Thursday, February 26, 2015

Learning on the Road

by Rob Brunet

Long before I had an agent or a publishing contract for Stinking Rich, I pasted a map of the U.S. on the wall behind my desk. It listed cities where I knew someone well enough to have dinner. I played connect-the-dots and wound up with a ring around the country with a few long stretches of know-no-one-land in-between. I tallied up the miles, divided by the speed limit, and announced to my wife that when my book was published, I’d be on the road for nine or ten weeks promoting it. I imagine the main reason she didn’t whack me on the spot was I didn’t even have a completed manuscript at the time. As midlife crises go, dreaming of a road trip from behind a desk while writing a novel was pretty tame stuff.

Jump forward to two weeks before I left last September and she took to asking me a couple times a day, “How long are you going for?”

A better question may have been, “When’s your next trip?”

Setting aside all the friendships made and renewed, the best part of being on the road was non-stop opportunities to learn. Publishing is packed, end-to-end, with people inspired by their work. From authors to booksellers, librarians to editors, reviewers to agents and publisher’s reps. No one’s in the business to get rich—far too many easier ways to pull that off. And people who are passionate about what they do generally love to share the reasons why. Wear big ears and you’re bound to learn a ton.
As a debut author, I’ve been repeatedly overwhelmed by the willingness of industry veterans to share what’s what. If I simply listed the names of seriously helpful people I’ve met at conferences, Noir at the Bars, Sisters in Crime meetings, bookstore readings, library events, workshops, and launches, this post would run well past its word limit.

There’s never been an easier time to connect with people. Social media has smashed physical boundaries to the point even the most reclusive among us can reach out and meet strangers. Many of the people I spent time with on the road were Tweeps or Facebook friends first. And yet there’s nothing like meeting someone in person—over coffee or beer or a plate of ribs—to cement the connection and acknowledge what it means.

Did I lose time at my keyboard? Absolutely. And I learned how much more discipline I’ll need to make it in this game. Jon Jordan of Crimespree told me of one headlining author who only agrees to appear at conferences provided he can be kept off the morning schedule, because mornings he writes. Even on the road.

I didn’t have to spend a couple months in my fourteen-year-old car to meet people in the industry. I live in Toronto, a city where there are multiple literary events every night of the week, year-round. And anywhere there’s a bookstore, a library, or a local writers’ workshop, there are ways to find people who share a passion for reading, writing, publishing, and everything that goes with working with words and stories. I know my life’s been made richer since I started get out there.

A couple weeks ago, I took my road trip map from the wall. There’s a blank spot there beckoning. Wonder where I’ll go next.

Rob Brunet’s debut Stinking Rich was listed as a Best of 2014 by both Crimespree Magazine and The Ottawa Citizen. His award-winning short crime fiction appears in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (February 2015), Thuglit, Noir Nation, Shotgun Honey, and numerous anthologies. Brunet is co-host of the Toronto edition of Noir at the Bar and before writing crime, he ran a Web boutique producing sites for titles like Frank Miller’s Sin City and cult television series Alias. He loves the bush, beaches, and bonfires, and lives in Toronto with his wife, daughter, and son.

Called “deviously funny” by Canadian Mystery Reviews, Stinking Rich asks, What could possibly go wrong when the backwoods Libidos Motorcycle Club hires a high school dropout to tend a barn full of high-grade marijuana? Plenty, it turns out. In a world where indoor plumbing’s optional and each local wacko is more twisted than the last, drug money draws reprobates like moths to a lantern. From loveable losers to gnarly thugs and law-and-order wannabes, every last one of them has an angle—their best shot at being stinking rich. And with their own warped ideas about right, wrong, and retribution, the Libidos aren’t far behind.

1 comment:

Jenny Milchman said...

I am with you on the road trips, as you know, Rob! Hope your paths cross somewhere along the way...

That writing while on tour thing. Wow. I can edit on tour...but write new? That's two hats for sure.