Monday, January 25, 2010

An Evening With My Idol - Robert Crais

**WARNING: Long fan-girl post with a ridiculous number of pictures. Read at your own risk!**

As you know, I drove to Dayton, Ohio, Sunday for Robert Crais' event at Books & Co. I'm going to try to recap this evening for you, but I'm sure I won't come even close to illustrating the wonderfulness of this day. But, let's give it a go!

The drive to Dayton was about 3 1/2 hours. My wonderful friend Michael provided me with the L.A. REQUIEM audiobook from Recorded Books so I could listen to it while I drove. 3 1/2 hours literally FLEW by. I left early enough so that I could meet Christine for lunch beforehand, and we ate at this adorable English pub across the street from the bookstore, where I was SOOOO tempted to order Bangers and Mash...but, it isn't conducive to the diet, so I had to be content with just seeing it on the menu. Anyway, here's Christine and I at the pub.

It was fabulous to meet Christine; she's a regular here at the blog, has her own blog and I'm looking forward to meeting up with her again in San Francisco later this year.

We went across the street to Books & Co. about an hour before the event was set to begin. Wanted to get good seats and we were meeting Naomi and Carolyn at the store. Naomi and Carolyn beat us there, though and had front-row seats. We were directly behind them on the aisle, so no complaints whatsoever. While we waited, we got our Pike on:

And just a few minutes after 6, Robert Crais made his entrance! He was greeted with a standing ovation and an audience full of red arrows!

RC started off his presentation sharing some emails with the crowd. This kind of thing makes you think twice about what you might be emailing authors or other celebrities! ;) Some people aren't afraid, that's for sure. Many took issue with RC on his use of "bring" for "take" or "take" for "bring." You can see a video of RC reading these emails over at Naomi's blog.

People have named their pets after him. One woman sent RC a picture of her dog, "Crais." The owner lives in Manhattan and walks around with "Crais" the dog; everytime she sees a celebrity she runs over and forces them to have their picture taken with him. There was a picture of "Crais" the dog with Rick Springfield; a picture of "Crais" the dog with Olivia Newton John. RC thought this wouldn't be so bad, but he knows these celebrities think he's putting her up to it. Another person sent RC a picture of his/her cat sleeping on his book.

***UPDATE**** Hey everyone! I received an e-mail from Crais the Dog's owner, Penny! Guess what? Crais has a cat sibling named Harlan (yep, after Harlan Coben)! And another cat sibling named Olivia (after Olivia Newton-John). They all actually live in New Jersey, but Rick Springfield is Crais' Godfather. AND Rick drew an cartoonized picture of Crais the Dog that Penny the Mom had tattooed on her leg! Crais the dog can't claim any other celebrity pictures, though. Just Rick Springfield and Olivia Newton John. But who would complain about that? Thanks for writing Penny!

RC finds some of his mail disturbing. He received an email with the subject: "Elvis Cole's grooming." The author of this email said she dreamed Elvis hired her as his assistant, and one of her duties was doing Elvis' laundry where she found "undies with skid marks." My first thought was "why in God's name would someone send an e-mail like that?" And almost immediately after thinking that, RC says, "someone typed this up and sent it."

After the e-mail fun, RC launched into some discussion about THE FIRST RULE. This is his sixteenth book total, the 13th in Elvis Cole series. RC doesn't differentiate Joe's books from Elvis'; as far as he's concerned they are all the same series. In the last few books he's really getting into who the characters are - I would say this has been ever since L.A. REQUIEM. Joe is a very visual character and has the iconic image with sunglasses and the red arrows. The arrows suggest the true nature of his character. "Never back up; never give ground." This was the philosophy he established when he was young and needed to find a way to survive. "Control and dominate the environment to survive." If you have not read L.A. REQUIEM, first DO SO! But those who have, know that we really learn these facts about Joe in that novel.

