Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Locke and Key

Yesterday was one great day.

This Author event was at Barbara's bookstore on Halsted in Chicago. My Girlfriend and I took the train there where we were able to show up 20 minutes before Attica Locke would arrive.

Here's some info on the book:

In the tradition of Dennis Lehane and Greg Iles comes a powerful new voice in American fiction: Attica Locke delivers a brilliant debut thriller readers will not soon forget…

Jay Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl, and he runs his fledgling law practice out a dingy strip mall. But he’s long since made peace with his path to the American Dream, carefully tucking away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.

Houston, Texas, 1981. It’s here that Jay believes he can make a fresh start. That is, until the night he impulsively saves a drowning woman’s life – and opens a Pandora’s Box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of a tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston’s corporate powerbrokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.

With intelligent writing that captures the reader from the first scene through an exhilarating climax, Black Water Rising marks the arrival of an electrifying new talent.

We browsed for a few minutes to give the author some time to settle in, then we sat down at 6:55pm. By 7:15 there were over twenty people filling the seats in the back of the bookstore, all shaking hands and making conversation. Many people knew each other. Attica sat at the front, between two tables and a podium. She had a joyful smile, was beaming with delight. Then she began.

As a screenwriter living in Los Angeles, Attica became disenchanted by the lethargic process of Hollywood. She labored and worked hard, churning out ten screenplays. But there were so many delays that she just said enough. One day, she decided to pen a story that she had, debated with herself whether it should be a novel or a screenplay. Having seen the strings attached to screenplays, she decided to go with writing it as a novel instead. "I just wanted to tell the story, to get it out there."

She discussed this with her husband and she formulated a plan. "I want to write for a year," she said. He obliged and they took out a second mortgage on their home. Meanwhile, she wrote everywhere conceivable in the house. "I'd write in a chair, I'd write on the floor, in the office; I was everywhere."

Finally, with everything set her novel was published. She read from chapter one which was very descriptive. I felt as if I was inside the boat that all the characters were on.

After, she opened it up for questions.

It turns out that the original manuscript was 600 pages long. She was able to trim 200 to 250 pages out of it. Her parents were involved in the civil rights movement and a lot of the story takes place in that era. Later she revealed that the first chapter was actually inspired by a true story, which was surprising. She delights in knowing that her husband is there for her and that she is now living the life of a writer. She's already 100 pages into her next book and is currently at work on an HBO miniseries based on the civil rights movement.

So many people asked questions.
I only asked two.

"Is this the first time writing a novel, or did you have any earlier writing?"

"Yes, this is the first time I've written a novel. I wrote a couple short stories here and there, but I didn't know that this is where I would eventually be. But I also think this is where I was meant to be. I'd have fun with short story ideas and say, 'oh, I'll write this on Saturday.' Who does that?"

She also said that her grandmother was able to publish a children's book herself and got it into stores. She even asked Attica and her other siblings to draw the illustrations at the time. Attica is very proud of her.

"Why Black Water Rising? Was that the first title you picked or did it just pop into your head?"

"No," she said, shaking her head with a smile. "It didn't just pop. I'm horrible at making titles. The original title was Bayou City which didn't have much to go with it. My editor picked the title and I just love it. It fits it perfectly."

She thanked everyone for coming and then I went to the back of the line to get my book signed. I usually like to be the last one. Call it tradition, if you will.

I have to say she was very excited for this event. She was also very nice and polite, a people person. It was now my turn and I stepped up. Before I could even open my mouth she asked:

"Are you a writer?"

I was dumbstruck.
I did a double take.
I hesitated for a few seconds.

"I-uh-yes? Yes! How did you know?"

"Those questions you asked, they seemed like writer questions to me. Plus, I just had a feeling. I guess You can sense those things."

"Wow. For a minute there I was thinking, 'can she read minds as well?' Yeah, I guess all writer's have this aura around them."

I introduced her to my girlfriend and we made small talk. She asked if I was writing to which I said, "I'm working on my third one right now."

"That's great! Y'know, a lot of people think us authors are freak shows. They can't understand all this stuff we go through inside our heads when we write."

"I know. We have issues." I laughed.

"But it's good that you found someone that you love and who supports your passion."

See what I said about how incredibly nice she was?

I got my book signed, we took pictures. It was a blast. She was even nice enough to invite everyone for drinks in a place across the street, but we had a train to catch. I thanked her anyway, shook her hand and we left. I admit, I was having a geek moment. But it thrilled me to know that when someone has a passion, they jump for it. And that's what you have to do if you want to be a writer, just jump. That's the key to it, really. I'm sure that with this book, I'll most likely finish it in two sittings. After that, I'll lend it to my girlfriend to read. But, as soon as I get it back, that book is going on the top of my shelf, protected by a plastic slip if needs be. It's something I want to treasure, meeting such an incredibly nice author, from Los Angeles no less, who hasn't lost her passion for being herself and living a writer's life. That book of mine will be filed under Locke and Key.

"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer." ~E.B. White (Charlotte's Web)


AmberInGlass said...

Great post, Rob! Thank you very much for sharing this story. It was inspirational and uplifting which is exactly what I needed right now. I have never heard of Annita Locke or her book, but I'll be sure to check it out. I definately can't fault you your geek moment, I would been doing the same thing. People that genuinly kind seem so rare and hard to find.

By the way, where can I find your novels or are they yet to be published?

Rob said...

Thanks amberinglass.

My novels are not in print yet but one of them is a free audiobook. I sat down and read the thing chapter by chapter. You can find it on Podiobooks.com or Itunes. There's also a link to it on the blog when you click on the Mr. Dead Eyes cover to the right. I hope you have a chance to listen to it and tell me what you think.


Rebecca said...

this is a great post, one that is awesome. But then again I have high expectations when it comes to you.

I'll need to check out this book. Thanks for the suggestion rob.

Isn't it funny how published authors seem to know who's a writer and who's a fan of the book (and not a writer?

AmberInGlass said...

I definately will. I'll head over to Itunes and get it for my ipod today. I'll let you know when I finished listening to it. And when it gets into print, I'll pick it up then too. Personally, I love having a library. ;-P

AmberInGlass said...

So I've been listening to Mr. Dead Eyes around the house, I'm up to chapter 9. So far it's been excellent. You have a real talent for suspense. I'll write up a full review for Itunes when I'm all finished. If it's okay with you I'll send you a copy and put it up on my blog as well.