Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Sunday with Robert Crais

As many of you already know, I had the great fortune to see Robert Crais last Sunday. Jon and Ruth Jordan are my wonderful, generous friends who let me invade their home for the weekend and hang out with them. What a wonderful treat to begin with, but then I tagged along to RC's event as well. And believe me, this was a tremendous sacrifice for them. The addition of me in the truck made our drive very cozy. :-)

I have to do a little side bar here, but I promise I'll get to RC's event details in a minute. Have you ever gone to an event with a friend who shares your love of the author and completely understands your fangirl/fanboy silliness? It just seems to intensify the wonderfulness of the event. So it was special for me to go see Robert Crais last Sunday; it was magical because I was able to share it with my dear friends. I encourage you all to make an extra effort to experience that same thing with a friend if you haven't ever before.

O.k., thanks for humoring me a bit of gushiness. On to the event. This event was held at Mystery One in Milwaukee. I know the store and have patronized them in the past. They are one of the sponsors of Murder and Mayhem in Muskego. But this was my first experience visiting the actual store itself. It is a smaller store and the layout doesn't allow for seating during the events, but the store was still packed. Which was kind of a good thing because it was cold on Sunday in Milwaukee and the crowd helped keep the store nice and toasty warm.

The other significant thing about the event being so packed. The Green Bay Packers were playing their rival, the Chicago Bears, in a playoff game. The event was moved up in the day to allow folks time to attend and still be home for the game, but this also meant missing out on parties and whatnot that were already in progress. RC pulls 'em in despite weather AND football games!

Since RC showed up before 11 and he was very conscientious of people's time and the playoff game, he started signing some books before his talk to help expedite things. RC is one of a very small group of authors who fascinate me at their signings because they make the experiences personal for each individual attendee while not making everyone stand around for hours on end. He expresses his genuine gratitude to each person and talks directly to each person. That's a connection that is rare and special. It's why people want to come back, and like me, drive to other states to see him.

RC opened his talk to the group by explaining how his Facebook page came to exist. His publisher, Putnam, offered to maintain it for him which he agreed to, but still wanted to be looking over their shoulder so they weren't doing anything he would disapprove of. Well, while he started out disdaining Facebook, he's now addicted. He checks his Facebook page all the time.

Then he went on to share how Facebook has also impacted this book tour. On one of his early stops, they encountered a massive power outage. So the event had to end early, but RC still wanted to sign the books of those who had already purchased theirs. So the bookstore set him up with a table, and a couple of employees held up flashlights for him. Simultaneously the people waiting to get their books signed held up their cell phones. RC thinks they're providing light for him to sign by, but they're actually taking pictures to post to Facebook. And those pictures were up by the time he returned to the hotel from the event.

RC went on to share some fun posts from his Facebook page and some emails. He said he classifies his readers into three categories: "My readers on Joe Pike," "my readers on me," and "general questions." What was great was RC pointing out that the people posting these silly comments are having fun. And Facebook has given him an avenue to share that with his fans and see how his readers invest themselves in the characters he creates.

RC read a couple of short scenes from the book that he felt emphasized the characters of Joe and Elvis and their relationship to each other. To him, that's what his books are all about. The crime, the action, the L.A. setting is all second fiddle to the characters and the dynamics of their relationships. THE SENTRY, thematically, is a book about loneliness.

RC wrapped up with a Q&A session, which thankfully did not include any questions related to movies or TV with Elvis and Joe. He cheerfully finished signing books for everyone and then headed out into a cold, snowy Milwaukee. RC seemed as happy to be at the event as anyone else there - and that included me. You have to love an author that enjoys meeting his readers and doesn't leave the impression that it's a burden or an inconvenience.

You've heard me say this before and you'll hear me say it again, I'm sure, if you have the chance to meet Robert Crais, don't pass it up. You won't regret it. Speaking of which, here is a picture of the man himself, holding a statue of the St Louis Arch because of course he will be a guest of honor at this year's Bouchercon. It's a perfect opportunity for you to meet him!

And I'll end on a few final pictures from the event.

Here RC is sharing his i-Gun ap with Bruce Brown and his dad, "The Colonel." Those of you who know my friend Linda Brown from The Mystery Bookstore in L.A., this is her brother and father. Was so very wonderful to meet and talk with the both of them.

Ruth, RC and I. Jon is taking this picture and over his head is a television; the Packers game is on. That's what Ruth is looking at.

And yes, this is already on its way to be enlarged to roughly poster size. You can't make out my button in this picture, but I mentioned to Jon that we should create buttons like the old Eisenhower campaign slogan, but instead of "I like Ike," have "I like Pike." Well, Jon made 'em and we wore 'em. Very cool. It was a wonderful day all around - especially when Jon and Ruth topped it off for me with a trip to another bookstore in town. I don't think I stopped smiling my entire drive home on Monday. I'm so very very blessed to have my wonderful friends, and that includes all of you reading. Thank you for sharing this event with me.


Jon The Crime Spree Guy January 29, 2011 at 3:49 PM  

If Jen asks to stay with you, ever, say yes!

nelizadrew January 29, 2011 at 4:07 PM  

When I saw him up in Delray, one of the things that struck me was how personable he was. He talked to everyone, congratulated a woman on her upcoming nuptials, chatted with an older gent about something, called people (who didn't seem to work for the store & weren't wearing name tags) by name... I don't go to a lot of signings, but I've been known to accidentally show up at bookstores on days when signings are happening (because I shop for books too often, apparently) and it seems it's usually the debut or early-career writers who take time for their fans while the more established (and the ones with big crowds) tend to turn the whole thing into more of a assembly line activity. It's great how much he really seems to like and appreciate his readers.
(If he doesn't, he's a better actor than a lot of L.A.)

Sabrina E. Ogden January 29, 2011 at 5:36 PM  

Thanks so much for sharing this...I think if we were to go to a book signing together we'd have a total blast. Glad you had a great time and I count meeting you at Bcon as a highlight to my trip. Can't wait!

le0pard13 January 29, 2011 at 6:18 PM  

Excellent post for this trip and event, Jen! And I very much agree with you about how RC interacts with his fans. Like you, he is one class act. Thanks very much for this, Jen.

Naomi Johnson January 29, 2011 at 9:44 PM  

I dare not look in the mirror; I know I'm completely green. Thanks for letting me share, however vicariously.

trish January 29, 2011 at 10:38 PM  

Sounds like a blast! RC is a cutie, too. :)

Rachel January 30, 2011 at 2:18 PM  

What a nice description of your day! Thanks for sharing all the pics. And I completely agree with you, book signings with friends who are fans have a richness that going alone never matches. :)

Pop Culture Nerd January 30, 2011 at 5:41 PM  

Nice recap and photos, Jen. Will you be adding that last one to your "most wanted" wall? So what if he gets two pictures there?

Jen Forbus January 30, 2011 at 10:10 PM  

Thanks for all the nice comments everyone. Kate and Naomi, you're going to see RC in September!

Neliza, you are so right. Naomi can tell you that you could have blown me over with a feather when he remembered my name the second time he saw me...which was almost a year after the first time, when he saw me for no more than 5 minutes. He's amazing!

And cute, yes indeed Trish!

PCN, he's added...but I replaced the old one. I like this new one much better! :-)

Jenn's Bookshelves January 31, 2011 at 9:30 AM  

I'm totally jealous! What a fantastic event. I love all the photos. Would you mind if I cropped my head into one of them?

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