This past Friday afternoon, my wife and I drove a few hours to The Tattered Cover in Denver. Along the way we browsed some used bookstores. We met for dinner with a friend from a book collectors’ group, then we negotiated our route through downtown Denver as baseball fans were leaving the stadium after the Rockies’ home opener.
The author, Laurie R. King, was four days into a tour to promote the latest novel in her Mary Russell/Sherlock Homes series. I’d read all but one—and brought eight hardcovers to be signed, plus The Murder of Mary Russell, which I bought that evening.
Arriving 20 minutes early, we took the last available chairs. Soon the Tattered Cover staff set up another 50 seats, which were filled by the time King began speaking. The crowd ran the gamut of ages and attires, but we shared an affinity for this author’s approach.
She did a short reading from the novel (avoiding spoilers), then took questions. Her answers offered insights into her techniques. She hinted about her approach to blogging, her love of research, her relationship with her characters, and how she draws inspiration by exploring their backstories.
When she was asked if she mapped out her storylines, I learned new, more pleasant terms than “plotter” and “panster.” She described the writing spectrum as “organized” vs “organic.” And she offered this observation for others who take the organic approach: “Writing is the true faith-based initiative.”
She also described her approach to overcome writer’s block: rereading the story from the beginning … until she finds where she took a wrong term that didn’t fit with what her subconscious mind envisioned.
If all those insights weren’t enough, there was the bonus of chatting with people at the back of the signing line. We talked about not only our relationship with the Russell/Holmes books, but also about other favorite authors. If I’d been a writer in this genre, I’d have struck gold.
“I write largely to entertain myself,” King had said. But clearly she accomplishes far more. Just ask the people in her signing lines.