So here is where the second part of meeting people came with a double edged sword… while meeting and hanging out with the girls was amazing and wonderful and all those great adjectives, we were there to also meet the authors. So let me run down a few of the interactions, both good and bad. I think the other girls had a bit more luck but I’m used to random, strange, and bizarre things happening to me.
First I met Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton. Hilariously I met them coming out of the bathroom (which was me, not them). Tam and Chris already had met them and we’re all standing outside the hotel’s bathroom and the whole time I’m thinking “wow, I totally didn’t remember what they looked like” even though of course they have tons of pictures on the internet. Spacey me wouldn’t have known them from a hole in the wall and of course I’m way too shy to introduce myself. I stand there like a bump on a log with a stupid smile feeling incredibly nervous until Heidi finally looks at me and asks who I am. Oh me? No one really.. *sigh*
They were very sweet and great fun to talk to honestly. Very witty and they actually made more of an effort than most authors to mingle and try to talk to as many different people and readers as possible. Gradually over the course of the conference it became easier to talk to them and make jokes – I had an especially good time chatting with them both on the Riverboat cruise. By then they felt like old friends you could laugh with and make snarky comments. Because of course that’s what I do.
Additionally meeting PD Singer and Eden Winters was wonderful. I haven’t read much of PD Singer in a while because I don’t really read TQ stuff anymore but she was very sweet about my reviewing her past work. She even remembered the cut line to my review of her book! I have to say I still think that line was pretty inspired and it makes me want to go back to doing cut lines. Miss Pam was very sweet and kind and also commented that I’ve mellowed. Who, me? No way! Eden was Pam’s roomie for the conference and eventually joined us with her delicious southern accent. She also was so sweet and complimentary, and hell her accent alone is wonderful. She’s got a great sense of humor and I would have liked to talk with her more.
Another one I spent a huge amount of time talking to was Rachel Haimowitz. Now Rachel’s work hasn’t always been to my taste and I’ve been pretty upfront about it but Rachel is nothing if not practical and intelligent. She even called herself my fan! My one and only so of course I had to adore her. But talking to her I was struck by how smart she comes across and not interested in petty gossip or pretense. I even had gossip for her but she wasn’t interested. Very impressive. She and a few others are starting a new publisher.. not sure if you’ve heard of it (ha) .. Riptide Publishing? You know that tiny little thing that feels like it’s friggin everywhere?! It was kind of all over the retreat as well. Rachel is hilarious to talk to because that woman has more energy and things to say than a cracked out car salesman. She claims she’s introverted and as much as I enjoyed talking to her I’m calling bullshit right now. That woman is the definition of an outgoing, energetic, enthusiastic author that wants to take over the world (and talk them to death but that’s ok).
Clare London is an easy author to crush on for being witty, upfront, and says the truth in that absolute fabulous british accent. I kind of just wanted to hover around her like a moth to a flame to listen to her commentary. I was kind of shy (shocker) and would have liked to talk to her more but I wasn’t the only one that loved her immensely so I mostly stayed in the background around her to my disappointment. Another author that had some definite girl crushes around them was the gorgeous Devon Rhodes. Seriously who knew she was so beautiful and funny.
Which leads me to some other authors. There were a few that were everywhere at once and having a ton of things to say with a ton of women around them. I don’t think some of these authors were ever alone and easily won any unofficial popularity contest. One author in particular had stories that would never end though can’t say I really believe them as honest. But hey, I’m a skeptic and when people try so incredibly hard to be the life of the party and LOVED by everyone, it turns me off and makes them seem sketchy. What’s interesting is that the authors that were the most charismatic often came on way too strong and kind of felt forced. These same authors weren’t afraid to get down and dirty with their comments and snark. I guess I just prefer the natural, unpretentious authors that are warm, funny, and just at ease with themselves and others.
Similarly I spoke to quite a few authors who were up front about writing being a business to make money for them. On the one hand I get this entirely but on the other sometimes I was taken aback. Especially when one author openly stated that their quality suffers but that’s not their problem because they have bills to pay. Good to know and on one hand, I get that. Writing is a job and the flip side to that work is obviously money. Yet to hear it so baldly from several authors, and some were very obvious that the quality wasn’t the goal but the money at the end, kind of took the rose off the bloom. We readers are there because we love this genre, these authors, and their books. As a reader, it’s not about putting money in an author’s pocket, though of course by buying their books we’re happy to, but it’s about a passion for something. To dismiss that passion and replace it with dollar signs is disconcerting on some level and off-putting.
