Sunday, March 23, 2008

Best-selling author receives gift of Moxie

[Best-selling author, Tess Gerritsen, at LPL; the six-pack of Moxie is sitting in the plastic bag to her right.]

Tess Gerritsen is a wildly successful writer. While her genre of medical thrillers isn’t my given choice of reading, I thought I’d take advantage of her appearance in Lewiston and see if I could ascertain what differentiates the Tess Gerritsens of the writing world, from the rest of us run-of-the-mill types. The woman’s one of America's most popular novelists, for gawd’s sake, having sold around 15 million books that have apparently been translated into 31 languages. Now that’s popular, chummy!

Gerritsen, who lives in Camden, was speaking at Lewiston Public Library’s Great Falls Forum, at noon on Thursday. She’s spoken in the area on other occasions and I’ve always missed her appearances. This time, I managed to get away from work for a bit, grabbed a sandwich and a six-pack of Moxie (more about that later) and headed downtown to the library.

The topic of her talk, “I’ve Got a Great Idea for a Book! (Or Do I?…),” brought out a number of the types that come to hear writers like Gerritsen, hoping that they’ll receive something by osmosis that might get them off the snide and into print. I actually sat next to a couple of folks who are at the talking stage of writing a book. What’s the “talking stage” of a book? It’s the “I have an idea for a book, but I can’t find the time to write it,” or, worse, “I know I have a book in me, but I’m not sure what it is.” WTF?

Now I’m no Tess Gerritsen, but the only way that I know to move a book from talk to finality, is to write. Profound, eh? I hesitate to offer writing advice, seeing that I’ve got exactly one book to my name, with another on the way, but really, I’m weary of hearing so-called writers whine about their lack of production and excuses why they can’t finish what they start out working on. Shut off the television; write after work, or early in the morning before work. Just get it done, my friend.

I found Gerritsen’s talk interesting. She’s obviously an exceptionally bright woman and a voracious researcher. She shared a number of humorous stories and anecdotes about how some of her books have developed. I enjoyed her story about her Chinese immigrant mother, who had an appetite for horror movies, taking young Tess to a wealth of 60s era films. That “bump in the chest” that she felt during these films is what she aims to evoke to her readers with her books.

Gerritsen spends a wealth of time researching material for her books, so she obviously is able to create authenticity of subject matter. Speaking of authenticity, I’ve emailed her several times. About a year ago, I inquired about possibly endorsing a book I was working on for another author. She emailed me back, and while she didn’t commit, she seemed sincere enough. Unlike some other well-known writers who live in Maine, with their coterie of handlers, shielding them from the public, Gerritsen seems to relish keeping in touch with fans. The fact that she blogs and shares some interesting stuff impresses me.

Recently, I emailed her again about whether she might be interested in contributing a Moxie story/anecdote for a chapter in the new book. Once again, she responded and told me that she had never tried Moxie. She wasn’t even sure where to find it. I jokingly wrote back that she’s been in Maine long enough and that it’s about time she took the plunge.

Deciding to have some fun with this, I was able to score a six-pack of mini-cans of Moxie, the drink invented by Maine native, Augustin Thompson, back in 1884. With its cult-following and niche popularity, Moxie is part of the culture of the Pine Tree State.

As soon as Ms. Gerritsen finished her talk, I quickly made my way to the table where she would be signing books. I introduced myself and she saw my paper bag. She asked me, “that’s not Moxie is it?” I presented my gift, she laughed, I shook her hand and that was my Thursday brush with writing royalty. I should have had someone snap my picture, but I didn’t think of that ahead of time. (did get one of her signing books, afterwards)

I enjoyed Gerritsen’s talk, but I sensed that some in the crowd of about 75 were disappointed because they weren't given that “silver bullet” of a book idea.

Note: The crowd makeup was interesting; predominantly over 55 and female. In fact, there were only 10-12 males in the room. Also, there didn't appear to be anyone under 30 present. I wondered if this is the demographic for Gerritsen's books?


Margaret Evans Porter said...

So happy you saw my friend in action--she's very smart, talented, and hard-working. And it's great that you've introduced her to Moxie. Yes, she's been in Maine long enough to try it, at least once!
I've only attended her bookstore events for readers, so it was interesting to read your impressions of an event attended by wannabe writers. Or should I say, wannabe bestsellers?

Jim said...

I concur with you about Ms. Gerritsen being "smart, talented, and hard-working."

I can see why she's been successful; she seems to have a drive and passion for learning that keep her fueled with ideas for new books.

Also, the "wannabe bestsellers" is another great point.

If anyone decides to write because they hope to launch a bestseller, then they will terribly disappointed. If instead, writing comes from a need to express ideas, thoughts, or just because you can't live if you don't write, then I think one can be modestly happy and probably modestly productive.

While many aspire to be a bestseller like Tess Gerritsen, Stephen King, and JK Rowling, I doubt that they started out with that as being their goal to write.

Margaret Evans Porter said...

Well, I knew her before she was a bestseller. She's the same lovely and modest person she was then. And though she was a good writer then, she's better now...because we all improve with time and effort.
Sometimes lightning strikes. Or, as a mystery editor--editor of mysteries--I knew used to say, "God smiles."
I like it when it happens to Good People!