February 23, 2014

I Went to an Author Event and It was Awesome

Two Sundays ago Sandie from Booksie's Blog and I went to an author event called "A Book Club Moveable Feast" put on by BookmarksNC.   We got to sit at a small table and chat with eight different authors about their books.  It was so much fun!  I only wish there had been time to sit with all 20 authors who were there!  

The first author we got to chat with was Jamie Mason, who was
there promoting her book, Three Graves Full.  Jamie is funny and animated and has some amazing anecdotes, which I wish I could have recorded because there were so many.  I also love that she is unafraid to use profanity.  A girl after my own heart. :)  Jamie talked about how much she adores living in Asheville, how her husband doesn't read fiction but somehow is the best first line editor, and how she came up with the idea for her book.  Apparently Graham Cameron told her to read online newspaper headlines but *not* to read the article, then write a story that would result in that headline.  Voila, her book, Three Graves Full.  

The second author we met was Deborah Johnson, the author of The Secret of Magic.  She moved to Mississippi and found it was not what she thought it was, but that it made for amazing inspiration.  The book chronicles the story of a young female attorney in NYC trying to obtain justice for a black man in the racially segregated Deep South of 1946.  It sounds ah-mazing.  She told us the book was partly inspired by her grandfather, who fought in the war but wasn't allowed to vote.  The book sounds so engrossing!

Next we met author Gina Holmes.  She told us she used to write what she calls "weird books" a la Stephen King, but that did not fit into any conventional category and therefore were hard to market.  She now writes literary fiction, like Wings of Glass.  She has a background in nursing, which she says, "helps because someone always ends up in a hospital in my books." LOL  I am intrigued on Holmes' take with the topic of this book, domestic abuse. She said that it is not just the abuser's fault, but that the victim needs to claim some responsibility as well for not standing up for yourself and for allowing it to happen.  I am not sure exactly where she was trying to go with it but I guess it will be discovered in the book.

Next we met Wilton Barnhardt, who Sandie was absolutely thrilled to talk to, as she has all of his books!   He was so happy about that!   Mr. Barnhardt, who looked every bit the writer with his uncombed hair, wrote the novel, Lookaway Lookaway, about high society in the New South of Charlotte concentrating on generational differences with a good dose of humor.  He was very entertaining to talk to.  He was also one of 2 different authors we met who were in the midst of getting their books on TV series!!!  HBO optioned Lookaway, Lookaway for a series!  Very cool!  Just another reason I wish I had HBO. :(

Hallie Ephron came and sat by me next and that is when I lost my damn mind. I had read one of her books, 1001 Books for Every Mood.  I meant to say it was a silly, fun book full of good recommendations.  But that is not how it came out.  It came out as "It's kind of a stupid book."  

I know.  

Luckily, she is a fantastic person and wasn't bothered one bit (it might have helped that I quickly clarified what I had actually meant to say. I mean I gave it 5 stars!)  

Ephron was promoting her book, There Was an Old Woman, which was inspired by her real-life neighbor who turned out to be a hoarder.  (Ephron admitted to me later that she felt bad for her children when she died because she had way too much stuff in her basement herself.)  She told us how important setting was to her.  She had a friend who scouts locations for commercials in NYC find a place where an old woman could look out her back door and see the Empire State Building (yet still be believably affordable for an old woman.)  He sent her back GPS coordinates for a neighborhood in the Bronx.  How cool is that?!?

Next we had author Erika Marks come talk with us.  I missed part of her talk
because I had to get up and stretch my legs but she told us her inspiration for the setting in her book, The Guest House, came from remembering a friend who used to live in a guest house during college.  She said that her last two books were character-driven and this one was setting-driven and that made it an interesting challenge for her.  I think her books are kind of Nicholas Sparks-eque.  Marks was very nice and easy to talk to.

Guess who we got to sit with next? Diane Chamberlain!  She was just so utterly fascinating.  

Her book tells a story wrapped up in the social issue of the eugenics programs of the 1960s.  She said NC was the only state that allowed social workers on the boards deciding who would be sterilized during the 60s.  She told us that researching the eugenics program (as well as tobacco farming) was so gripping.  She wrote the book because, as a former social worker herself, she wanted to see what it would be like to have the kind of power that a social worker on the sterilization board would have had. I can't help but agree that Necessary Lies would make the perfect book club read because it raises so many ethical questions.  

Our last author chat of the night was with the cutest young woman, Ariel Djanikian.  If you are wondering about her last name it is Armenian, though she lays no cultural claim to the most famous Armenians, the Kardashians. 

 My impression of Ariel is that she is very intelligent and thoughtful.  She is very interested in the concept of empathy and whether we empathize with the right people (she referenced how Rolling Stone featured pne of the Boston Marathon bombers).  Her dystopian novel, The Office of Mercy, addresses these issues and sounded so good I went home and bought the book immediately!  

It took her 3 years to write, and there were 2 years between selling it and when it came out because there was a backlog at the publisher.  I can't even imagine having to be so patient!  But her patience and talent have paid off because Warner Brothers just optioned it for a TV Drama! Awesome! Ariel is now working on a prequel for the book which goes into how they all ended up in the underground society they now live in, as well as a historical saga based on her own grandmother's letters, as her grandmother was part of the last group involved in the gold rush in the Klondike.  WOW!

I had a blast and I am so thankful to Sandie for inviting me to this event!  I got four autographs too (see below).  

Autographs from Deborah Johnson and Diane Chamberlain

Autographs from Ariel Djanikian and Jamie Mason

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