Wednesday was the big day here in Cleveland. My dream is that one of these days, people will turn out for a book event like they turn out for a sporting event. A girl can dream, right?
In the mean time, a good crew of folks showed up to the Strongsville Public Library to meet Gregg Hurwitz. And based on what I heard from people's snippets of conversation, they all left thoroughly impressed with him.
I had two special honors on this particular visit. The first was playing chauffeur for Gregg. I took him to the special pre-event soiree that the library hosted. They held a contest for library patrons and ten lucky winners got to meet with Gregg before the event to enjoy some food and conversation in a small setting.
Gregg shared some stories about visiting a middle school earlier in the day, where the kids asked him questions about writing comics and working with Nick Jonas. One young girl wanted to shake his hand because he had shook Nick Jonas' hand. Kids are funny!
He also shared stories about his Russian book tour and his connections to Cleveland. It was informal and fun. And Gregg asked as many questions of the attendees as they asked of him.
Following that meet and greet, I ushered Gregg over to the library where people were starting to fill the event room. The second honor I had Wednesday night was introducing Gregg to the awaiting audience. I always get nervous doing these things, and they never go exactly as I plan, but it was pretty good, I think. It's harder to tell from behind the podium than listening in the audience.
When the star took the podium, though, things went terrifically. Gregg told the audience that writing was the only thing he ever wanted to do, and I do believe he was born to tell stories. He tells them as easily and as smoothly in person as he does on paper. Well, I don't know how easily the on paper comes for him, but he makes it look easy anyway.
At first the stories may have been a bit difficult and he shared the rejection letters that reflected his difficulty, including one--jokingly--from his own sister. It was through his efforts to improve that he picked up his desire for research. Early in his career he was a bit more "daring" than he is now as an older, married, dad. But it was through research efforts that he often stumbled on unplanned details and elements that worked their ways into stories. He says he realized,
As a writer, you're not filling in the blanks to a story that you already know; part of what your job is is to be open to new opportunities.
Gregg says that the writing opportunities he's been afforded have been among his greatest honors and there are still times that he sits at his desk amazed he is able to write for a living. His experiences writing comics have fulfilled childhood dreams. And the process of writing for TV--seeing his ideas go from his head to the page to reality (or at least TV reality)--was amazing and ignited much of the same magic he felt as kid growing up and reading.
This year marked another milestone for Gregg. He had his first movie shot: Careful What You Wish For. Gregg says it's basically Body Heat but instead of William Hurt it's a 17-year-old kid.
These days Gregg focuses less on forensics/explosions/stunts and more on investigating how having a family makes you vulnerable; he looks at incredible pressures and how they work on individuals and their relationships. Gregg has a natural characteristic that I envy. He looks at perfectly normal situations to you or I and sees stories in them. He describes it as taking the world you're in and turning it about 15 degrees off kilter.
As he started to talk about the new book TELL NO LIES, he quoted someone talking about San Francisco (where the book takes place) "if you ever get tired of walking in San Francisco, you can lean against it." Since Gregg has been in L.A. for 15 years now, he went back to San Francisco to refresh himself with it and do his research. He said he did a lot of "walking and driving and hiking and leaning."
Because of the ideas of class and race he was considering for his story, he felt the story could only take place in San Francisco because those two elements are so different in San Francisco than anywhere else.
I had hoped to video record Gregg reading from TELL NO LIES but unfortunately my video recorder didn't have those same hopes. However, I do have audio recording for it. This first excerpt is a reflection of his use of San Francisco:
And he followed that up with a suspenseful scene near the beginning of the novel:
During the Q&A session Gregg revealed that he's always "thought in stories." And that ideas are often a result of truly listening to other people with the mindset that they could have something to teach you. He also says bad movies and bad books have been inspirations for him.
When a member of the audience asked Gregg if writing was a huge pressure...to make a living and support a family. He said it was more so early on, but in reality we all face those pressures as the economy has shown. Even people who thought they had secure jobs discovered otherwise. But true writers don't feel as though they have a choice. They need to write--it's a compulsion--to tell stories; it's what they're called to do, so he had to make it work and he didn't put a lot of thought into safety nets.
To Gregg, drama is characters interacting with each other, so relationships are paramount. While he wants his books to be page turners, he doesn't want his readers to feel like all they are reading is plot. So character and psychology are key.
One of the things that make novels more intimate than comics or movies or tv is the relationship between writer and reader. Each reader brings their own experiences to a book, so they see things through their own unique perspective.
One final tidbit I want to share is Gregg's thoughts on ereaders and story delivery. He described himself as a drug dealer. He wants to sell you the drug; how you consume it after that is completely up to you. :-) He is adamant about having the delivery methods available to everyone, though. Publishers finding ways to make ebooks accessible through libraries and have purchase methods available through independent bookstores, etc. But in the end, Gregg Hurwitz is a story teller. He simply wants to be able to tell his stories. And aren't we the lucky ones for it?!
This event was very special to me. I was so thrilled that Gregg made it to Cleveland for this book tour, so I celebrated the event. And part of that celebration was creating a t-shirt that I have to give away to a lucky reader.
Here's the front of the shirt. It says, "I Tell No Lies. I'm a Gregg Hurwitz Survivor."
And the back reads "And You're Next!" Gregg signed the back of the shirt as well.
As a bonus, with this shirt, I have a paperback copy of Gregg's The Survivor to go along with it.
So help me celebrate this incredibly talented young writer. I'll open this up internationally. I may have to break open my piggy bank to mail it, but I really want everyone to have an opportunity, so complete the form below BY MIDNIGHT EASTERN on September 8th for your chance to win. Good luck!