The part of the event I enjoyed the most was the afternoon set of interviews, in which someone knowledgeable spoke at length with a writer. Ruth Jordan (of Crimespree) first talked with Greg Rucka about his kick-ass heroines, his work in graphic novels (which he unashamedly calls “comic books”) and his writing process. He said that putting a woman into a standard crime fiction trope can be interesting “because gender enters into everything.” His women leads are a mix of characteristics of women he knows and wishful thinking. Particularly interesting for me was his commentary on A Fistful of Rain – a book I loved, but that generated so much negative response that his publisher doesn’t want him to write a follow-up. Another interesting comment: graphic novels do more with time than other media because everything has to count, and narrative time is so condensed. Sounds like good practice for writing novels.
The second interview of Laura Lippman by Gary Niebuhr was brilliant. She talked about Baltimore (“a southern city with northern manners”), her career in journalism, reading Newberry award winners with her librarian mother, and seeing so many people reading at home when she was small that it was “a code I had to crack.” She said her standalones are more emotionally draining than her series, and that she couldn’t do them one after the other – they “use people up;” she needs to get back to Tess’s world where there is some rueful belief in human nature. Most interestingly, when Gary asked if she was happy, she circled around that question, saying that when she wrote Every Secret Thing, her darkest book to date, she was at her happiest in her personal life, but that writing is a process in which something is never quite satisfied. When Gary asked “are writers ever happy?” she said “Truly happy people don’t write.”
I’ve been mulling that over ever since.
Finally, Robert Crais was interviewed by Sean Chercover. He talked about switching from writing for television to novels (“It took me fifteen years to become an overnight success”), writing about L.A., which is where he went to follow his dreams, where thousands of people arrive to do the same, taking an enormous risk – which makes it a rich setting – and his childhood spent in Cajun country. He was the first person in his family to go to college, and the only one who became a writer. One elderly relative told him, “We don’t rea d, we bullshit.” He grew up behind a drive in theatre (shades of Joe Lansdale) and after that, he didn’t have a chance; he wanted to tell stories.
All in all, it was incredibly well put together and I loved being right in the middle of a library – though I’m not sure all of the library patrons were as happy about it as I was! They put up with it with good grace, anyway. The creativity and sheer hard work that went into providing this opportunity to locals (and not so locals – people came from Oklahoma, Ohio, and even California) was impressive, and something that could inspire other libraries – though not all have the generous friends group and the wide-open space that Muskego has.