Hello all. Well it’s, uh, Tuesday and I haven’t updated the blog in awhile so I guess it’s time for another dispatch from your local author/journalist/bookstore worker.
I launched my second novel, Last Man on Campus at Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis on September 3rd. Around 20-30 people came and I sold almost 20 books! I read from the book and took some questions from the audience (which were all quite good and informed) and some cookies were had by all. I posted some pictures to the “Events” page on this here website if you’d like to take a gander. I wanted to say a major THANK YOU to everyone who came, to Magers for being a great bookstore to work with again and North Star Press for getting my book copies to me in time.
But that’s not all folks! If you’ve missed one of my appearances thus far, there is always time to make the next one. I have a few more coming up in Minnesota and plan on doing some signings at a coffee shop. And...I may even make the trek down to Iowa to do another reading at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines. Hope to see some of you at these events!
(And of course if you’d still like to pick up a copy of either of my books, head on over to the “Books” page to find various places to buy it - online or off. And thanks for reading!)
Now, on to my next thought. I’ve been working at the heretofore unnamed (at least on this blog) bookstore that sells primarily used books and DVDs for almost a month. I currently tend the DVD section, “pets,” and the paperback mystery aisle, which takes up some major space. Due to the simple fact of having to look at the titles day in and out, I suddenly find myself more familiar with some writers who take up space among what I had considered a “lesser” genre section (albeit incredibly popular). Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love a “genre fiction” writer such as Stephen King, but I have to say I haven’t really taken a glance outside him to other writers in his field such as Anne Rice or Dean Koontz. And despite picking up Stieg Larsson's first novel a while back I didn’t have the slightest plan to read any kind of mystery novel in my future. While that has stayed mostly the same, I have to say I have been arrested by the sheer amount of books these people have produced. Most of the seminal writers seem to crank out a title per year, many in a different series, and some under (multiple) pseudonyms. Gazing out at the expansive oeuvre of somebody like Lee Child or James Patterson (who himself gets half a column to himself) or local legend William Kent Krueger, I can see how my current frantic pace publishing a novel per year is nothing to these authors. While I’ve been mulling over the year-plus it will probably take me to get my third novel in a decent shape, all of these authors will have published their latest NYT-best selling topper in hardcover and then later in the year in paperback.
Now, there are probably more than a few people reading this now who like mystery novels. My wife in particular loves reading a good cat mystery novel (say, Lillian Jackson Braun). These authors are obviously very popular, and simply looking at their titles many times over the course of the past month has induced me to pick up a long-time wish list item (Grisham’s The Firm to get me started on his gigantic catalogue) and a “is it better than the movie” choice (Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity - I’ve seen the first two films and found them to both be dense thrillers). Next year I plan to spend an entire twelve months reading nothing but fiction, and I should find the time to fit one of these mystery books in there somewhere.
The other thing this exposure has done is force me to take a hard look at my writing and to figure out who I am. My second book I would describe as a “supernatural thriller” in the vein of one of my favorite authors, Mr. King. My first is more-or-less a coming of age tale that attempts to look at growing up in a small town and looking back on that time. My third will take aim at more broad economic and social trends occurring in America during our own age of the bailout. There will be some kind of sequel to Last Man at some point, and I hope to distribute a catalogue of short stories among the rest, not to mention yet one more novel rumbling around the back of my brain that blares out its siren song of ideas once in a blue moon.
So, who am I? While delving into the horror genre a bit, I’d like to think of myself more in the grand tradition of literature in this country, among folks like (another Minnesotan) Fitzgerald or, contemporarily speaking, Jonathan Franzen. Does my writing measure up to these heights? I can answer that with a solid “NO” at this point, but I have a long career ahead of me. And I ought to take a closer look at somebody like Mr. Krueger, who is so popular our store literally can’t keep his titles on the shelf. I need to consider more and more what my genre/niche/category is and continue honing my talent in that direction. Despite some eye-rolling concerning “genre” fiction in the past, who am I now to declare what should sell or not? There has to be a reason why these authors have sold so many damn books. If I want to make an actual career out of this writing thing, perhaps I ought to study their methods and styles just a hair in order to see what people (other than me) want.
This isn’t to say I’m going to radically alter my writing, but only to reinforce the idea that I should always be evaluating where it’s going to fall on the literary spectrum. This is something we all should inventory at one point or another in our lives. So tell me, where is your niche? And if you enjoy a good thriller/mystery, toss an author name my way and I’ll take a gander.
John Abraham-Watne is an author and freelance journalist located in the Twin Cities, where he lives with his wife Mary and their two cats. This blog is his attempt to catalog all the events that culminate a local writer's life.