Friday, January 1, 2010

A Snowy Evening with Steve Hockensmith and a Giveaway!

Welcome to 2010 everyone. Did you see the blue moon? I hope that everyone's year got off on the right foot. I'd like to help you in that "right foot" department. I have an event recap and a giveaway announcement for you today.

On Tuesday I had the great fortune to attend Steve Hockensmith's event at the Chagrin Falls Public Library. Many thanks to his in-laws for living in the Cleveland area and therefore affording us N.E. Ohioans this opportunity.

I, of course, had to be my regular obnoxious self and tell the world that Steve would be in the area and I was going, so Steve knew I would be there. I left early since I hadn't been to Chagrin Falls' library before and it was dark when I was driving there. But I had no problems and ended up being early. When Steve came he surprised me with a Christmas short story he published in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 2007 called "Humbug." How cool is that? Signed it for me and everything. What a great memento for me. Thanks Steve!

Steve was pleasantly surprised at the turnout. It was a very good crowd for a cold, snowy December Tuesday, the Tuesday after Christmas no less, in Ohio. We had a wonderful time and Steve did a fabulous job. If you have the opportunity to see Steve in action, definitely do it. A truly enjoyable time. He started out by talking a little about the Holmes on the Range series for those who were unfamiliar with it.

Steve followed up his overview with the announcement of his project due out in March, and that is the next book in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series. He has written Book 3, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES: DAWN OF THE DREADFULS, which is actually a prequel. It will be out in March and the next Holmes on the Range should be out by the end of 2010. Presently, this Holmes on the Range book is titled, THE WORLD'S GREATEST SLEUTH! Steve is really hoping he gets to keep that exclamation mark in the title. However, this may possibly be the last of the Holmes on the Range series. So, keep your fingers crossed. Steve did say that looking at this book as possibly the last in the series has been a great experience for him as a writer because he's looking at the series as a whole. In his words, he says he wants to "leave them in a good place." He wants the book to be able to provide closure if it is the last - no "Gilligan Syndrome," but still have an opening for Book 6 if it isn't the last.

After talking a bit about Book 5, Steve read his Prelude from A CRACK IN THE LENS. He wanted the audience to be able to hear the Otto Amlingmeyer that he hears when he writes. Steve made an apology to the people of Kansas because the Amlingmeyers are from Kansas; however, Otto talks as though he's from Southern Indiana. This would be, of course, because Steve is from Southern Indiana. I always enjoy hearing an author read selections at book signings. I like to hear what the author hears in his/her own head as they are writing. It provides me with a better feel for the characters. And Steve discussed how important sound is in the Holmes on the Range novels. This is one of the elements I really like about Steve's writing. He distinctly illustrates the dialect, the cadence, the rhythm of the characters' voices. It isn't just about the words that they choose to say to each other; equally important is how they say the words.

After his reading, Steve took questions from the audience and the first question was related to the audio book versions of the series. I have not heard these audio books. Steve, however, likes the audio books because they 1.) allowed him to tell his daughter that he works with Bob the Builder because the narrator is the same man who voices Bob the Builder and 2.) he gets royalty checks from the audio book sales. Plus, he is very glad that they have brought more people to the series. He cannot, however, listen to them himself. Steve echoed what I've heard many authors say: they have in their minds what their characters sound like and the narrators don't match that sound or they interpret differently. If you think about how a subtle difference in something as simple as inflection can change the meaning of a sentence, interpretation can cause major changes in a book. And this is why I will often mention that a narrator can make or break a book for a reader/listener.

The next question was whether Steve was also one of two brothers, like Old Red and Big Red. And indeed he is. He is the younger of two brothers. He mentioned that, while he loves his big brother, his brother is not a "people person," kinda like Old Red. And Steve hopes that he isn't as much of a blow hard as Big Red, but Big Red is an extension of himself. He didn't make them similar to he and his brother consciously, though. The relationship grew out of necessity. He knew he wanted to have a Sherlock Holmes concept, and he wanted to set it in the American West. But he couldn't tell the story from the perspective of the genius detective and have any kind of mystery. So he needed a sidekick to tell the story. Then Steve had to ask himself why two cowboys would travel around together, and thus the brothers' relationship was born.

The inevitable writer question arose in this session, "do you plan your plot or write by the seat of your pants?" Steve is an outliner. He can't imagine not having a path to follow as he writes. If he sits down to write without having a clear idea of where the plot is going, he is stymied. While he does make discoveries along the way that may differ from his outline, he has never had a killer turn out to be someone other than who he initially planned it to be.