Being a pretty introverted reader I kept to myself. I wanted to introduce myself around (joking about being hated aside, though some authors were not so kind) but I’m just not always good at small talk. I inevitably try to make a sarcastic joke that falls flat. For example I attempted to talk to Jaime Samms but when I wasn’t drunkenly gushing over her, I just didn’t know what to say. Poor woman. Many authors didn’t seem to have much to say either. So it’s difficult when neither side can really hold the bulk of the conversation. It led to awkward silences and I was trying very hard not to fill it with senseless babble and lies (like I love your work when it’s clear I didn’t). I was careful never to lie to an author and be honest with whatever commentary I said. Not that I usually have to work at being honest but I didn’t want to fill any silence with polite white lies. What’s the point in trying to pretend to their face you like their work when you don’t and unfortunately it felt like if you weren’t squee’ing over the authors, many didn’t want to talk to you. This again could be part of the introverted nature of some authors and comes across strained and awkward.
I overheard a table of authors from a certain publisher going on and on about how useless reviews and reviewers were to the genre and authors themselves. Oh really? In a retreat filled with bloggers, readers, and reviewers who love the genre? I know this is an age old debate about the use of review/ers but I found it funny when in fact the authors were ranting about bad reviews. Those of course are the only reviews that are worthless and never affect sales. Of course *cough*. The raving reviews are the worthwhile ones. Yea ok. I totally eavesdropped on that conversation and I was seriously this close to jumping in and having a dialogue with them from my perspective but the table broke up just as I got over my shy nature and took a literal step in their direction. Perhaps they saw me coming? I was pretty close. Too bad and I really regret not interjecting sooner because the conversation was so one sided and ego boosting.
I can say though the good outweighed the bad by a considerable amount. There were many authors who were gracious and I was surprised they knew “of” me. Authors like ML Rhodes, Belinda McBride, ZA Maxfield , JP Barnaby were kind and nice to talk to. Some of the others made me laugh because they were exactly how I pictured them from their work (not always a good thing). There are some authors I met I’ll never read again and some I know to avoid in the future. I’m not trying to slam authors but I try to weigh the positive with the negative. There was definitely more positive even if there was considerable snarky, back stabbing comments the authors were happy to dish out. But hey so do I and I’m well aware of my own shortcomings and glass house. I think it’s a common theme when people get together, add in alcohol and a natural tendency to gossip. But no matter what, I will remember my time as incredibly good and I’m pretty blessed to meet and hang out with the readers/bloggers and authors I did. I definitely hope I get the chance in the future to see some of these authors again and hopefully I won’t be so shy.
17 thoughts on “Meeting the authors..”
I may have monopolized Clare somewhat. Seemed we were always in a corner nattering away. Every since we bonded over sandwiches in SF last year. LOL
I met quite a few authors, not that I chatted with them all. Most were friendly and pleasant and I was shocked when a few said they knew who I was outside of those I’ve had interactions with on-line. I imagine for shy authors it is hard as well. When walking around the book signing I came across one author who I do not know well, but she had some books on the table and one was by chance something I had started to read on the flight down. I said “Oh, I just started that on the way here.” I got a polite smile and nod in return. Umm. Okay. I didn’t know where to go from there. I now wish I had thought to say more because I enjoyed it but maybe we need some helpful hints for authors as well with leading lines “Oh, are you a fan of vampires? Which main character do you like best.” I don’t know. Just something because I think a lot of authors are rather tongue-tied along with the readers. Maybe we readers need some speaking points as well. “Did you do much research on the culture X character is from?” I don’t know. I’ll have to study harder and make myself cue cards before one of these again. 🙂
I sometimes felt a bit bad for authors who had no one at their tables on the cruise, but I didn’t know them or their work so it would be awkward to show up. *shrug* Such is the nature of the con I suppose.
As you said, it was interesting to put a face to a name, and some were exactly as you’d expect, others not, but I’m sure they were thinking the same about some of us bloggers/readers. 🙂
Hey Tam, I’m 100% sure you’re right on both points. I remember hearing over and over that I wasn’t anything like they had expected (though two people emailed me privately to say they’d seen my picture and I was exactly like what they thought)… so who knows.
I do agree it would have been easier if there was some kind of way to spark conversation. Like you said sometimes it becomes so awkward with authors because there’s no further questions, just a polite smile and a thank you. Was it because we weren’t squeeing? Was it because the author was quiet? I don’t know. I give authors slack because they’re people too and they have strengths and weaknesses as well. I won’t count standoffish behavior against an author like I will those jerks who blasted reviewers. I wish authors had asked questions like “do you like it? what did you like about it or not?” Perhaps they don’t want to hear and maybe that’s not the place to have a real discussion. I don’t know, like you though I wish there had been some way to spark more conversation.
