It seems Twitter is proving itself actually useful, after all. I follow the Science Fiction Writers of America (@sfwa), and caught a tweet yesterday for a book signing at the Powells Books in Beaverton by Dan Wells, author of I Am Not a Serial Killer and the sequel, Mr. Monster. I have to admit I was not familiar with Mr. Wells before yesterday, but when I pulled up his Twitter profile to find out about him, I saw that our buddy Chazz of knowledgelost.org followed him. And, since I had no other plans last evening (I know, pathetic), I wound up at the book signing. When I first arrived I saw that there were actually two of his books available, and so not being familiar with his work and needing to pick up one for Chazz, I asked a woman sitting in the front row if she knew which was the newer one. She advised me which was which, and I ended up getting one of each.
I was sorry to see such a small turnout, but Dan was in good spirits and chatty and humorous. He also had one of his children with him and warned that if he were to suddenly scream and sprint for the back of the store it would be because he saw his daughter being kidnapped. Happily, this never happened. Once the reading got going his daughter dutifully came and sat at the signing table while her dad did his thing, even correcting him once on which city they actually live in…
He read a short excerpt from the new book (no spoilers), and seriously, people who read from their own works at NaNoWriMo wrap parties could take a lesson in brevity. The Q&A section of the program was relatively short, since there weren’t many of us there. I did ask if he had a panel of experts on call to advise him on various aspects such as how to accurately describe what various wounds would do to a body. He said no, but that he was able to talk to one of the first psychologists who dealt with Ted Bundy. Bundy began his infamous life of crime there in Salt Lake City, back when Wells’s own mother had been a young blond college student, and exactly Bundy’s type. Wells’s main character, John Wayne Cleaver (and honest to god I meant to ask why he chose the name ‘Cleaver’ for his sociopathic teen), works in a funeral home, and when he began writing it he called around to various mortuaries to ask for information on embalming,. Nobody would talk to him or tell him anything. Heh. Wonder why. Now that he’s published of course, they’re calling him to talk. He also mentioned that when he began the book, the character John was originally 12, but that turned out to be far too young and so he had to age him a bit. He got into the psychology of how sociopaths develop, his fascination with serial killers and when asked how he came to be so fascinated, he said he couldn’t understand how anyone could NOT be fascinated with them. However, he also said he has no burning desire to sit down with one and interview them, with the possible exception of Ed Kemper, who ultimately surrendered to police and is to this day incarcerated in Vacaville, California. For a serial killer to turn himself in is virtually unheard of.
When asked if he was ever disturbed by what he wrote, he admitted he was, sometimes needing a couple days to get past it. He also related a story about his mother-in-law calling his wife after reading his book to ask if she felt she and the children were safe living with him.
In addition to writing, Dan, contributes to podcasts for writers, available at www.writingexcuses.com. There does seem to be a fee involved, but they offer a trial membership to check it out.
So while Dan was waiting for the appointed hour to start the reading, he and the woman I had talked to when I first arrived were chatting away. Seems she is with the same publisher and they were commenting on the nifty sign that Dan had, and how she didn’t get one for her own signing, and talked about who each of their publicists were (turns out she and Dan are friends). Naturally after I had gotten my books signed by Dan, I had to inquire who this lady was. I apologized for not knowing her and we shook hands, and she introduced herself as Mary Robinette Kowal, author of Shades of Milk and Honey. She pointed me to her book sitting on the shelf, already signed and graciously offered to personalize it for me while we chatted (I quickly whipped out a pen which I had brought for just such an occasion, although she lamented that it would be a different color ink than she had signed her name with. I can live with that). She described the book as “Jane Austen with magic.” Right up my alley! I believe she was also attending the H.P. Lovecraft film fest and Cthulhucon this weekend. I noted that Mary is a bicyclist and had ridden over to the store last night, seeing her helmet at her feet, and her right pant leg tied to keep it out of the chain. As we stood there talking one of the Powells employees who seems to coordinate these events came over, and Mary commented to her that the Jane Austen Society is having their annual fete in Portland this year, and Powells might be a good location for them. I might have to join up.
You can follow Dan on Twitter @johncleaver, and Mary @MaryRobinette.