I was halfway through writing a piece about dialogue for you when I left to attend a book signing at Murder by the Book here in Denver for William Kent Krueger. He’s the author of the highly popular mystery series set in northern Minnesota featuring a sheriff, Cork O’Connor. I love the series, but just as important, Kent Krueger is a friend. Oh, we’d never met, but we share an agent, Danielle Egan-Miller, and Kent was kind enough to write a book jacket blurb for my novel Tallgrass. So it was a chance not only to get Kent to sign a book but to thank him in person.Check back tomorrow for my review of Prayers for Sale (sneak preview: I like it)
We had a chance to hug, compare notes on writing and promotion and to discuss, among other things, the significance of blogs. Driving home, I began thinking about the importance of writer friends, and so I decided to blog about that instead of dialogue.
A number of years ago, I got to know a bunch of struggling western artists—Ned Jacob, Buffalo Kaplinski, Bill Sharer, Ken Bunn, among others. It intrigued me that they were not competitive. They shared their patron lists attended each other’s openings where they promoted the featured artist’s work, and when one learned something new, he shared it with the others. I remember one telling the others, “Hey, I just learned how to draw feet. Come on over, and I’ll show you.”
That same kind of support exists among writers, and we are all richer for it. Maybe we ought to be competitive and run down each other in hopes readers will buy our books instead of theirs (and some authors, I admit, are exactly like that), but we don’t. In fact, we talk up each other’s books.
In Denver, much of this support originated with John Dunning, the author of the best-selling Clifford Janeway series about a rare bookseller sleuth. After my first novel, Buster Midnight’s Café, came out, John and his wife, Helen, invited me to dinner with Michael Allegretto, Diane Mott Davidson, and Wick Downing, all successful mystery writers. It was the first of many get-togethers with these writers and others. Each summer, we hold a writer party at our house in the mountains. I remember overhearing one author complain about something a publisher had done, and another writer remarking, “Did that happen to you, too? I thought I was the only one.”
Griping, of course, is a big part of why we get together, but much of our relationship is more positive. When I was having trouble with the plot of a book, Wick Downing talked me through it. Arnie Grossman, author of Going Together and a friend since college, and I act as a sounding board for each other’s ideas. We read each other’s manuscripts and critique them (a threat to any friendship, but ours has withstood it for 50 years.) The authors I know attend each other’s signings. I ran into Wick at mystery writer Margaret Coel’s signing at the Tattered Cover last week. We talk each other through the bad times, and there are plenty. A rejection letter, a bad review, poor sales—these are the times that we need not just friends but friends, but friends who understand. And only another author knows how fragile your ego is. We delight in each other’s success. When I made the New York Times best seller list with Prayers for Sale, I received the first congratulations from fellow writers. And I got an email yesterday from John Shors, author of Under a Marble Sky, about a movie deal I’m working on. He wrote, “I’m happy for you.” And I’m happy that his new novel, Dragon House, is doing well.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me. Arnie Grossman and I are having lunch, and I have this problem with a character…
Monday, September 14, 2009
Guest Blogger: Sandra Dallas (Author of Prayers for Sale)
I finished the new Sandra Dallas novel, Prayers for Sale, early this morning (about 4:45 a.m., Houston time, in fact) and I will be posting my thoughts on the novel tomorrow. In the meantime, Sandra has been kind enough to provide me with her thoughts about the support and friendship she receives from fellow writers.