After he spoke in general about Joe, RC gave some of the background story leading up to THE FIRST RULE and then read a couple of brief excerpts. One of those excerpts was near the beginning when Joe has snuck into Frank's house and is on the phone when the police go by outside. I love his reading for Joe. While I've enjoyed the audio books I've listened to of the Elvis series, Joe's voice never seemed exactly right to me. The readers often did a decent job with Elvis, but Joe's voice was never quite right. But I thought RC's Joe was the closest to what I imagined in my head. He was dramatic and animated as he read, and that was fun. It makes me all the more interested in getting his audiobook reading of THE FIRST RULE. If you do not know, he is the narrator for this audiobook. I am on the waiting list at my library to get it.

After his reading, RC opened the floor up for Q&A and the first question was "Does Joe Pike have a kid somewhere?" With a rather startled expression, RC looked around as though one might pop out from behind a book shelf somewhere. But his response was, "I guess you'll have to read every one of my books from now on to find out."

Another question was about future plans for Carol Starkey or John Chen. Would there be any books featuring either of these two characters. RC plays with notions for Carol Starkey, and with her now in Robbery/Homicide, he's opened the door for another feature with her, but if that happens it won't be for at least 4 to 5 books. He doesn't feel John Chen couldn't carry his own book, but he receives tons of emails saying "please let John Chen get a girlfriend."

And of course the inevitable question came out, "Will Lucy come back?" RC posed to the audience, "How many people want Lucy to come back?" He pointed out how the no's are so vehement whenever he asks that question. And then he said at an event in La Jolla someone popped up during Q&A and yelled, "Kill Lucy!" while another woman on the other side of the room jumped up and yelled "No!" A cat fight at the author event! The next, as many of you have probably heard, is another Joe Pike, and following that one is the next Elvis Cole, and Lucy will indeed appear in that book.

Another audience member asked how difficult this book was for him to write emotionally and he said it was great fun for him to write, but through some of the scenes he was "blubbering like a baby."

A woman in the audience wanted to know if RC has Joe's whole life already all mapped out and created; does he know everything there is to know about Joe? And his response is that he knows a lot, but part of the fun is making up the details along the way. The core elements he's known since the beginning, but as he delves deeper, he's making up fresh details. Along with the readers RC is learning more about the characters. Ultimately, though, he always want Joe to be enigmatic; too much Joe is not a good thing and he has to carefully walk a fine line.

Another member of the audience wanted to know if RC ever considered writing a younger Joe Pike, a novel out of sequence? And he's thought about it for both Joe and Elvis, but he doesn't have plans to do either now; as series progresses, maybe.

RC brought up that he wrote the scene of how Elvis and Joe met for THE LAST DETECTIVE, but once the plot was complete, the scene didn't fit, so it was cut (I feel its pain!). Scenes that have been cut are saved in a file for possible future use. And so something like their meeting could possibly evolve into a future plot line.

RC would love to write another Max Holman book, but there isn't one in the works at this time; he's playing with the idea of bringing Max into Elvis' world, though.

When asked what was the hardest book for him to write and what was the easiest, he replied that L.A. REQUIEM was possibly his most difficult book to write, primarily because it was so different from anything he'd ever written before. I many have mentioned this on here before because I heard him say this in an interview, but he feared L.A. REQUIEM would kill his career and be considered one of the worst books ever written. When he finished it, he told his agent if the editor didn't want to publish it, that was o.k., he just hoped they wouldn't want to end his contract. L.A. REQUIEM took RC about 14 months to write. Earlier books shorter, so in that sense those were easier; they weren't as complex as the later books. DEMOLITION ANGEL was fairly easy because once he met and started Carol, he fell in love with her and every day writing was a pleasure. DEMOLITION ANGEL was also a research-intensive book. But for him it was "like a drunk falling down stairs: once he slipped, he just rolled."

