Scott D. Parker
If you're ever in Houston, you simply must head on over to Murder by the Book. If you get a chance to catch an author event, all the better. But when you hit a jackpot like last weekend--when you get not one, not two, but three authors (and one in the audience)--you'll wonder what good deed you did to get such a welcome reward.
Duane Swierczynski, Victor Gischler, and, making her first appearance as an author at MBTB, Lisa Brackmann took the stage in the late afternoon heat of Houston. Interestingly, Swierczynski and Gischler had not met Brackmann prior to their joint signing session. (Dunno about y'all but I always think there's some secret author organization where they all meet for punch and cookies.) The trio started off pitching their latest novels: Swierczynski and Expiration Date; Gischler and The Deputy; Brackmann and Rock Paper Tiger. Swierczynski started acting the part of the emcee, quizzing the other two authors about the genesis of their respective novels. In the first of many funny moments, Gischler admitted he wrote The Deputy because he lost a bet. Brackmann's heroine was inspired by Iraq War vets and the problems at Abu Ahraib. And Swierczynski admitted that his novels need to have some weird stuff just to keep him interested.
Gischler and Swierczynski both write for comic books and an audience member, his arms full of comics, asked if their comic scripts detailed all that they envisioned or if they left it up to the artists. Swierczynski commented that writes down lots of detail. Gischler admitted he's lazy since he is communicating only to the artist and not the public. Thus, he can just write clear, direct comment without having to filter or make the words pretty.
The one author in the audience, Bill Crider, started pitching questions at the authors behind the microphones. Among them were the following:
- Characters in one book showing up in other books -- Swierczynski said that if he can't kill a character, he feels limited. Gischler jokingly said that none of his characters survive. Brackmann hinted that her next book doesn't have any characters from Rock Paper Tiger but her third novel will return to them.
- Outline: Yes or No -- Gischler likes to discover alongside his characters. Brackmann concurred and paraphrased Ian Rankin when he said "If I knew how a book ends, why would I write it?" Swierczynski has worked with and without outlines. He has a vague idea of the ending and often wings it along the way. Expiration Date was different since it was to be a New York Times serial.
- Titles: create your own? -- Swierczynski: yes. Brackmann: mashed hers together. Gischler: "The Deputy" was merely a placeholder until the end when he realized that those two words had morphed into the title.
This is but the barest glimpse into a highly entertaining time we all had in Houston last week. It's a part of the business of being a writer to which I look forward and it's a blast being a reader and meeting favorite authors. I walked into the bookstore knowing only one of the three authors. I had such a good time meeting the new-to-me authors that I walked out knowing that I'll be reading Brackmann's and Gischler's books in the future.
What are your favorite parts of author events?