Monday, November 16, 2009

Travels with Keith

Our guest blogger today is Award-winning author Libby Fischer Hellmann . Publishers Weekly said Libby's novel, DOUBLEBACK, just out last month, "skillfully juggles disparate threads of bank fraud, extortion, drugs and illegal immigration." Below she writes of the highs and lows of traveling on book tour with Inkspotter Keith Raffel. You can read his side of the story over at the blog of a collective of terrific Chicago crime writers called The Outfit.

Libby and Keith signing at the Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles. An hour or two after this photo was taken, the two road warriors were cruising up I-5 on their way to Palo Alto.

You really get to know someone when you travel with them, and doing half a dozen signings with Keith Raffel in California last week did the trick. Keith was promoting his second novel, SMASHER; I was promoting my sixth novel, DOUBLEBACK. They are very different books, but we were able to make it work by talking about research, our writing processes, and craft. Along the way, I learned more about Keith than he probably wants you to know… but I’m willing to tell the world. So, forthwith, are the Top Ten Things I Learned About Keith.

10. “You can take the man out of the Valley, but…” Keith approaches everything like an entrepreneur. Writing a book for him is a team effort that requires a story (plot and characters), a research and development team (himself and readers), a marketing team (agent and publicity mavens), and a distribution arm (publisher). It works.

9. Keith has extraordinary children. I was able to meet 3 of his 4 kids, and I was bowled over. Each one is a bright, articulate individual with different talaents. Well done, Teri and Keith.

8. Teri, Keith’s wife, is a superwoman. She’s able to keep a house with 4 kids running smoothly, is cheerful, funny, considerate, and even-tempered. Most important, she makes time for herself -- she went out walking with her friends in the morning. How does she balance everything? I’m jealous.

7. Crime is no stranger to Palo Alto, Keith’s home. A stolen car was abandoned right in front of Keith’s house the night after Halloween. (See photo at left.) Keith was a regular Sherlock Holmes, casing the car (looking for dead bodies and clues to the crime, no doubt) before he called the cops. Turned out to be teenagers on a joyride, much to his chagrin.

6. Keith doesn’t use a GPS to get around. He prints out maps from Google or Mapquest, which makes things a little hairy when you’re driving down the freeway at 70 mph and have to check the directions.

5. Keith writes in a coffee shop but has to wear noise-reducing headphones so he’s not distracted. Bose, I think.

4. Keith’s son, Harry, is reading James Rollins. Which wouldn’t be so unusual except that he’s only 10 years old.

3. Keith bought the UK versions of the Stieg Larsson books, which means he already owns and has read THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET”S NEST. But you’ll have to get in line… he already let me borrow it.

2. Keith likes to skip shaving every once in a while. He likes the scruffy look.

1. Keith drinks at least a dozen cups of green tea during the course of his writing sessions. While we were touring, we found out that green tea can put an individual into an altered state. Really. I figure that explains it.

Thanks, Keith. I had a blast. And I didn’t have to drive!


Michele Emrath said...

Enjoyable and quirky. Makes me more curious as to BOTH of your fiction writing...


Jess Lourey said...

I want to know how the two of you ended up together. Whose karma debt was that? :) Thanks for visiting the blog, Libby!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Great post and welcome, Libby! I'm sorry I didn't get to see the Libby and Keith show when you were in LA.

Deborah Sharp said...

Ah... gallons of green tea and Keith's altered state: so THAT explains him... Great post, Libby and thanks for visiting us!

Alan Orloff said...

Hi Libby and thanks for the scoop on Keith. But what I really want to know are the 10 secret and embarrassing things about him. I guess you'll have to guest blog again with those! (Of course, it probably will be difficult to keep it to ten.)

Looking forward to reading DOUBLEBACK!

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for spilling the beans about Keith, Libby. I feel like I know him just a little bit better. And I, too, print out Mapquest maps when I'm going somewhere new and don't use GPS either.

Julia Buckley said...

Sounds like an interesting trip. You two literally took your act on the road.