Interesting to read – and worrying that some authors behaved in a way to put you off reading them. It’s also sad to hear people putting money before the joy of writing, but I suppose it has to happen sometimes if you have a family needing food on the table. Shame they feel they’re having to sacrifice their gift in that way, though. I’d have thought writing for the joy of it would bring in the readers more than cranking out generic reads one after another…
The attitude to reviews is an odd one. I agree that many readers never go near review sites, but I’m sure lots see the reviews on Amazon. Word of mouth reader to reader is probably the most important thing in promoting books these days – but aren’t the book bloggers the ones doing their best to be cheerleaders for the books they love? Sounds like an attempt to cover up sour grapes at a bad review with a dismissive attitude.
Clare is lovely, isn’t she? I think she’s the only one there I’ve met before, but I’ve certainly chatted online with people like Pam and Eden and found them wonderfully friendly and down to earth.
And I know I’ve said it before, but I do think most authors find it terribly scary to be face to face with readers! With a few notable exceptions, we tend to be rather introverted folk…
I was at a romantic fiction convention in the UK yesterday and enjoyed chatting with various authors, although I’ll be honest I had no idea who most of them were! I’m sure that was mutual, though 😉
I don’t think it’s a bad thing that authors are introverted too, but I do think there has to be some way to spark conversation between two introverted groups of people. Readers aren’t sure what to say beyond “I liked your book” and authors don’t know what to do beyond smiling and nodding. So no one is really satisfied with the exchange unfortunately.
Also I’d never stop reading an author because they’re shy or they didn’t have much to say. I’d only stop reading an author if they were blatantly rude and disrespectful (such as that tableful of people). Some are pretty well known authors in the genre too. I get that bad reviews aren’t fun and reviews in general have a shaky purpose. Some think they’re good, some think they’re worthless. No one has any problem promo’ing the hell out of a good review though so I think saying reviews are worthless is hypocritical. If you’re going to be so proud of the good reviews, then don’t pretend they don’t matter. Because if they didn’t, why bother at all?
Clare is wonderful and her son is a cuties. Tam hung out with her the most and had the benefit of her wonderful bliss. *jealous*
Something I just realized – I bet for a lot of the authors, this was their first time appearing AS authors, interacting with readers, signing books, etc.
I’m sure it was. I know some authors were scared to death and shy too. I don’t discount that but I don’t see it as a free pass excuse either.
That’s why I don’t generally go to these things. If you’re quiet or shy, people sometimes think you’re snotty or aloof, and you can do yourself more harm than good. And I think, as Chris says, socializing is even more of a complex experience if you’re an author learning to navigate the ins and outs of your career.
It sounds as though you had an interesting time, at least, if not always a good time.
New Orleans is too humid in October. Bleh. Vacations in the south are always better in the winter.
I’d disagree with that and I’m sorry if it came off that way. I don’t think an author can do themselves harm if they behave in a reasonable manner (by that I mean don’t gossip in front of readers or admit you’re just there to rake in the dough). Being shy or quiet isn’t going to turn off readers, I could tell which were very kind but didn’t know what to say versus which were aloof because well they had some pretensions. I wouldn’t stop reading an author because they were shy or awkward in conversation.
Ahh see I didn’t mind the humidity. I loved the weather there all weekend. I could have stayed forever. *le sigh*
I’ve been lurking for a while, and have been especially enjoying the discussion about GRL, getting to experience it vicariously. The comment about writing for money reminds me of an anecdote I think is relevant, so I’m coming out of lurkdom to share it.
I heard it years ago from a friend who grew up in the Berkeley SFF community (the kids of Marion Zimmer Bradley, et al.). One such kid was assigned an essay in high school English class to write about why Heinlein wrote Stranger in a Stranger Land. Apparently he’d been over for dinner recently and had mentioned that he’d needed money for rent, and that’s what he came up with. Thus, that’s what the student wrote, and received a failing grade because the teacher felt the student missed the point entirely.
The student’s parents called the school, but the teacher was firm that the grade stands. Then the teacher got another call, “Hello, this is Robert Heinlein. I understand you gave an F to a friend of mine for writing that I wrote Stranger in a Strange Land because I needed the money. That’s correct, and I wish you’d re-grade the paper on its own merits.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist).
