Thursday, March 22, 2012
One of the missions of ITW's Debut Authors Program involves having established authors provide mentorship to those who are up and coming. You can find all sorts of evidence of this--in the informal conversations at ThrillerFest that take place between Big Author X and someone who has just begun querying, for example--and last Sunday a particularly inspiring instance took place.
Some of the Debuts were talking about which author we'd most like to sit down in a room with and get to ask all those questions that are so seldom asked. You know the ones.
How do you craft a book that gets so many people turning the pages--almost ripping the pages in their haste to turn them? What's it like to see your books all over the world? And even--how did you do it?
We quickly knew which author we'd like to talk with first. The only problem? Debut Authors come from all over the world, so where would the room to talk in be? We came up with a format that would involve a live chat via Skype.
Now we need to approach Big Author X, to see if the author was available for our live chat. The author we had in mind just happened to be touring and it was easy enough to present the idea while having a book signed. Well, okay, no, it wasn't easy, it was actually incredibly nerve-wracking and intimidating, until this author met the idea not with polite demurral, but instead a degree of, Hey, that could be fun.
He offered three hours on a Sunday. And the Debuts got to work.
There was a thread started in the mentor forum, which is run by Ethan Cross. Debuts could post their desire to participate as well as which question they'd like to ask this author. Miranda Parker, who heads social media, set about lining up articles and pieces that would be written about the event, and two new-ish Debuts, Cathy Perkins and Sam Thomas, jumped in to help out. Anthony Franze came out of the woodwork--actually the Supreme Court, yes, that Supreme Court--to assist with compiling lists of who would take part and assorted other jobs that we all realized at the last minute better happen for this to be a success. One of those jobs went to Gary Kriss, discussion forum guru, whose wrangling with ways to record the whole thing still gives me shivers to this day.
You know the shivers I mean, right? The ones that come when we duck a task that would've completely felled us?
There was a gratifying response--one Debut Skyped in from her book tour, and another was traveling from Hong Kong to Manila and wanted to take part. In the end we had to divide into two groups to accommodate demand and schedules, so it was basically like having a couple of parties, back-to-back.
Despite all the preparation, I would say there were still nerves when the day came and it was time to place a Skype call to someone we all look up to and carry assorted dreams and images of.
Sometimes the gods of technology smile, and they did that day. We could all hear and see each other. The Skype windows, affording their views of an office, a couch, a living room--there might even have been a garden in there--made it seem as if we were all just sitting around chatting together in some comfortable setting.
Questions flew back and forth--is it a good idea to go on book tour in December as a new author; how do you keep a series fresh; how do you tell fans that you're not going to answer that question even in a future book--and answers arrived with wit and honesty. One Debut commented that she learned so much it was going to take a week to absorb, and I think we all felt that way.
The amazing thing was that by the end of the time we spent together, we didn't just look up to this author anymore. We felt as if we really knew him. As if we might be exactly what ITW hopes for with this program--not just mentorees, but friends.
By the way, I do realize that this entire piece is a bit mysterious--may I say thriller-esque?--in its anonymity. That's because upcoming media coverage will reveal which author was involved. For now, let me just say that the Debuts hope to plan future events involving beloved authors. And you will soon learn the one who kicked it all off last Sunday!