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.
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.