Friday, May 7, 2010

A Trio at Foul Play Books

A few weeks ago my great friend Naomi sent me a heads up. She said, on May 1st Brad Parks, Sophie Littlefield, and Carla Buckley will be at Foul Play. And if you read here regularly, you know Foul Play is an independent mystery bookstore down in Columbus, Ohio. I just love that my friends help keep me in the loop!

So, last Saturday I drove down to Foul Play for this amazing afternoon with three fabulous debut authors. Before I start sharing about their event, I want to tell you that if you EVER have the chance to meet any of these authors - DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! You will not be disappointed. As a matter of fact, I truly believe they will exceed your expectations. And the fact that we were able to see all three together, well we were just stinkin' lucky! O.k., so let me tell you about the event so you can share in some of the fun.

The authors decided that instead of introducing each introducing his/herself, they would take turns introducing each other. Brad started off by introducing Carla. She is the author of THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE. The premise of her debut novel is a bird flu pandemic. And Brad pointed out that it is set in Columbus, Ohio. He described it as a book that "grabs hold of you; you feel it in your bones."

And Brad "revealed" that authors never sell their first manuscript, and it takes diligence to try again after putting so much into a first book that is rejected. Carla sold manuscript number nine! Now that takes determination.

Carla lives in Dublin, Ohio - very near Columbus. She has a husband and three children. Incidentally her daughter will be going to school in Oberlin, where I work, so Carla and I are planning to get together when she's up in my neck of the woods.

Next Carla introduced Sophie and her debut novel, A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, which you all know about already because I've gushed about it for months now! Carla first met Sophie online through Thriller Writers International. Sophie had posted her book jacket for ABDfS and Carla had "cover envy." 

As Carla introduced ABDfS, she described Sophie's voice as "your own voice coming at you." It was not at all what she expected, and it felt like her own journey. ABDfS was, of course, nominated for the Best First Novel Edgar Award. And A BAD DAY FOR PRETTY, the follow up to A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, is due out in June. Sophie also has a young adult novel coming out with Delacourt.

Finally, Sophie introduced Brad. Sophie and Brad share an editor and so at a conference they were both attending, Sophie sought Brad out. They kind of played the role of wallflowers ogling the seasoned authors that were present, but then they noticed a couple that they knew were not authors because they didn't have the badges that authors at the conference wore. They struck up a conversation, not knowing who they were talking to until they said good-bye and Oline Cogdill introduced herself.

Brad was a journalist/sports writer before leaving the news world for fiction. Sophie approached Brad's book, FACES OF THE GONE, with trepidation based on her past experiences reading former journalists works and what she knew the premise of the book was going to be. But, Brad defeated her preconceived notions and FotG won Sophie over. She feels Brad's voice is "credible" and "dead on."

Brad is married with two small children. He has also written a young adult novel.

After all the introductions each of the authors went on to talk about how they came up with the ideas for their debut novels. Carla started. She explained that before coming to Dublin, she and her family lived in Maryland. It was in 2007, when her oldest was in seventh grade, that they came to Ohio, not knowing anyone here. And at that time the news was filled with warnings about the bird flu. Carla had previously read about the 1918 Pandemic. Reading about that event and knowing it's devastation at a 20% mortality rate, the reports about the bird flu having a 50% mortality rate was terrifying. She began having nightmares about how she would protect her family if the bird flu hit this pandemic stage.

And at this point, Carla had been writing traditional mysteries; she had an agent who had been with her for nine years and her agent was working on shopping a manuscript that Carla had recently finished. So, Carla was going to start on the next manuscript that she had a concept for, but the nightmares convinced her to change gears and write about a bird flu pandemic and how it affects one average family.

THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE was a pivotal book for Carla. Yes it is her first published, but it was also the book that she would have ended on, had it not sold. She was literally going to work, had an editing job all lined up, and then her book sold. Fifteen years of determination paid off.

Sophie also wrote nine books before she was finally published. Sophie chalks her determination up to the fact that she doesn't "have any other skills." Kidding aside, Sophie has worked very hard at her craft and understands it. She was writing books that she felt were on target. So when they all kept coming back, she decided she was going to write something no one had done before. And she knew it was a tough sell - and unattractive 50-year-old woman - but it was what she wanted to write. And when she received a call from an agent to represent her, she jumped at the chance.

Sophie chalks her editor's inexperience (she's 30 years old) up to the reason she bought A BAD DAY FOR SORRY because no one else wanted to touch it.

Brad was a sports writer for a long time. That involved a lot of traveling and being on the road. So when he turned 30 and got married, he decided it was time to settle down. An opening came up in the News department at the Newark Star Ledger where Brad worked. So, he moved to the News department where his very first assignment was a quadruple homicide: four people shot in the back of the head, left for dead in a vacant lot. Aha! A launching point, a real-life mystery. Unlike his sporting events that have a beginning and an end, a game hero, a winner and a loser, they didn't have any outcome or resolution for this heinous crime.

Since Brad's wife was in graduate school, she had to spend a lot of time studying. To spend time with her, he'd tag along to a local cafe, where he'd pull out his laptop and play with the idea of this quadruple homicide mystery. He "invented" a protagonist who was a "tall, stiff white guy; side-parted brown hair; likes khaki pants and collared shirts." I can't imagine where the idea for such a protagonist came from. Brad always thought that authors who claimed their characters directed the story were ridiculous. That is until he experienced the same thing and HIS characters started running the story.

