Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Public Writer

Writing fiction is a very private act, meant to reach as wide an audience as possible. An elderly friend of mine, long since dead (I supposed he died younger than I am now), insisted that's what drove so many writers to drink. Hugh Garner was an accomplished and successful writer, and stayed sober through each writing project, then drank himself into oblivion as he went through the procedures of being a public figure in order to sell books. He accepted this as the natural order of things.

For myself, I'm finding sustaining a public profile both exhausting and exhilarating. I look at a mystery writer like Louise Penny and marvel at how open and accessible she is. In trying to do the same, I seem to be making innumerable trips to bookstores, in an effort to make myself known. I trust the novels are good, but if no-one reads them ...

I'm a mystery writer. It doesn't count if I wrote quite successfully in the past in other genres. So, I present myself as a mystery writer. It can be tremendous fun, and occasionally quite humbling. I was practically ejected from the premises of a bookstore in Kitchener by an assistant manager not out of her teens. On the other hand, I have been warmly received by stores from Brockville to Cambridge, Picton and Port Hope to Guelph and Huntsville, Hamilton, Bracebridge, Belleville, and Kingston. Sometimes, stores have neither of my mysteries in stock, or perhaps one or two copies. Nevertheless, many smaller independent stores have been very gracious but, then, perhaps more surprisingly, so have Chapters and McNally Robinson.

Driving hundreds of kilometres to "market" a book or two hasn't driven me to excessive drink, although occasionally to a glass of wine or two. As I drive around, I've been lining up signings, and have been invited to a book club in Peterborough and a writers' festival in Westport (and perhaps to others, if they work out). Bev usually goes with me, so we have good times, hanging out and seeing Ontario. Most of my "marketing" efforts are necessarily in Ontario because that's where I live.

After a day or two on the road, it's always good getting back to "Stonewood," and to Miranda Quin and David Morgan—it's always a relief to find they're still there, waiting for me.

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