25 October 2014
The HIGHS and Lows of being an Author
(This was the second half of my Mattress of Ceremonies (MC) address at the Bloody Words Mystery Conference Gala in Toronto this June. Which was a blast and a half. I even have a photo of me giving this address. It actually looks like me, which will be explained below. The Spanish Flamenco outfit cannot be explained.)
We all know the highs. Those delirious times when you win awards and/or get a royalty cheque that takes you and your family to Europe rather than McDonalds.
I’ve had a few highs this year, winning the Derringer Award and the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada. And I’m exceedingly grateful for them.
Because - thing is - authors get a lot of lows. It's not just the bad reviews and rejection slips. For some reason, most of my lows seem to cluster around that scariest of all activities: the book signing.
Some people think the worst thing that can happen is nobody shows up. Or when you’re on a panel of 4 authors, and only three people show up.
But that’s not the worst.
1. Worse is when five people show up for your reading. And they’re all pushing walkers. And half way through, when you’re right in the middle of reading a compelling scene, one of them interrupts, shouting, “When does the movie start?”
Sometimes, even large crowds don’t help.
2. I did an event this year with two hundred people in the audience. I was doing some of my standup schtick, and it went over really well. Lots of applause, and I was really pumped. I mean, two hundred people were applauding me and my books! A bunch of hands shot up for questions. I picked the first one and a sweet young thing popped up from her seat and asked in a voice filled with awe, “Do you actually know Linwood Barclay?”
3. Another ego-crusher: I was reading in front of another large crowd last year. Same great attention, lots of applause. I was revved. Only one hand up this time, and she said, in a clearly disappointed voice:
“You don’t look anything like your protagonist.”
So I said, “Sweetheart, not only that, I don’t look anything like my author photo.”
4. One of the best things about being a writer is getting together with other writers to whine about the industry. I was at The Drake in Toronto this year with a bunch of other Canadian crime writers, Howard Shrier, Robbie Rotenberg, Dorothy McIntosh, Rob Brunet… who am I missing?
We were whooping it up in the bar, moaning about the book trade. Someone bought a round. And another. And then I bought a round. And soon, it became necessary to offload some of the product, so I went looking for a place to piddle. You have to go upstairs in the Drake to find washrooms, so I gamely toddled up the stairs, realizing that I couldn’t actually see the steps. I was probably not at my best.
I made it to the landing at the top and scanned a door in front of me. It had a big “W” on it. That seemed sort of familiar, but fuzzy, you know? Then I saw the door to my left. It had an “M” on it. So I thought, ‘M for Melodie!’ and walked right in.
Howard, I think you had probably gone by then, but the guy at the urinal asked for my number.
Melodie Campbell writes funny books, like The Artful Goddaughter. You should probably buy it because she, like, writes about the mob.