I won’t bother with a holiday post because I don’t want to compete with all the other festive Happy Easter sentiments. So if you need a break from Easter egg hunting, I’ll tell you about my exciting evening last night on Easter Eve. Is that a thing?
I did what I always enjoy doing which is attend a book signing. It was at Pages, a lovely local bookstore near me in Manhattan Beach. I don’t frequent this store enough because it’s always a nightmare to find parking. But the owners are great and they have a big children’s section. Plus my former co-worker, Casey, works there so I get to catch up with him.
The author who drew me out of my comfy home to brave the beach parking was Harlan Coben. I admit it’s been years since I read this author. I love the Myron Bolitar series, featuring the sports agent, but he hasn’t written a new Myron since 2011. I also love his YA series featuring Myron’s nephew, Mickey Bolitar. I just have too many books to read and for some reason, his went to my back burner.
It’s a rare treat to see Harlan Coben since he lives in New Jersey. The added bonus was that local Manhattan Beach resident, Danny Zuker, interviewed Harlan. Danny is the producer of Modern Family (a show that I hear is kind of a hit). Apparently, Danny Zuker and Harlan went to high school together at Livingston High.
The bookstore was packed and it was hard to see Harlan and Danny because they were sitting down so I stood in the back the entire time. Both of them were hilarious and clearly they loved joking around with each other. Harlan gave some great writerly advice and even quoted one of my favorite sayings from Elmore Leonard: I always cut out the parts that people skip. Harlan said that’s his number one rule. He imagines a knife to his neck and if his writing starts to turn dull, the knife nicks him. His stories are always adrenaline-fueled for me so clearly he takes that rule to heart.
Danny asked if Harlan is ever afflicted by the insecurities most writers suffer. Am I a hack? Is anything I write worth reading? Harlan assured him that he suffers from that as well. It was good to hear since only an hour before I’d been banging my head against the wall as I struggled with my current WIP.
During the Q&A someone asked who his favorite authors were. He deftly evaded that question because he said whomever he mentions, it will inevitably end up on Twitter and then Dennis Lehane will call him and be like, “Hey, thanks a lot, man. I guess I’m not your favorite anymore.”
Harlan told a funny story about how he used to plug an old fraternity brother of his who’d written a book and asked him to read it. He told people at every signing to buy this guy’s book. He even blurbed the book. Turns out it was Dan Brown. For weeks, Harlan’s book would be #2 on the bestseller list right underneath Dan Brown.
After the talk, I stood in line like everyone else to get my book signed. When it was my turn, I reminded Harlan that we’d met 8 years ago at the Crime Bake Conference in Dedham, MA where he was the guest of honor. He actually said that he noticed me standing up in the back of the room and that I had looked familiar. Of course he could have been lying but that made my night.
After the signing I thought about how far I’ve come since 2008. I was just starting to write seriously then and was a wide-eyed mystery conference newbie. Since then, I’ve had 14 short stories published, spoken on numerous panels at several conferences, and have a noir novella due for release in less than 2 months.
On the other hand, Harlan has published 12 novels and written 2 television series in Europe since 2008. But I’ll get there. I have no doubts. Especially with a blurb from Harlan on my upcoming noir novella. Because we’re old pals now, right? Hey, it could happen. And look what it did for Dan Brown.
Sarah M. Chen juggles several jobs including indie bookseller, transcriber, and insurance adjuster. Her crime fiction short stories have been accepted for publication online and in various anthologies, including All Due Respect, Akashic, Plan B, Dead Guns Press, Shotgun Honey, Crime Factory, Out of the Gutter, Betty Fedora, Spelk, and the Sisters in Crime/LA anthology, Ladies Night. Her noir novella, Cleaning Up Finn, is coming out May 2016 with All Due Respect Books. www.sarahmchen.com