Aunt Agatha's

I had a fantastic time at the author event at Aunt Agatha's, in the lovely university town of Ann Arbor.

Now I pause at this point. If you're my literary agent, would you please avert your eyes. I wouldn't want you to become sad, or use me for chum.


Okay, now that The Shark's not reading, I'll admit I probably did everything at the Ann Arbor event that an author's not supposed to do. Which is no surprise, because until Pericles Commission released, I'd never seen one. Yes, the first author event I ever attended was my own. I'm what's called a pantster when it comes to writing and, it seems at events too.

One of the great mysteries of the universe is this: what is an author supposed to talk about at an author event?

In my case, I have a tendency to talk about the innards of my book. On the face of it, this is reasonable, but received wisdom is that readers turn up to book events to learn about the author and his personality. Alas, my personality runs to the uber-geek, so with the best will in the world, I'm usually sucked into talking about the fun history.

To my joy, at Aunt Agatha's I was in a room of like-minded people. I'm pretty sure we spent 3 solid hours talking about ancient Greek history...yes, Janet is wincing...that's probably her head your hear thumping the wall ...but I cannot tell a lie.

It went three hours because these kind people in the picture took me to dinner before the talk, and the moment I sat down, someone asked a history question about the book. It was all downhill from there...when we removed to the store, we kept going, and I'm sure I'd still be there if the lovely proprietess Robin Agnew, standing at the back, hadn't politely suggested it was well past 9pm. (Another blunder on my part; authors are supposed to watch the time.)

So all this proves is I'm an amateur at the book tour biz. That's okay; I'll get more normal with practice.

But the important thing is I had fun, and I know the Ann Arboreans had fun because they hung around and chatted and bought books. (I just made up Ann Arboreans, but it looks right, doesn't it?)

One slightly embarrassing moment: I discovered, to my surprise, that I don't know my own book! I wanted to quote a piece of dialog, but do you think I could find it amongst all those pages? It was up to the kind gentleman on the left in the picture, to save me by flipping through while I chatted away. There was no chance of spoilers: he'd already read the book! He therefore wins the prize as the first Real Person I've ever met who's read my book before they met me.

I had so much fun at that talk, I can't wait to go back and see the nice people at Aunt Agatha's again. (A desire assisted by the fact that Ann Arbor is a gorgeous place with good coffee.)

So I'd be interested to know, if you're at an author event, what do you want to hear? What is the perfect author talk?


Sarah W said...

I think I'd enjoy three hours of ancient Greek history!

But if I hadn't spent time reading your blog and some of your interviews, I might also like to know how you came to write your book. You could throw in that wonderful story about your agent's Great Gary Corby Search, too.

LQQ said...

Hi Gary,
As someone trying to write my own book I am interested in the writing process. Do you go hell for leather on a first draft and then spend months re-writing or do you plan each chapter well in advance.
In your particular case I would like to know: does your interest in the subject inspire the book or are they self-feeding. For example do you think – I like this period and time so I will set a book there and that will give me a legitimate excuse to spend hours researching. Perhaps this is time you would like to have spent on the area but can’t justify with other commitments – until it becomes research and ... the next book.
I’m having difficulty getting your book here in the UK. My Pre-Amazon order has not come through and I just got an email stating it won’t arrive until Dec 17th – Smiths say 1-2 week delay and Waterstones are claiming it hasn’t been published yet. Hopefully it will arrive before I go on my Xmas holidays.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Sarah!

Precisely that subject came up at both the Seattle Mystery Bookshop and Centuries and Sleuths in Chicago.

But it didn't at Aunt Agatha's. I don't have a set routine or anything like it! I guess I might in time, but it seems to me the spontaneity is worth the rough edges.

But maybe I should keep a short list of must-have stories?

Gary Corby said...


The writing experience for the three books to date have all been so very different, there's no short answer. I promised the Shadow Carrie an article about exactly this before I toured, and I never did it, so if you can bear with me for a little while, I'll post a complete answer.

On getting the book in the UK...this is frustrating! is close to you, they say they're in stock and ship within 48 hours. I promise you it's published! Weirdly, the first online store to declare they had stock was, and they sell books in India. You're right...Amazon UK says "usually dispatched in 5 to 8 weeks", but Amazon US is in stock and I'm pretty sure has already shipped copies. This has been very educational.

So of those, BookDepository is the one that says it's shipping right now in the UK.

Eilir said...

I forgot today was November 9th, and so it was a pleasant surprise when I went to download the New York Times onto my Kindle to see the Pericles Commission pop up (I'd pre-ordered it from Amazon). I know what I'll be doing today on breaks from work and afterwards. Having read your blog for awhile, I'm really looking forward to it. Thanks!

LQQ said...

Amazon order cancelled and BookDepository order placed.

I'll look forward to the blog.


Philangelus said...

When I speak to authors, I like hearing the authors laugh, because invariably when they're laughing, they're touching on the parts of writing they love the most. And that's like going into a little shared universe because writers a bit of a weird bunch and oftentimes we don't "fit" right in the real world. :-)

But hearing an author talk about the things s/he loved the most about the process for this particular book, in the form of anecdotes that may have been infuriating at the time but are hilarious in retrospect, that's always cool. :-) I've remember those longer than I remembered the books, in some cases.

Amalia T. said...

3 hours on Greek History sounds fabulous to me. I think as long as the people in the room are participating and not sleeping in their chairs, you're doing it right!

