Saturday, August 15, 2009

Not One but TWO Evenings of Michael Koryta

As you know, because I've been broadcasting it for awhile now, we here in Northeast Ohio were fortunate to have not one but THREE book events from Michael Koryta this year. On Tuesday of this past week, Michael spoke at the Fairview Park Public Library. On Wednesday he visited the Rocky River Community Center for an event sponsored by the Rocky River Public Library. Then on Thursday he wrapped up this leg of his book tour with an event at Bay Village Public Library. This is huge not only because he was here for three days but because he passed up seeing the advance screening of SHUTTER ISLAND with Dennis Lehane, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio!

My plan had been to attend the event on Wednesday at Rocky River. Of course I would have been thrilled to see all three, but I don't need a public record of stalking. However, my friend from forever, George Lichman, gave me a hard time when I showed up on Wednesday. He wanted to know "what kind of fan" I was for not being at Fairview Park. So I went through my whole spiel about not wanting to be known as a stalker, and when Michael assured me there would be no restraining orders issued, I decided to attend Bay Village's event as well. Both were wonderful evenings so I'm excited to share some highlights with you today.

My friend, George - mentioned above, is a police officer in Rocky River and is not only a friend but a resource of Michael's. So George offered a very nice introduction for Michael at the Rocky River Civic Center.

At both events, Michael opened by reading from two of his works. In Rocky River he read from SORROW'S ANTHEM, still my personal favorite, and the first chapter of his new novel, THE SILENT HOUR. In Bay Village he opted to read from TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE and THE SILENT HOUR. If you've read the first chapter of THE SILENT HOUR, you know it has a bit of a suspenseful end and both audiences groaned slightly as he closed the book, hoping he would have continued. Of course, Michael's hoping they will each pick up a copy and continue reading themselves.

An element that came up for discussion was the idea of the hero being alone in most of crime fiction; Michael sited Robert B. Parker's belief that much of this goes back to the idea of the knight in the Middle Ages, off fighting for good but doing so alone. And this need for the hero to walk down the mean streets alone shapes character development. Michael gauges the quality of a series by how well an author honors the events of the previous books in the series. And the best fiction should replicate the reality of the human struggle. The best authors will remember what they have put their characters through and reflect how those struggles have changed and shaped the characters. Michael takes this belief into consideration as he writes THE SILENT HOUR. Lincoln Perry had significant struggles in SORROW'S ANTHEM and A WELCOME GRAVE. Michael wanted to make sure that Lincoln didn't appear in THE SILENT HOUR to be moving on in life unaffected by the events of the previous two books. And thus, THE SILENT HOUR is Lincoln's crisis of conscience. It is also a character study of detectives; Michael wanted to look at how one case can affect people, specifically the detectives, differently.

The idea for the berm house in THE SILENT HOUR comes from a house that was built in Indiana by an heiress to Eli Lily and was subsequently left to ruin when it was lost to foreclosure. It is also a "tip of the hat" to Michael's favorite book, THE GREAT GATSBY. Gatsby's house is the means to his real dream, Daisy. The house itself means nothing to Gatsby. So, Michael does the same thing with the house in THE SILENT HOUR; it is a means to another dream, it is not THE dream. Instead, the dream in TSH is the idea of "rehabilitation."

Michael does not outline when he writes; instead he rewrites "relentlessly." On average he probably cuts about 60% of what he writes. He spoke to the cliche of "murder your darlings." Michael says he "lines up [his] darlings and mows them down with machine guns." Well, I guess I can take solace in that I was at one time one of those darlings. I mentioned that the cat was let out of the bag in Columbus and Michael again mentioned to the audience in Rocky River that I was a character in THE SILENT HOUR at one time, but I was murdered. Left on the cutting room floor. What Michael did do, however, was supply me with my scene and permission to share with you all. I will tell you that it is a spoiler if you have not already read the book. Therefore, I am simply going to provide you a link to where you can go to read it. So, if you'd like to read how I was (for the only time in my life) an attractive, tall, blond-hair, blue-eyed parole officer, click this link.

Each book is different in the total time it takes to complete it. According to Michael, it all depends on how quickly the plot shows itself to him. Stories often show themselves to Michael during long walks, long hikes, or in the shower (not real sure what all the connection is between those three, but...). Michael has a hard time thinking through road blocks sitting still, so he gets up and walks.

As a writer, Michael is obsessed with titles and leads. His favorite title is SORROW'S ANTHEM and he didn't have trouble with any of his titles until ENVY THE NIGHT, which was the only title he didn't have before he started writing. His obsession with leads goes back to his newspaper days and he credits a colleague, Laura Lane, with hammering leads into his psyche when he was first starting at the newspaper.

A member of the audience at Bay asked if this would be Lincoln's last book. And Michael explained it by saying he feels the last line of THE SILENT HOUR sums up his attitude about writing another Lincoln Perry novel. So, when you read THE SILENT HOUR, you'll have a better notion of whether or not this is the last book. The next two books are stand alones, both written in third person.

If you are familiar with the Cleveland area, Michael located Lincoln and Joe's office in an old bank building at Kamm's Corners. When Michael visited inside the building as a young boy and saw the fogged glass doors of the offices inside, he immediately thought of Spade and Archer and knew he would one day set his Cleveland-based story in that building. I'm going to try to go there in the near future and take a picture of the building for those of you who aren't native or don't know this area but know the Lincoln Perry novels.

Michael has always wanted to be a writer. He participated in Bloomington's Young Author's Conference (ahem, sound familiar?) and has always been fascinated by story in any form. Michael loves what he does, and his biggest fear is that one day he'll get a call from the IRS saying, "sir, we just discovered that you enjoy what you do." He is now a full-time writer, but if you'll recall, up until last December, he also worked as a private detective. One element that he says he misses (I'm not so worried about being a stalker now), he misses following people in a car. Another interesting little tidbit that I had not heard before was that Michael had a "passing fancy" at one time to attend law school. However, looking back now he's not really sure why. It calls for a large investment of time in schooling, and Michael has been willing to invest a lot of time in many things, but school was never one of them.

Both events were absolutely wonderful, and this recap does not do either justice. If you ever have the opportunity to hear this young man speak about his writing, snatch it. You will leave knowing that there wasn't anything else you could have been doing that would have been more enjoyable. O.k., well, almost nothing else. ;)


Corey Wilde August 16, 2009 at 10:00 AM  

Good recap, Jen. You budding stalker, you.

le0pard13 August 16, 2009 at 12:06 PM  

What a great summary of the events, the author and MK's Lincoln Perry's series. Knowing what I do, it's little wonder that MK does not see you as a stalker--if he did, he wouldn't have murdered you! Having you followed or a court injunction, yes, but not murder ;-).

You were at the Columbus event? Did you meet up with Corey? I know for a fact he was there (I have the evidence in my hot little hands). Got to RT this! Thanks, Jen.

Jen August 16, 2009 at 12:47 PM  

hehehe. Thanks Michael. No, I didn't got down to Columbus; Naomi told me that my scene came up in their discussion. I STILL haven't met up with Corey - one of these days...if we get RC in the area...maybe then! Or I'm headed down there when Tim Hallinan is at Foul Play. Maybe he'll come to that! Corey?? ;) Of course, we're still all going to have to go to the 2011 B'Con, right? And I know about your evidence he; and I had to pow wow on that.

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