I went to the PX today after I dropped my son off at his job at church. On Saturdays, while Evan is working, I usually treat myself to a hot chocolate from Cinnabon (and maybe a 4-pack of the cini-minis or whatever they call them) and sit in the food court and read for a while. Once I'm done, I wander into the PX and browse for a while. Today I wanted to get the Glee 2 soundtrack, and I was hoping to find some Valentine decorations to hang from the ceiling in our kindergarten classroom. On my way into the PX, I noticed an author sitting at a table just outside the entrance. I smiled at her and went ahead with my shopping.
On the way out, I walked past the author again, and again I smiled. Then I had the impulse to stop and talk to her. I often think about how awful it must be to be there with a book to sell, and have people just walk by and not buy. So I asked her about her books (she had three titles for sale), and I ended up buying one, which she very nicely autographed for me. The book was Only Time Can Tell, and the author was Lisa Dumas Harris. She was really nice, and I'm looking forward to reading her book. She's a local author, from Richmond Hill, I think, which made it doubly important to support her.
This led me to think about something that happened when Harold and I were first married. I had the chance to meet Dorothy Garlock, who was doing a book signing, and I think it was her husband who tried to get me to go over and meet her and buy a copy of her book and have it autographed. I just couldn't do it. I really don't remember why I felt so reluctant, but I think it was because I was afraid I would turn into a gibbering idiot and be another one of those people who babble to successful authors about the book they're writing that will never see the inside of a publishing house. If I had it to do over again, I would totally go over and talk to her.
Later in my marriage, when I was managing a Reader's Market (the book department inside Kmart), I hosted several book signings: Robert Cormier, R. A. Salvatore, R. Patrick Gates, and Rick Hautala (who showed up during my maternity leave, but I made sure to go by and get a couple of books signed). I just now realized that all my authors had R names. Don't know what that means, but it's kind of interesting. Anyway, Robert Cormier was the most gracious man and was wonderfully encouraging. He told me when he got stuck in a manuscript, he would introduce a new character and see where things went. He was truly a lovely person, and I was sad when he died.
R. Patrick Gates and Rick Hautala both write horror stories. I don't recall us selling tons of their books. R. A. Salvatore was really nice. He hadn't yet become the huge phenomenon he is now, but he had several books under his belt and was enjoying being a published author. He talked a lot about his kids and laughed at me (in the nicest way) because I didn't know how to pronounce DelGiudice, which is a fairly common name in Fitchburg, Mass. It's very cool to walk into stores now and see Bob's books taking up so much shelf space and think I got to meet him way back when.
It was also during my Kmart days when I got to meet my idol, LaVyrle Spencer. Being a store manager, I received an invitation to have tea at the Ritz in Boston with LaVyrle, and I was allowed to bring a guest. I couldn't decide who to bring, because my sister-in-law Nancy loved LaVyrle's books as much as I did, but I also wanted to bring my aunt, Posey, to return the many kindnesses she's done for me over the years. I called the publisher, and they said I was welcome to bring an extra guest.
The three of us dressed in our nicest clothes and had a wonderful time. The tea was lovely, and it was so awesome to meet LaVyrle and her husband. The only dark note was when I asked her about Romantic Times magazine, which was relatively new at the time. LaVyrle's eyes snapped, and she said she did NOT want to talk about it. I don't remember anything more specific than that, but I did feel a bit chagrined. At that time, LaVyrle's novel Morning Glory was being made into a movie, and she told us that Peter Weller (AKA RoboCop) was being cast as the hero. He looked exactly like her description of Will, and I thought it was perfect casting. I was not best pleased to find out that Christopher Reeve ended up playing the role. I never did get to see the movie, and I've looked for it from time to time, but it's apparently quite hard to find. Since LaVyrle ended up retiring from the writing business, I guess that makes the movie even more rare.
I've met other authors over the years, and interviewed several during my tenure as a reviewer at www.TheRomanceReadersConnection.com, including Sandra Brown (who was warm and wonderful) and Beverly Lewis (as inspiring to write about as her books are to read). I met Alex Haley and got his autograph way back when I was in college. (I still have it!) He was a very engaging speaker, and I waited quite a long time for a moment of his time and attention. What I've carried away from it all is that it's really hard to be a fledgling author making a name for yourself, and it would be my worst nightmare to be sitting alone at a table wishing and hoping people would stop by and chat and maybe even buy a book. Once you're established, you have so much more control over the situation, but everything you do and/or say means so much more to the person you're talking to, and you really have to be thoughtful and courteous so people don't take away a negative impression. I think sometimes people forget that it was their fans who put them in the big leagues.
I hope I'll be in a position someday soon to have to keep that in mind.