Stumbling Up Mount Olympus

JT Ellison

Michael Connelly came to Nashville this week, which was an incredibly exciting event for me. He did a great talk and signed, and I actually managed to ask two (count them, two!) questions. Of course, I was busy having a fangirl moment and sounded a bit like an idiot.

“Mr. Connelly, has Harry Bosch ever done or said anything that surprised you?”

The look he gave me was humbling, to say the least. The answer was an unequivocal no, and he went on to say he’s always surprised by writers who say their characters do things they weren’t expecting, because he is (I’m paraphrasing here) so deliberate with his story and characters that he knows exactly what’s going to come out of their mouths, because he’s the one putting those words there.

I also asked how Duane Swierczynski and Sarah Weinman happened to appear in ECHO PARK, and he spoke of making the books as real to life as possible. He was looking to name two journalists and it seemed a good match.

Strike one on sounding erudite and sophisticated in front of one of my literary gods.

I have four gods in crime fiction, and numerous goddesses. The four gods are John Connolly, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and John Sandford. I’ve now met three of these amazing authors, and have put my foot in my mouth with each of them. I’m thinking the best thing to do with Mr. Sandford is challenge him to 18 holes, where I can lay down and make a fool of myself privately, instead of in front of a group.

Sara Rosett over at the Good Girls Kill for Money site had a great essay this week that segued perfectly into what I wanted to talk about today. She asked if the advent of websites and blogging has taken some of the mystique out of writers, since readers can readily connect with their heroes and find out more than they ever wanted to know by reading their neurotic highs and lows on a regular basis. I commented that not so very long ago, I was on the outside, getting my information about authors from their jacket covers and the occasional website, being surprised by author photos, etc.

But when it comes to meeting the literary gods and goddesses I worship, I’ve found I really like getting to meet, and ultimately know these great writers. Yes, I invariably say or do something stupid. When Jan Burke came to town, I was the proud owner of a severe ear infection so intense that while I was waiting in line to get my book signed, I practically fainted and had to sit down or fall down. At ThrillerFest, I introduced myself to Tess Gerritsen, pumping her hand like her arm was a water spigot in the desert and telling her, and I quote, “You’re my biggest fan!” Tuesday night with Michael Connelly, I tripped over my tongue trying to talk to him, managed to give him my business card and a Killer Year postcard, called my long suffering husband a wallet (an inside joke that didn’t translate) and basically felt like an idiot when I stepped away, despite the fact the he was very kind and asked if he could keep my card.

I’ve done better with John Connolly and Lee Child. John, hubby and I ended up having many beers and stayed out way too late talking politics. I’ll never forget that night, it ranks as high on my list as you can get. And I got a kiss on the cheek at the end of the evening, which was mind-blowing. This man, this giant, this god of mine, kissed me on the cheek. Damn.

Lee Child was gracious and funny, actually talking to me, not at me. That laconic smile, the accent, the incredible advice – yep, another moment to treasure. And another kiss on the cheek. I may never wash again.

I hope to have a chance to see Michael Connelly again, maybe when I’m not such a greenhorn, so I don’t stumble to badly. And Sandford, well, he was my inspiration for writing crime fiction, so if I gush I won’t feel so bad.

On a slightly different note, it’s been a bad week for writing. The contractors, sweet as they may be, are noisy little cusses, my parents arrived on Wednesday afternoon with the dog and cat in tow, which meant my little darling striped kitty monster searched high and low for places to hide and didn’t eat for two days. So I tried to salvage my unproductiveness by reading. And boy, did I get a treat. Two amazing novels, completely different in style, both with so much punch and emotion that I was left breathless.

The first is T. Jefferson Parker’s newest, STORM RUNNERS. Parker has been added to my god list. He is an amazing writer, the depth of his storytelling ability overwhelms me. The other is Karin Slaughter’s TRIPTYCH. For lack of a better term, holy crap. Slaughter’s first standalone is brilliantly plotted, full of surprises, and one of the best books I’ve read this year. She’s had goddess status for a long time.

I have one more to read this weekend, then Monday I’m back in the fiction creation game. Anne Frasier’s PALE IMMORTAL called to me from the new release table in Davis Kidd, so I took it home with me and plan to make a weekend of it.

The list of gods and goddesses grows.

Wine of the Week: In honor of the parental units —

Wyndam Estates Bin 555 Shiraz

Kris Pinot Grigio

Happy Friday the 13th!

