Thursday, October 11, 2007

"No, This One Has Hamsters," by Jess Lourey

I was at a booksigning last Sunday when I was approached by a familiar character to most authors: the earnest teenager, bright-eyed and immune to social cues, who must tell you every detail about the novel they just wrote or they’ll die.

The teen who approached me last week was named Michael. He locked eyes on me at the signing table, walked straight toward me (unimpeded, you’ll note, by anyone waiting in line to get their copy of Knee High by the Fourth of July signed), and said, “I want to tell you about my novel.”

“Great! You write. That’s very exciting. Do you want a handout on getting published?”

“The novel is called Unlikely Heroes. The main character is just a regular Joe, and then he realizes he’s a wizard. His parent’s died, you know, and his mean aunt and uncle took him in and never told him the truth about his parents…he gets a magical stone but has to figure out its powers…he breaks a friend of the family out of prison but doesn’t know if he can trust him…he fights a terrible wizard with his two friends, a girl and a boy…”

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yeh. But I don’t want to interrupt him because he’s really passionate about his writing, and that’s something. But then, seven minutes into his “synopsis” and after he has actually turned two people away from the signing table with his intensity, he tells me that the main character has a scar on his forehead in the shape of a lightning bolt. I have to stop him.

“This sounds a lot like the Harry Potter series.”

“No, no! It’s totally different. My main characters are all hamsters.”

Right? Is there a reply to that? Here’s how we Minnesotans respond to those sort of statements. “I think I need to go get a drink of water.”

“But I’ve only described the book to you through page 7.”

I wish I could make this stuff up. I extricated myself from the conversation. I like to think I gave him a little optimism and direction without misleading him. Then, I went on to sign 10 more books in two hours. Beautiful. The glamorous life of an author.

p.s. If you're in the area, check out the Twin Cities Book Festival this Saturday. Lots of great authors, books, and bibliophiles. I'll be at the Resort to Murder table from 11-1, signing copies of Knee High by the Fourth of July at the Midnight Ink table from 2-4, and on a panel as a guest of the Minnesota Crime Wave from 4-5.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Ah, yes. We've all had people like this show up at signings or panels. And generally they NEVER buy a book. You don't want to dampen their enthusiasm, but you also need to move them along graciously. It's tricky.

If there are people waiting for me to sign a book, ANY PEOPLE, I gently tell the talker: "Thank you for sharing, but I really must take the next person in line."

Sometimes they move on, sometimes they continue to block the way. If they're the blocker sort, I ask them nicely, but with a firm eye lock and smile, to please step to the side. The next step is to bring out the stun gun, but fortunately, I've never had to do that.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I really wish folks who monopolize authors at signings or panels would understand that we are there to "work" and that these aren't just our sales they are interfering with, but the sales of the bookseller or people who invited us.

And while we're on this subject, I really hate going to book fairs and festivals and while I'm at a signing table having authors, generally self-published, shoving their literature at me like I'm a captive audience, which I guess I am. I never buy books I learn about in that manner.

Mark Terry said...

Haven't had EXACTLY that experience, but have had the person who wants to dominate my time when other people are waiting. (And had the ones who dominate my time when no one's waiting. Hmmm...)

I generally will, quite soon, tap them on the arm and wave them to the side and say, politely, "You can stay here and wait for things to free up so I can talk to you, but I need to talk to these people for a moment. Thanks."

I've never worked in retail and friends who have tell me that the public is pretty bizarre. My experiences with book signings and book fairs would tend to confirm that. There are some wonderful folks out there and then there are some, uh, nuts.

Nina Wright said...

My first few jobs (waitressing, retail sales) quickly acquainted me with the fact that the population is packed with eccentrics, most of whom, fortunately, are harmless if annoying. Like Jess and Julia--and perhaps some other MIers--I've also been a teacher, and in that career you meet plenty of personality disorders in the making. All fodder for the fiction mill and good preparation for the oddballs we meet at literary events.

Funny, well-written post, Jess! Clearly your sense of humor can and will get you through anything.....

The Imaginary Blog said...

A hamster, huh? Well, then it certainly IS a different story altogether.

This opens up all sorts of doors of opportunity. Here's one swinging open right now: A woman--actually, she's a female goat--falls in love with, yes, a guy goat named, naturally, Rhett Buttler (hey, he's a goat! What else would he be called?) during the Civil War but he'll have none of her high-handedness. Oh, make that, her high-hoofedness. It's not Gone With the Wind at all, no, because you see, they're GOATS.

I love your story, Jess! Thanks for sharing it!

Jess Lourey said...

Ha! "Goats with the Wind." It's a bestseller. Thanks for reading, everyone!

G.M. Malliet said...

Where do I find this kid? I think he's stolen the idea for my next book.