I haven’t read Stranger in a Strange Land myself, but I understand that for many people it was a powerful, life-changing sort of book. Even though Heinlein wrote it because he needed money and dashed it off quickly, he still had a real story to tell and the skill to tell it. So while I, too, have a visceral aversion to the thought of authors focused on money when I’m looking for great stories, I also realize the two are not mutually exclusive.
Certainly there’s plenty of evidence in the other direction, of earnest authors who work diligently on their vision, only to have readers say it’s crap. 😉 So I think it’s also plausible that great works can be inspired by a need to eat that month, though discussion of such is probably better reserved for the family/friends dinner table than writer/reader conferences.
Hello and welcome! Thank you for delurking because that is a great story. I love it. I also don’t really blame authors who write for money. It’s a job, an income, and something authors spend lots of time and energy creating. Of course they want compensation. No one can eat a pat on the back. I do think the difference is simply in your story the motivation may have been money but the result was a classic. In some other author’s cases they’re not trying to make a quality product, they’re just trying to make something that will sell. Perhaps Heinlein was too and got lucky.. but the majority of the work coming from the few authors who said this is not the same level. If that makes sense.
Great story though.. so funny.
It’s really enlightening to read honest appraisals of events like these. But the unpleasantness you highlighted, Kassa, makes me squirm, too.
In defense of authors, I can only imagine the pressure they’re under when they appear in public. They know they must put their game faces on. They know they must (at least try to) be personable and smart and clever and entertaining. Pressure much? Eep! Mara made a good point about shyness or uncertainty being mistaken for aloofness. Not everybody is a natural-born schmoozer. (Although I can think of some writers who probably are.)
On the other side of the coin, there’s no excuse for alleged professionals dissing anybody at a public event. Obviously, we all need to vent, but it’s best done in private conversations or through personal email exchanges. And spotlight grabbers / attention sponges? Ugh. Never liked ’em, never will. Neon-lit egos make me run in the opposite direction.
I still think if I ever go to one of these cons or retreats or seminars, I’ll go incognito. Or at least not wear some honkin’ big name tag. That way, I could just creep up on people I like and quietly introduce myself.
Being anonymous seems like a golden ticket to revelation. 😉
Like I said to Mara, just because an author is shy does not always mean that comes across in a negative way. For example Jaime Samms was -very- shy. You could tell she was trying hard and was very sweet but she was also really shy and quiet. It didn’t come across as aloof at all but merely she wasn’t one comfortable with a lot of conversation. (I could again be wrong but that’s how it felt).
There were other authors that came across as quiet, nice but very shy. I didn’t confuse this with aloofness but some authors definitely came across that way. They were some dismissive when you talked to them, which even if you’re shy why hurry off a reader that is interested in your work? I think it’s just the difference in behavior. If you act like you’re at least a little bit interested in the person talking (even if you aren’t) you’ll come across well, even if you’re shy and don’t know what to say.
I don’t hold someone’s shyness against them. I hold the bad behavior and pretentious posturing against authors. But yanno, I’m one person against a fandom of squee. I doubt it’ll matter.
I was pretty happy to be anonymous myself. Not that I had a lot of concerns that people would know little old me but it was nice to have conversations without worrying they’d heard of you somewhere.
Kris mentioned something similar in her very own Kris snarky style. It makes me angry onn behalf of a lot of people and I wish I was a fly on the wall on some occassions.
Conversations like that are no way to make repeat customers at your webshop. Bad news travels fast, much faster then the good one.
Pretty much and what was funny was this group of authors was -very- vocal around the web and some are pretty popular. One was even looking at me and could see me eavesdropping. Perhaps that is why they broke up but I thought it was pretty arrogant and silly, given the setting. I also wasn’t the only one around listening to them either, obviously.
Oh there were some lovely authors there that were just a joy to talk to. Marie Sexton, Clare London, PD Singer, Eden Winters, ZAM, Belinda McBride – to name of few of my favorites. But then there were some that I enjoyed talking to on the signing cruise too that I really didn’t see the rest of the event…ML Rhodes, MJ O’Shea, Ethan Stone, Missy Welsh. I would have loved to have talked to them more.
I have to agree that it’s difficult to just go up to someone and start talking when you don’t know them. If you haven’t read an authors books what do you say? I have no clue!
I wish I would have paid more attention when the “dissing” the reviewers conversation was going on. You needed to hit me upside the head and say, “pay attention!”
I really wanted to talk to some of those authors more, definitely some of the names you mentioned. So nice. Its what makes the retreat worthwhile and the bad parts pretty forgettable.