Because Brad could tell his newspaper would soon be out of business, like so many others, he decided it was a good time to take his "absurd leap of faith" and change careers. He wanted to become an author. He did premise this information by saying if he'd have known Carla or Sophie's story (nine manuscripts) back then, he NEVER would have taken his leap. However, he did take that leap. His wife was taking a job with a boarding school, and that would allow them to live on campus and take advantage of the campus dining hall and Brad could be unemployed until he sold a book. They sold their house and were preparing to move when he got the call that his book sold. So instead of having to tell people he was supported by his wife, he could proudly say he was an "author."

Next the authors took turns reading from each other's works. I had wanted to share clips of this with you from my recording, buuuuuut.....we were outside at Foul Play. It was wonderful, beautiful, loved it. However, so did the birds. And they were especially happy about this book event and were singing throughout. So, I'll just tell you that it was very enjoyable listening to them read and you should check out all three books if you have not yet done so.

It was a super, wonderful day. I am so glad that Brad, Carla and Sophie took time out from the RT Convention to come over to Foul Play. And I was especially glad because I had planned to go to the Mystery Festival at Mystery Lovers Bookshop this past Monday - Brad was there, but I was called for jury duty. Yeah, that's a whole different, creepy story, but I didn't get released in enough time to make it out there. So, having the chance to see all three wonderful writers in one place was a treasure. And like I said at the beginning of this post, if you get the opportunity to meet any of these folks, snatch it - go out of your way to make it happen. You will be so glad you did! Brad might even dip you...

Thanks for letting me relive my day a little with you. Happy Reading!

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Lesa May 7, 2010 at 8:13 AM  

Great recap, Jen! I have to get a copy of Carla's books. You know how much I like the others.

And, now I know why Brad said what he did. Tsk, tsk. You have a reputation to maintain among the male authors, don't you?

Christine May 7, 2010 at 8:15 AM  

What a fabulous way to spend an afternoon! Enjoyed meeting the wonderful Ms. Sophie in L.A. Hoping I get an opportunity to meet Brad and Carla as well!

I love that you all were out on a patio. Weather permitting, does Foul Play often have their events outside?

Kay May 7, 2010 at 8:45 AM  

What a fun time! I have all 3 of their books already here and this makes me want to run around the house picking them up and reading them immediately. Thanks for sharing, Jen!

Jenn's Bookshelves May 7, 2010 at 9:15 AM  

How exciting! I must check out Foul Play Books the next time I'm visiting my parents in Columbus!

Naomi Johnson May 7, 2010 at 11:27 AM  

Excellent recap, Jen. I'm glad your audio was audible! Have you been there in the autumn when the apple tree drops fruit? Perilous times!

Christine, Foul Play is so small that, weather permitting, the deck is the place to be.

Brad Parks May 7, 2010 at 12:03 PM  

I must state for the record that Jen did a very accurate job of recounting everything. Except for that photo at the end. That was clearly doctored by Jen to enhance her "reputation." It's so shameful the way she flaunts it sometimes.

Christine May 7, 2010 at 12:07 PM  

Own it Jen! ;-)

Naomi Johnson May 7, 2010 at 12:14 PM  

Shame on yez, Jen!

Jen Forbus May 7, 2010 at 12:22 PM  

Well crap! It appears as though I need to work on my Photoshop skills!

And Jenn, YES! Definitely check out Foul Play the next time you're in Columbus. The store is actually in Westerville, but worth the little drive to go.

Susan C Shea May 7, 2010 at 1:02 PM  

I know and love Sophie - who doesn't - and the only part of this delightful account I question is Sophie's assertion that she was once - was EVER - a wallflower. Never happened!

Christine May 7, 2010 at 1:41 PM  

You've got to know that I am so making that your profile pic in my Contacts, Jen. Just too fun to pass up!

darbyscloset May 8, 2010 at 12:15 AM  

Your writing and your pics are always so great!!! Thanks for sharing your day with me/us and I will go out of my way to meet them, given the chance!
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

kathy d. May 8, 2010 at 3:15 AM  

What a great post! It's so well done and fun to read.

I have read only Sophie Littlefield's book but now will note down and read the other two and wait with anticipation for Sophie's second book in the series.

And thanks for promoting women authors, especially of thrillers.

Jen Forbus May 8, 2010 at 6:59 PM  

You guys are so wonderful. I'm glad you enjoyed reading about this event. And Kathy, I'm always on the lookout for great female crime writers. I'm in the midst of two good ones right now: Lisa Unger and Diane A.S. Stuckart.

Anonymous May 9, 2010 at 11:19 AM  

What a great posting, Jen. And so funny that they remember meeting my husband and I at the Baltimore Bouchercon. One of those little things....Nice people to chat with but, even more important for me, good books.
Thanks, Jen for the recap. And I was just in Columbus in March for a family get together. Had I known about the indie mystery shop, I would have stopped in.

Anonymous May 9, 2010 at 11:21 AM  

Opps, previous post was from Oline Cogdill. Forgot to write name

-- Oline

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