Friday, October 20, 2006

Michael Connelly Echo Park

I was a bit worried about the Michael Connelly event scheduled for last night. Sounds silly, but the one thing that really stood out for me from seeing Michael at Harrogate in 2005 was how shy he is. He wasn’t one to relax in front of the crowd while being interviewed. Instead, he seemed nervous.

Not that he wasn’t interesting and enjoyable as one of the special guests. It was just the impression I was left with, which had me wondering how he’d handle an event on his own where he wasn’t being interviewed.

And he was, quite simply, perfect. Michael started off telling everyone a bit about writing the books, why he takes a break from Bosch every now and again (“to keep him alive”) and he also commented that it was his first time coming to Calgary. I hadn’t realized that.

He did read a brief excerpt from the book. I was smiling as he explained he doesn’t like reading much and that he thought it would be better to answer questions. Yes. The man is a pro. And he fielded questions from the crowd right to the point where he was given the one question warning, and then signed books graciously.

Some of the general remarks Michael made that struck me:

- Harry must evolve every book. Everything else is window dressing – the character is most important.

- True and believable are two different things. (Well said!)

- Never miss a chance to say something about character (referencing a quote about ‘make sure that on every page someone wants something, even if it’s just a glass of water).

- The best crime novels are not about how cops work on cases but how cases work on cops.

And Michael will not use the word 'serendipity' for probably a month now until he gets it out of his system.

I waited in line to get my hardcover of Echo Park signed and had a pleasant chat with Michael… about Harrogate, Bouchercon Alaska, Killer Year, etc. And what he wrote in the front of my copy is something that’s always going to date the book for me and make it significant.

I haven’t read Echo Park yet, but I am looking forward to it. Based on the premise, it sounds intriguing.

Now, in light of my original post yesterday, I was directed to this post, which puts some of that article I was referencing in perspective.

Thanks Stephen. It did make me feel better. It’s still an uphill battle when you’re starting out in this business, and I don’t think it’s wise to indulge delusions of monstrous sales. But this does show how some of the numbers were skewed to make it seem more hopeless than it is.

Just insert IRS for Revenue Canada if you want to make this joke American

In a long line of people waiting for a bank teller one guy suddenly started massaging the back of the person in front of him.

Surprised, the man in front turned and snarled, "Just what the hell are you doing?"

“Well," said the guy, "you see, I'm a chiropractor and I could see that you were tense, so I had to massage your back. Sometimes I just can't help practicing my art!"

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" the guy replied. "I work for Revenue Canada. Do you see me fucking the guy in front of me?


JamesO said...

OK, so which one are we meant to post comments in?

angie said...

My inner pollyanna is relieved...
Like I said before, publishing is such a freakin' scary business. It's difficult to get a solid grasp on what the hell is really going on.

John Gooley said...

I just wrote a comment that seems to have been swallowed by Blogger the Great. My comment ended with an old joke, which is all I'll bother repeating.

A secretary says to her boss, "Can I use your dictaphone?"

He says, "Why don't you use your finger like everyone else."

I like to keep on topic.

anne frasier said...

True and believable are two different things.

love that quote!

anne frasier said...

about that article stephen sent you... it depends on the publishing house. when i was writing for bantam, irwyn applebaum was hired as president and publisher. we were terrified because we knew that his big thing was to choose one writer and put most of the money behind that person. and it had worked for him. at some point i was actually one of the writers under consideration. of course that put a different slant on things. eventually tami hoag was chosen. she became huge and the project was a success. this model has been used over and over at various houses.

Steve Allan said...

I'm in the middle of Echo Park now and so far, so good. I'm amazed that Connolly is able to keep up the quality of the Bosch novels after writing so many. Too many series writers hang onto their characters for too long and make them artificial. Not Connolly. He sounds like a nice man.

Sandra Ruttan said...

For crying out loud James, I answered you and blogger ate it! Blogger is being very pissy today - hence the multiple posts!

Angie, I was feeling better until I read Anne's comments. It would seem the publishing industry IS the proverbial rollercoaster ride...

John, very funny!

Anne, I loved that quote too. Brilliant.

Steve - Michael said one of the reasons he writes the stand-alone books is to keep Harry alive. He definitely feels stepping away from Harry is what keeps those books fresh.

And yes, I would say he's very nice. One of the things that strikes me is you can be a mega star in this business, like Connelly or Rankin, and still be totally down to earth. Michael wrote in my copy of Echo Park and wished me luck with my book and my writing - which is a very nice thing to do. He could have been impersonal and generic but instead he was thoughtful with his comment.

Of course, not as funny as what Mark wrote in my copy of Buried the other day, but I can't talk about that. Can't let Stuart know.

Steve Allan said...

About the article. I think there is something to the Long Tail theory, which says that the media is making at least half of its money from product that isn't even in the top 100 sellers. The more I think about it, the more I believe that it will be the niche markets that keep media outlets afloat.

As for big name authors. I had an author tell me that it's people like James Patterson that help pay for his advances. (And this was from someone has done pretty goddamn good for himself.)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Good point Steve.

Okay, every blog I go to, I can't post. Argh!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Good point Steve.

Okay, every blog I go to, I can't post. Argh!

angie said...

"It would seem the publishing industry IS the proverbial rollercoaster ride..."

That explains the nausea! And here I was blaming it on too many hot dogs and funnel cakes...

Forty_Two said...

"The best crime novels are not about how cops work on cases but how cases work on cops."

There are plenty of books and movies where the bad guy is portrayed as the good guy. Has anyone written a novel where the terrorist is the good guy?

Julia Buckley said...

Hey, Sandra! Long time no see. I am feeling quite overwhelmed this week, but thankfully it's the weekend.


Sandra Ruttan said...

Forty-Two... I don't know. I'm not sure that people are quite ready for that yet. Of course, movies like Syriana make you look at everything backwards, but it isn't quite making heroes out of terrorists.

Julia, I was thinking about you yesterday, wondering how your week was going. Hope the stress eases soon!

S. W. Vaughn said...

Miss Snark has also recently commented on the bestseller versus midlist thing. She says, and I quote:

EVERY agent and editor I know has more stories than fingers and toes about books they thought would sell like hotcakes, and didn't.

Same ratio for books they thought would do just ok and then zoomed into the stratosphere.

A lot of us make a very nice living selling things that never see a best seller list.

Publishing is hard, but there are still a lot of positives out there. Writing a great book and getting it out there is a HUGE accomplishment, no matter what the awards and bestseller lists have to say about it!

Trace said...

I haven't read Echo Park but I definitely will.