"You don't have to be a star, baby, to be in my show..." Marilyn McCoo
ROBERTA: Don't take this the wrong way, girls, because of course each one of you is a star in my eyes! But I wrote this post from Left Coast Crime in Denver where the guest of honor this year was Stephen White, one of my steady favorite crime fiction writers. White has just seen the 16th book in his Alan Gregory series published this month. I own every one of these books in hardcover--they feature a clinical psychologist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado. I haven't loved all the books equally, but I do love the world he's constructed and the people he's filled it with. (Okay, not all of them. I'm really hoping the wife will be cut loose, but that's another story.) Like me, White worked as a psychologist before he started writing so he really understands that universe. And he gets it absolutely right in his books. And he's a huge commercial success to boot. I'm full of admiration.
He doesn't travel the mystery convention circles much, so a sighting is fairly rare. Which of course didn't stop me from asking him for advice about getting published back in 1999. I can't remember what he told me but there was a long line of fans waiting so when the throat-clearing behind me began to drown out our conversation, I finally had to step aside. A couple years later, I invited him to appear on a panel of psychologists writing crime fiction. He politely turned us down--family obligations. And a few years after that, I asked if he'd consider reading DEADLY ADVICE for possible blurb. He reported that his publisher told him he had to stop, he was becoming a "blurb whore." It's even possible that that was the second book I'd asked him to blurb. Umm, these things do run together.
So anyway when I saw him behind the book counter at the hotel in Denver, I quickly bought DEAD TIME and hurried over to introduce myself and ask him to sign it.
"I know who you are," he said.
Of course he knew who I was, see paragraph two above. And then he wrote a lovely inscription about how it was an honor to be on my bookshelf and I stumbled off happy, with stars in my eyes.
Your turn to dish now, Jungle Red Writers. Tell us about meeting your favorite writer.
RO: Oooh, this is a tough one. I've met so many great people in the last year. My, ahem, admiration for a certain tall, thriller writer is well-documented so I needn't go into that again.
I'd have to say two women have blown me away with their kindness and generousity - and I was a fan anyway...Carolyn Hart and Barbara D'Amato. The first time I met Carolyn, we'd had a few email exchanges, but I never imagined she'd remember me..she called me Ro, as if she'd been doing it for years. I instantly loved her. And I was lucky enough to sit at Barb D'Amato's table at Malice last year. She's extremely cool, and maybe just as tough as Cat Marsala.
Then again, I gushed pretty good when I met Laura Lippman. I'd just read What the Dead Know, and had sent her an email. I said hello to her at Malice and she said, "didn't you send me an email?" I was like a fourteen yr-old meeting Miley Cyrus. This is embarassing..I'd better stop at those three...
HANK: Well, Ro, you and I both share the tall-thriller-writer syndrome. But it's only because he's so incredibly talented.
I must say, I was pretty intimidated when I first met Hallie. She was teaching a writing class, and I felt like a third-grader. I once wanted to tell Sarah Strohmeyer what an amazing panel she gave, and it was all I could do to put a coherent sentence together. Katherine Hall Page, as gracious and warm and friendly as anyone could be. She came up to me to introduce herself! Puh-lease! And Sara Paretsky--beyond charming. Here I was, new as anyone could possibly be, with my brand new book cover just out that day, and she insisted on seeing it. Just as if she wasn't at the top of the Pantheon (can that be?) and me just a beginner.
I gushed at Julia Spencer-Fleming, I'm embarrassed to say, and was hoping she didn't notice. I talked about the genius and warmth of John Lescroart so much that my usually patient husband began to roll his eyes. But the worst I've ever been was with Robert Pinsky. I asked a question at one of his poetry readings, and he said "good question, it's clear you've read my stuff." Or something like that. And twinkled at me. (or so I thought.)
Well, that was it for me. Pinsky Fan Club president? Any day.
You've got to admit, Roberta, that it shows what a wonderful community this is. If you had asked--who was NOT nice to you? I can't really think of anyone.
Oh, wait. (Smiling.) Yes, I can. But she doesn't write mysteries... And I'll never tell.
HALLIE: The biggies for me... I got to interview Michael Connelly about plotting at last year's Book Passage Mystery Writing Conference. I'd boned up by reading his then latest, THE NARROWS, and my copy of the book is still papered with Post-Its with quotes and questions I wanted to ask. Turns out he plots by the seat of his pants, but an analysis of the book's structure reveals that tried-and-true three-act structure. It's simply the organics of the novel. Second biggie was when I met Ian Rankin at R. J. Julia's in Connecticut and interviewed him for a piece I was writing for Writer magazine. He's got rapscallion eyebrows and still smokes, and his real passion is the city of Edinburgh. Another seat-of-the-pants writer who lets his characters guide him, and oh what chararcters they are. Third--Nancy Pickard. I interviewed her at Bouchercon in Madison for another article. I'd loved-loved-loved VIRGIN OF SMALL PLAINS and was dying to know how she'd come up with her opening scene, which is a knockout, so perfect for setting up that story and those characters. Turned out, the opening scene was the LAST scene she'd written. Three interviews...restored my faith in writing from the gut (combined with prodigious talent, of course).
JAN: Okay guys, since you have hit all the crime thriller stars, I'm going to go in COMPLETELY different direction. On Valentine's Day, my husband and I were doubledating with my good friends Beth and Steve. Beth works for public television on the Between the Lions children's show. We were joined on our date by one of her colleagues and his girlfriend. Her colleague was Chris Cerf, whose name you may or maynot have ever heard, but he's a songwriter. And he wrote all my favorite Sesame Street songs, including Put Down the Duckie and Monster In the Mirror.
Yes, I admit, I was starstruck over Seasame Street.
Besides always watching the show with my kids,I had the tape of those songs and my son and I sang every single song on that tape pretty much every day for months....years....??? Honestly, I felt like I was meeting one of the Beatles. I pretty much gushed all during the dinner. The best part was that Chris, unlike the Beatles, apparently never gets a lot of gushing, so he was thrilled too. Then the six of us went out to hear Marcia Ball sing jazz at Skullers and she covered one of Chris's grown up jazz tunes that night in the club. It was pretty cool. (And my son, now 18-years old and writing his own songs, thought so, too.)
ROBERTA: Ok now I've thought of tons of other names, but enough about us! Let's hear from the Jungle Red readers: what writers in the flesh gave you a thrill? (Oh heck, you know what I mean...)