Breaking News: Congratulations to Hank Phillipi Ryan and Rhys Bowen for their nominations for the 2012 RT Reviewer's Choice Awards!!!!
HALLIE EPHRON: Recently my attention was snagged by a huge piece in The Boston Globe featuring Dennis Lehane, in town to talk about "Live By Night." It's the sequel to his novel "The Given Day" and deals, in Lehane's signature style, with race, poverty, and violence in the context of Prohibition.
Dennis is a brilliant writer, and I was lucky enough to hear him talk about "The Given Day" at a writing conference, a year before the book was published. He read a mesmerizing scene from the middle of the book that dramatizes the Great Molasses Flood which occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.
I've got his new book right here on top of my TBR pile, but what I want to talk about, Dennis (are you out there, Dennis?), is the outfit you wore to the signing at Brookline Booksmith and that was captured forever by the Globe's photographer.
You wore -- now, how to be charitable about this? -- workout clothes. Dungarees, a T-shirt, and a zippered sweatshirt, all navy blue. You are somewhat unshaven. And here's the thing. You actually look fine, adorable even in a glowering Jack Kerouac kind of way.
Looking at that photograph I was positively beside myself with envy. Could I ever, in my wildest dreams, show up at a book signing unshaven? It's not fair that a guy can pull this off and we women cannot.
Am I the only one who obsesses over what I'll wear to book signings? Do you buy a special "lucky" outfit? Debate whether to polish your nails? Wouldn't life would be so much simpler if we just asked ourselves: What would Dennis Lehane wear?
ALERT! See Dennis Lehane explaining the hoodie thing in today's COMMENTS. What a good sport...
RHYS BOWEN: Hallie, like you I obsess over what to wear to book signings. My biggest fear is that I'll wear the same outfit two years in a row and someone will come up to me with a picture of us taken together the year before and there I'll be in the same jacket. I try to capture the flavor of the period I write about.
I found a great vintage white blazer trimmed with navy for Naughty in Nice. For the upcoming Twelve Clues of Christmas I'm going with a long Christmassy skirt. I think people come to a booksigning to be entertained and looking right is part of the image you are creating.
If I looked brooding and masculine I might go for the work out wear.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Dennis Lehane is fabulous and incomparable and he can wear whatever he wants. I wonder..if there's kind of an inversely proportional thing, the more amazing you are, the less it matters what you wear. Hmm. No. Look at JK Rowling, she always looks impeccable. And Nora Roberts, and Mary Higgins Clark, and Linda Fairstein. Laura Lippman and Tess Gerritsen, who wear jeans to signings (right?) look incredible and pulled together.
Oh, and let me tell you this. I was at an out of state library recently, and wore a dress and heels. The librarian was so appreciative--she says she's tired of authors showing up looking like slobs. Her words.
Is there a "cool guy" look like Dennis has that maybe...women can't do? No. You know what? Dennis dresses like Dennis, that's cool. MHC dresses like MHC, that's cool. I am careful, certainly--because it's respectful. And I think that's the key.
JAN BROGAN: Yes, Hank, I think it is inversely proportional. If you are Dennis Lehane, you can dress however you want. Shave, don't shave. And Hallie, I saw that photo and didn't actually think he looked that cute. But it doesn't matter. He's Dennis Lehane. He's also a guy. They always get away with murder.
imagine our HANK ever going out looking slovenly?? I can't. I can imagine me going out a bit slovenly, but it would be a HUGE mistake. As comfy as those yoga pants are....they are just not a good idea for a signing. I will wear UGGS though if it's really cold out.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Each one of your comments has made me smile. I did have a couple of years when I seemed to be wearing the same thing at every Malice Domestic! (I have a lot of black jackets.) Yoga pants at a signing probably wouldn't work for me - and I frequently ask myself "Would Hank wear this?" During the power outage when I haven't been able to do much, I've been going through my closet for the seasonal Goodwill dropoff and that phrase has come up a lot!
But I don't think for a minute that Dennis' outfit was unplanned. I'm guessing it was - I'm a writer dammit, I've just given birth to the next 600 page masterpiece. You don't expect me to care what I look like, do you?? Or some variation of that.
And I'm sure his audience (except for Hallie) was fine with that.
HALLIE: I said I was jealous!
ROSEMARY: I once read an interview with Barbara Cartland and she said she dressed the way she did because it was what her readers expected. I suppose it's the same for Dennis Lehane, although I really prefer the jeans, black t-shirt and jacket look that a lot of the male, tough-guy writers are rocking.
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh so funny Hallie, I laughed just reading the title of the post!
I dress up for book talks too--not Hank and Rhys dress-up, but definitely above my at-home schlumpy sweat pants outfit. I'm like Hallie in that I love to be comfortable--and fancy clothes usually aren't. (Like heels--they look great but I can't wear them anymore!) Sometimes I catch myself at the grocery store looking like a bag lady--but this would not happen at a bookstore!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Guys have it so easy!! I'm already worrying about what I'm going to wear on book tour in February! Can I get a week to two weeks clothes in a roll aboard suitcase? Because, unlike guys, who can wear the same jacket and pants and just change their shirts (or not,) if I wear the same thing to every book signing, all the pictures on Facebook will be identical. (The trials of social media...) And I agree with Rhys, heaven forbid you should wear what you wore the year before...
So yes, I do dress up, even though I'm not a suit and high heels kind of girl. We all want to look like Hank, but it just wouldn't work for me. I will wear low heels for an event, but then what if you have to go straight from a flight to the bookstore? That means airport in heels--nightmare!
As for Dennis, he is adorable in anything, and if you sell as many books as he does, you can wear whatever you damned please.
HALLIE: So what about you all? Would you ask yourself What Would Dennis Wear? Or What Would Hank Wear? Or What would Mary Higgins Clark Wear? Or What Would Barbara Cartland Wear? if you're dressing to be seen in public? I know what my answer is.