Another common question asked of writers was presented to Steve, "how did you find your agent?" And Steve explained that he is the exception to the rule. His agent found him, through his short story writing, actually. He did recommend forming relationships with other writers through things like writing groups and writing conventions and those relationships can often lead to agent connections. (The one detail I probably would have added to that recommendation is that it isn't good form to ask another writer to read your work or recommend you the minute you meet them.)

Steve also discussed his process to becoming a mystery novelist. He started out by writing short stories, science fiction short stories. Through this endeavor he learned his skill didn't really lie in science fiction. So he took a step back and then a step to the side, moving into mystery. He discovered mystery through THE BIG SLEEP. With THE BIG SLEEP he recognized some of the areas of writing that were his strengths and realized that he could use those strengths in the mystery genre, whereas they aren't as prominent in the science fiction genre.

Steve wrapped up the questions and signed books for everyone. Then I snagged him to get another picture. He was excited because he said he was going up on my "wall of hunks." Those are his words! :) But you know...those ARE some rather attractive men over there - they really agreed to have their pictures taken with ME?!

I also had Steve sign a copy of HOLMES ON THE RANGE and ON THE WRONG TRACK, books 1 and 2 in the Holmes on the Range series, so I could have a giveaway. What a perfect way to start out the year. And since my blogiversary is on the 12th, we'll have the 11th be the cut-off date, and I will announce the winners on the 12th as part of my celebration this year. I've put together another google doc to take your entries. You can enter for either or both of the books, but you will only be eligible to win one. So, I'll have two winners from this drawing. I have to restrict entries to U.S. postal addresses, though, sorry.


Kay January 1, 2010 at 3:43 AM  

Very nice, Jen. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

Steve Hockensmith January 1, 2010 at 1:35 PM  

Reaction #1: Wow, that Jen is amazing. What a thorough recap of the night. Reaction #2: WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE TELL ME MY HAIR LOOKED THAT BAD?!? My limp-greasy locks are the result of the affliction known as Snow Hair. Use all the styling product you want, it doesn't matter during a Cleveland winter. Your 6-year-old daughter dumps a shovelful of snow over your head, and you're doomed. Please, Jen -- don't put me up on the Wall o' Hunks next to Marcus or Jason Starr. I once thought I could compete for the best hair in crime fiction, but now I know I was sadly deluded.


Sophie Littlefield January 1, 2010 at 9:58 PM  

Oh Jen, I can't believe you fell for that "I'm an outliner" nonsense! The way it really works is our little NorCal poker club meets in a bar whenever steve's ready to start a new project, and we all plot his next book for him while we work our way through a few beers. you should have seen how surprised he was when we told him he was going to be writing that prequel. that was funny!

Sophie Littlefield January 1, 2010 at 10:00 PM  

And PS Steve the hair is looking great!!! No more haircuts until '11, remember - if you're going to compete at the Starr-Eisler level you're gonna have to get your game on

Jen Forbus January 2, 2010 at 9:10 AM  

Ha! You guys are funny. I was trying to post a response to Kay and Steve last night when my computer crashed (time to look at new computers). I wanted to tell Steve if that was the worst he got from Snow Hair, he was a very lucky fellow! But if it makes him feel better, I'll put him next to Koryta who doesn't have much hair at all! ;)

And I see I'm going to have to have a post on the "best hair in crime fiction"! ;) I'll do pictures at the next Bouchercon to use in that post.

Beth F January 2, 2010 at 9:33 AM  

Shoot. Blogger ate my first witty comment and I don't have a copy. Grrrrr.

I came by to say happy new year and was treated to this super post. Thanks for letting me get to know Steve better. I've had his series on my wish list forever and ever, so thanks for the opportunity to win a book.

Hope 2010 is fabulous.

Pop Culture Nerd January 2, 2010 at 5:43 PM  

As if I haven't gotten enough free stuff for Christmas, I come here and see a chance to have more! Yay!

Fantastic recap, Jen. I recently discovered Steve with Crack in the Lens and can't resist a talented writer with a sense of humor (that includes you, Ms. Littlefield). And Steve, your snow hair is way better than mine even when I don't have food stuck in it.

Steve Hockensmith January 3, 2010 at 11:29 PM  

Thanks for trying to help me feel better about my Bad Hair Yuletide, everybody, but I'm not buying it. I look like I've got a giant catfish stuck to the side of my head. New rule: no more photo opportunities in states that have actual weather.

Oh, and Sophie: I need a new plot, stat. Think the gang can get together for a pitcher of Old Style this week?


Anonymous January 13, 2010 at 8:22 PM  

Since I'm an old broad, I can honestly report that I've read thousands of books. I am so glad that some of these young whippersnappers are proving to be so talented. Keep up the good work, you Hockensmith feller!

  © Blogger templates 'Neuronic' by 2008

Back to TOP