held my attention starting with Still Life through the next five books, and I expect to begin the latest, A Trick of the Light, soon. I think I enjoy them because the series focuses on emotions and people, rather than on the details of murders. While there isn’t romance, the relationships between friends and colleagues are an integral part of the books.
In the last month there’s been a bit of media flurry about author booksignings. It all started with a New York Times report that some independent bookstores are now charging readers to attend booksignings in their stores. The story was picked up by numerous online sources, including blogs, tweets, and Facebook updates by various independent bookstore owners.
The article notes that in-person author events are something online retailers (Amazon) cannot do. Sure, you can chat with an author online, but you just can’t go to the huge Amazon store to meet an author in person; for that, you need a brick and mortar bookstore.
I attend a lot of booksignings – generally one or two a month – and so far have only read about one event that would cost money (aside from buying a book) to attend. A local independent store brought in Charlaine Harris this past winter. Instead of holding the event at the bookstore (where I’ve attended many signings), the event was held at a local theater. I had a work event scheduled for the same evening, so never really had to seriously consider whether or not I would pay money to see Ms. Harris. I also assumed that the charge was to recover part of the cost of renting the theatre. Now I’m not sure, and will be monitoring events at that bookstore to see if they charge for any future signings.
Earlier this month I attended a booksigning by one of my favorite historical mystery authors, Jacqueline Winspear, the author of the popular Maisie Dobbs series. If you haven’t heard about the series and like mysteries set in post-World War I England, you can check out Ellen’s DIK review of the first in the series here at AAR.
The booksigning was held at one of the larger independent bookstores in town. I arrived nearly 30 minutes early and planned to browse before the event. My plans changed when I discovered that nearly every seat in the place (over 100) was already filled with people. I quickly snagged a copy of her book and sat down. By the time Ms. Winspear arrived, people were sitting on the floor and standing wherever possible.
Although I’ve read the entire series, I really knew nothing about Ms. Winspear until this event. I was pleased when she announced that rather than doing a reading from the new book, she would tell us a little about how she came to write the series. Originally from England, Ms. Winspear’s grandfather was shell-shocked in World War I. Even as a little girl she was fascinated by English history from 1913-1950, and in particular, with the history of women during that period.
Have you been to any booksignings recently? I went to a fun one last month for two new-to-me mystery authors, Sharon Fiffer and Vicki Delany. The event was held at my local mystery book store, and the place was absolutely packed. It’s a rather small store, and every spot of floor space was filled with a folding chair, and there was a person sitting in each chair. I arrived a bit late, but a nice man gave me his chair, and joined the rest of the people standing in the back of the room. It was obvious that while I hadn’t read these authors, a lot of other people had.
Each of the authors did a brief introduction, and then the bookstore owner did a fantastic job keeping the discussion going, by asking a lot of questions. One of my favorite questions she asked of each author was: “What books would your character read?” Since I hadn’t read the authors before, their answers weren’t particularly meaningful to me, but it’s a question I’ve now been thinking about with each book that I read. (And why don’t more romance heroines read?)
I’m very excited to report that I’ll be attending a booksigning later this month by Jacqueline Winspear, the author of the Maisie Dobbs mystery series. If you missed Ellen’s recent review of the first book in the series, and like mysteries set in Post WWI England, you might want to check it out.
This has been a banner month for me for book signings. In late October I attended a signing for a debut mystery author, Gary Corby, at my local mystery book store. He was charming, and ended up talking and answering our questions for almost 90 minutes. I walked away with his book – The Pericles Commission – as well as a handful of free bookmarks.
But as fun as that event was, the real literary highlight for me of the past month was attending a book signing by Lauren Willig, on tour for The Mischief of the Mistletoe (yes, Turnip’s story). I arrived at the event about 30 minutes early, and a lot of the chairs were already full. As I settled into my chair, more and more readers arrived, and the bookstore staff kept busy bringing out extra chairs.
Ms. Willig actually arrived a bit early, and chatted informally with the audience as people continued to arrive, assuring the bookstore owner that “start time is just a prompt.” While we waited , we were treated to a number of “embarrassing personal stories” including a tale from an early book tour that included changing hose in the backseat of a cab, while the cab driver carried on a conversation with her, as if nothing unusual was happening.