Someone who obviously never read even RC's book jacket asked if he lived in the area that he writes about. Of course, we know he's been an Angeleno for quite some time. But RC says he explores L.A. in the middle of the night because it's the only time traffic is o.k. Looks for settings during this time, always looking for new settings so he doesn't use the same ones over and over again.

This wrapped up the Q&A session, and RC took his place of honor at the signing table. He is truly one of the most generous writers when it comes to book signing. He makes an effort to talk to each person that comes up, and aside from the two book dealers at the very end, he didn't put stipulations on numbers. When he personalizes, he actually "personalizes." There isn't a set phrase to write for each book.

The highlight for me, however, was when I was standing in the vicinity of the signing table to get Christine's picture with RC. She wasn't up to the front of the line yet, but he looked up from what he was signing, looked at me and said, "I know YOU! L.A. Festival of the Book. Jen, right?" You could have knocked me over with a feather. My idol remembered ME, after meeting me once for less than five minutes. It was thrilling!

I brought RC buckeyes, and he graciously signed my books, my copy of his L.A. Times interview with Megan Abbott, as well as some special items that may make an appearance here on the blog before too long. Keep your eyes peeled.

And of course we had to get a shot of the socks!

It was a magical evening and I am still smiling from the event. Robert Crais is a great writer, he's a witty entertainer, and he's a genuinely great guy. I'm erecting his pedestal as we speak! ;)

For those who stuck it out and read this entire post, I thank you for letting me re-live this very special evening. It's one I will not ever forget. Hopefully the whole post is coherent as I'm starting to see double from looking at this screen for so long. Happy Reading!


Christine January 25, 2010 at 10:57 PM  

Just a great time all the way around! It wasn't even my "Holy Wow!" moment and I was thrilled and terribly impressed by RC! Have you been able to stop grinning yet, Jen or have the facial muscles permanently set?

It was grand to meet you and Naomi, Jen! Looking forward to October!

Christine January 25, 2010 at 11:04 PM  

p.s. How the hell did I forget about the "skid marks" email!?! It must have been a defensive mechanism and my mind blocked it. ;-)

Naomi Johnson January 25, 2010 at 11:20 PM  

I can't believe I had already forgotten some of the Q&A. All I remember is... well, it was a wonderful time. Thank you, Jen and Christine, for sharing this terrific evening in person and in blog.

le0pard13 January 25, 2010 at 11:49 PM  

Great post, Jen. Between you, Naomi, and Christine (posts and pictures) I feel I got a brief glimpse of what it was like last night for you guys. I'll be sure to ask him this Friday at The Mystery Bookstore how he enjoyed the Dayton stop. Thanks for posting this, Jen.

Jon The Crime Spree Guy January 26, 2010 at 6:24 AM  

We talked about you last night. We all agree that you rock.

Jen Forbus January 26, 2010 at 8:04 AM  

Awww, Jon! You made me smile all over again! :)

Christine January 26, 2010 at 8:15 AM  

Here, Here! I'm right there with you, Jon. Jen does indeed rock!!

Jenn January 26, 2010 at 10:44 AM  

Yes, you do rock! Glad you had such a great time! As a newly "inducted" "Craisy", I'm completely jealous!

novelwhore January 26, 2010 at 11:10 AM  

Oh I third the "Jen Rocks" comment! What a wonderful recap of what sounds like a fabulous and funny event. Bob is lucky to have friends/fans like you and Christine.

Pop Culture Nerd January 26, 2010 at 3:17 PM  

This is great, Jen. When it comes to Crais, the more details and photos the better. And he's the best personalizer in the business. When authors sign only their name or "Enjoy," they're off my list!

It's wonderful to put a face to Christine. I already knew what Naomi looked like; it's nice to see you again, too.

What I want to know is: Where else did you place your tattoos?

Jen Forbus January 26, 2010 at 7:48 PM  

Awww, you guys are making me blush! Thanks for all the nice comments!

PCN, this is a FAMILY blog! ;)

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