Also, I wanted to quote something one of my characters said in the opening of my book near the end of it, and had to go scrolling through to find it-- while I was still writing it! so I don't think you lose any author points for having to leaf through!

Meghan said...

I agree. 3 hours on Ancient Greek history sounds fun. And if the readers had a great time, that's all that counts.:)

L. T. Host said...

I think you did just fine at MG. History is a large part of why people will pick up your book, so I think talking history at your author events is just dandy. And talking about the publishing process is interesting a lot of people because they really have no idea how crazy it all is. I say, keep on doing what you're doing!

C. N. Nevets said...

Never been to one, never heard about one in my immediate area, and I'm just relieved to learn they exist and do attract both readers and authors.

Gary Corby said...

Hope you like it, Eilir, after all this long wait. (And if you don't, at least you know who to talk to about it!)

Seriously, I'd love to know what people think, good or bad.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Jane,

I do always laugh along the way.

I'll try to avoid laughing maniacally while waving a bloodstained hand-axe, appropriate though that may be for a mystery author.

One thing I did at the first talk was read the opening scene, and stopped here and there along the way to make verbal footnotes on what I'd written, and why. It was fun to do, and sort of interesting, I think. But after that, no other event was interested in readings; people just wanted to hear me talk about the book, which was fine with me.

Gary Corby said...

Amalia and Meghan,

What would be really cool would be an author event with all of the blog followers in the same room. I know it'll never happen, but it'd be amazing.

Gary Corby said...

Hi L.T., thanks!

The Mysterious Galaxy talk was the only one where people asked about how publishing works. For those who weren't there, someone asked about how foreign rights work, especially for someone in my odd position. I managed to stop my explanation at the point where eyes glazed over.

Gary Corby said...

Hey Nevets, yes, people do go to author events. I lived in fear of zero attendance at some point along the line, but happily it never happened.

Now that I know a little about these things, I bet there are author events somewhere within reach of you, but I suspect they're not obvious. I noticed mine were advertised in local papers, courtesy of the nice people at the stores.

Loretta Ross said...

Okay, I read your post this morning but I didn't comment because I wanted to think it over and make sure I gave the answer some thought. (Well, that and I was about to be late to work.)

I think at an author event what I'd want is for the author to be himself (or herself) which seems to be what you did and which seems to have gone swimmingly, so I'd say hang with that. Of course, as someone who hopes to be where you are someday, I'm also taking notes about things like this, so if you do happen to find some type of authorial behavior and/or topic of discussion that causes people to cuss you out or fling rotten fruit at you, by all means, let us know.

And I'm also still waiting for my copy to arrive at the local bookstore, but I enjoy the anticipation, so I'm good with that. :)

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Loretta.

Of course, people are so polite they won't generally tell you when something's a little wrong, which makes it tricky. I know from comments I've extracted that I should speak more slowly and watch the time!

The one piece of advice I'd give is, get some public speaking experience before doing this. I used to do quite a bit in my software days, and I'm very aware of how it's helping me avoid common mistakes. Like not umming or ahhing or pacing, and remembering to repeat questions etc.

IHahn said...

Don't have a set piece at your author's chat, Gary! I've been to several, and I think one can spot it, and it can sound canned.
There is usually a short period before the talk when you have the opportunity for brief individual chats, and you probably can gauge your audience from there.
Also, I have found that authors have a tendency to go on reading a bit too long.
I too would have enjoyed 3 hours of Greek history ...

Gary Corby said...

Writers do love the sound of their own words, Irene. :-)

I think I'm safe on not reading too much. I've only done it once, and then that was only the first scene. But as I read I added footnotes, which people later said was sort of interesting.

Donna Hole said...

Duh . . .

Well, speaking as an aspiring writer - I find I don't fit the average reader category anymore, unfortunately - I'd probably want to know about your processes. Research, integration facts/characters, editing and revising, how you came up with the idea, interest/credentials in the culture.

Gee, that kinda sounds like an author interview. Do ya wanna; huh, huh? I'm donnahole at gmail dot com if you're interested. Or, I suppose I could e-mail you first with the request.

I've never done an Author Event either, but I've a feeling you aced this. You got along well with the audience, and they were engaged to the point of closing down the joint. Win-win in my book.

Leaving a good feeling is probably more important than leaving hours of info. You must have felt "real" to them also.


Robert said...

Hi Gary,

I attended your book signing at Aunt Agatha's (I'm the guy on the right in your picture) and had a wonderful time joining in with you and the attendees in an engaging, educational, and FUN discussion of greek history and your book. This was my first book signing event, and I look forward to your return to Ann Arbor when you introduce Themistocles to your readers. Speaking of your return, you mentioned that you liked the coffee here; I can introduce you to a few microbreweries in Ann Arbor with beer better than Fosters...


Gary Corby said...

Hey Robert!

Yes, of course I remember you. You know more history than I do.

I'm glad you thought it fun, especially since it was your first author event! I'd highly recommend dropping in to Aunt Agatha's to meet some other authors for comparison. You don't know how lucky you are to have such a high quality bookstore in town.

You're quite right, Themistocles is next cab off the rank.

I happily accept your invitation. Microbreweries are all good with me. The only question is, will we have enough time to try everything? It's very important to get a good sample space, you know.

All beer is better than Fosters. I never drink the stuff.