10 thoughts on “Stumbling Up Mount Olympus

  1. Iden Ford

    JT, I have found Michael Connelly to be one of the least egocentric people I have ever met who has reached the pinnacle of success that he has. I am very struck by how much he remembers everytime I meet him. Along time ago I was letting booksellers know, and emailing his website, about how much I loved Void Moon, and that it was my favourite novel by him (still is). He remembered this when I ran into him at a Sleuth of Baker Street signing. This really impressed me. So of course I own every novel he has had published and most of the limited editions. I used to gush like a mad fool when I met my favourite authors, even going so far as doing my best Scottish accent everytime I see Ian Rankin, which he then critiques, “that accent is getting better” he says, “brilliant, greeaat”, I say. I bought a shirt from the Edinburgh police dept., when we were in Edinburgh a few years ago, that says Lothian and Borders police on it. Ian came to town and I wore it to a signing he had at a local pub, so the publisher had to have a photo of he and I with me and my shirt on. That was a buzz.They remember us, we do make an impression, and authors love to see their fans over and over again.Now I like to take their photos. Off to Nova Scotia for the weekend.

    Reply
  2. Bryon Quertermous

    I do agree that the ease of communication electronically has taken some of the mystique out of author worship, which is probably why the two top guys in my God column are two of the least accesible guys around.

    For the longest time I was just dying to meet Robert B. Parker. I finally got the chance a couple of years ago at Sleuthfest and he was very nice and I got my picture taken with him which was cool. But of course, I said a bunch of corny generic things and went on my way.

    I think part of the problem with some big name authors being so accesible, is we want to be buddies like that with all of our favorite authors. The next big guy on my list is Stephen King and I think Im going to make a pilgramage to NYC next year for Edgar weeks in the hopes of meeting him.

    Here’s to saying something brilliant, or at least coherant.

    Reply
  3. Elaine

    I love this one, J.T.! It reminded me of my embarassing moment when I first met Lee. We were outside a con hotel-doing what outcasts do these days-chatting away -and I had a tiny, tiny speck of lettuce at the corner of my lip and didn’t know it until a kind soul pointed it out. And no, it wasn’t Lee. He’s far and away too much a gentleman.

    And how I almost fainted when I first met Michael-he offered his hand right off and said, ‘Hi, Elaine.’ He knew who I was???

    But don’t fret-soon we’ll be reading about a fan who met you and was so dumbstruck he/she mangled a few words too.

    Reply
  4. Deni Dietz

    I’ve had many embarrassing moments with my writing gods and goddesses. Two that stand out:

    Riding in an elevator with Walter Moseley, just the two of us. I wanted to say so many things, ask questions – what an opportunity! – but, as we reached the lobby, all I could stammer [in a whisper] was, “I love your books.” He smiled and gave me a gracious “Thank you.”

    No kiss on the cheek – sigh.

    At some con or other, I’d successfully bid (in a silent auction) on a Susan Isaacs ARC. Susan Isaacs is my hero and one of the authors who inspired me to write. She was finishing her booksigning stint when I appeared with the ARC [for her to sign]. I warned myself not to gush.

    I gushed.

    Until her escort politely told me to shut up.

    As I left the room and walked down the hallway, I muttered [over and over], “Shit! You gushed! Shit, shit, shit, you GUSHED!”

    Deni[Denise Dietz]

    Reply
  5. JT Ellison

    It is so good to see I’m not alone. Deni, that craked me up. That’s what I walk away feeling like all the time.Elaine, pshaw. The thought of someone getting googly over me is nearly laughable. I just can’t even imagine that. Lettuce, huh?Tasha, you were terribly missed. I would have done better if you were there.Bryon, I’m rooting for you. If you do go to NY and meet Stephen King, I’d love you to come guest blog about it, okay?And Iden, of course he remembered you. You’re unforgettable.

    Reply
  6. Sue Ann Jaffarian

    JT, This was a great article! One of the best “kissing” stories I have re Lee Child took place following one of his book signings here in the LA area. It was just a few weeks after he had been the keynote speaker at the SinC/LA 2005 No Crime Unpublished Conference, and I had met him several times prior, as well. When I approached, he recognized me, gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek. A few moments later I noticed his lingering female admirers eyeing me suspiciously. I’m sure they were wondering “who’s this broad and why is he kissing HER!” I smile ear-to-ear everytime I think about it. — Sue Ann

    Reply
  7. JT Ellison

    Sue,Lee always does have a few of those “lingering female admirers.” They can be quite intimidating to us fans. But there’s also the darling Reacher’s Creatures, who are a hoot and well worth getting to know.Thanks for sharing the story!

    Reply
  8. ptaichert@comcast.net

    Thanks for the fun read, JT.

    Lee Child is by far one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met. Wow.

    Writing gods and goddesses, there are, oh, so, many on my list.

    One isn’t a writer. It’s Itzhak Perlman. He came to NM and I saw him in a restaurant. I went up to him and said, “On behalf of all New Mexico . . . welcome!” Face red, I backed away feeling like a total idiot.

    Reply
  9. Chris Well

    Okay, speaking as one who sat behind Ms. Ellison at the event in question, she was VERY articulate — not a hint of fannishness. (Meanwhile, I chickened out and asked nothing at all.)

    Reply

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