4.15.2009

Mysterious meetings

Though I've been off the circuit lately, I love mystery conventions, where fans and authors come together for serious discussions of the genre, networking and booze.

The calendar is chock-full of such events, all over the globe, so it’s possible, if you attend enough of them, to maintain a year-round hangover.

The fans at mystery conventions use up their vacation leave and spend their own money to travel to distant hotel bars in search of their favorite authors. They’re not as wacky as science fiction fans -- no plastic pointy ears or speaking in Klingon -- but they’re just as fervent, and they really know mysteries. A fixture at these conferences is a mystery trivia contest, and the readers always beat the writers.

For us authors, who spend so much time working alone, it’s a special treat to meet people who’ve read our books, especially if they liked them or at least show the common courtesy to keep their opinions to themselves. But it’s always a little embarrassing when you meet a fan who knows more about your books than you do.

Fan: I just read your novel, and really liked it.

Author: Thanks. That’s so nice to hear.

Fan: I had a question about one thing in the plot. Do you mind?

Author (chuckling): Bring it on.

Fan: In the beginning of that book, you have the killer escape through the bathroom window, but later when the detective is investigating Hubert’s death, he determines the window was too small for a human to climb through--

Author (behind frozen smile): I wrote a book about someone named Hubert?

Fan (confused): Your first novel? The one about the hitman? The guy who--

Author: A hitman?

Fan, really confused now, checks author’s name tag to make sure he’s got the right one. Begins to suspect author may be an impostor.

Author: Oh, look! A bartender!

How is it possible that the fan’s more familiar with the book than the author is? For one thing, the fan read it more recently. It might be a book written years ago, and lots of authors (including me) rarely go back and read our old stuff because it’s too painful. The characters in those books are like distant friends whose names we can barely remember. Plot points and telling details are long-forgotten.

(Some authors seem better at remembering their plotlines than others. Perhaps a heightened capacity for forgetfulness would explain why some write the same book over and over. Not that I'm naming any names.)

Usually, authors are caught up in the throes of a new tale. The current cast of characters fills our heads, which is why it’s a good thing everyone wears name tags at these conferences.

There’s more to the conferences than fans and authors jawing over drinks, of course. Informative panels, inspiring speakers, book promotion, industry gossip and after-hours poker make these excursions educational and tax-deductible. (OK, the poker’s not tax-deductible, but it’s often educational.)

The “face time” contributes to a sense of community, and that makes it worth enduring the occasional awkward encounter.

I’ve found a new way to handle questions about things in my own books that I can’t remember. I answer in Klingon.

3 comments:

Uncle Skip, said...

You had best hope that the readers remember plots and story lines better than the authors you speak of because otherwise they only will need to buy one book and read it over and over.

BTW - I do like the books that you suggested for my wife to buy.

Anonymous said...

File this one in the 'best of' collection, Steve.
Great laugh.
-Jas.

Patty said...

Reminds me of Harrison Ford, he can't remember even basic plot points about any of the Star Wars or Indiana Jones movies (or any others for that matter), he's always focused on the *current* work, not looking back. Sort of explains why he avoids fans a lot. . .