John Sandford (John Camp)

I attended a book signing by John Sandford, a pseudonym used by John Camp, at Scottsdale’s Poisoned Pen Bookstore yesterday evening. I made some notes from the event.

My apologies for any errors herein; they are my own. If I’ve misstated something, I apologize and will make corrections when so notified.

  • John is promoting his latest novel, The Investigator. Examining the copy on my lap, I estimated the book’s length at about 180,000 words. (A big book.)
  • There were 40+ people in the audience including his wife who is also a journalist by trade. He said he bounces everything off her and that she’s his best editor.
  • He writes in Word “because the publisher’s require it.” He spent several minutes complaining about it’s bugs and mentioned an on-going struggle concerning the possessive apostrophe for words ending in “s” which (apparently) is a known bug. (He works on a PC, not a Mac. I refrained from trying to promote Scrivener on the Mac, my preferred environment.)
  • He said that for his WIP, Work In Progress, he started by going to the locale and observing its day-to-day. He became interested in the people, speculated about their lives, and that the story grew from there.
  • When he writes, he has no particular plot in mind.
  • He also commented that he’s really struggling with the WIP. I think he said that he’s re-drafted the latest scene many times but, so far, the story won’t move forward.
  • I asked what was the ratio of words written-but-deleted versus those that finally get published. He took a long moment before answering it doesn’t apply to him because he may revise a scene 20 to 30 times until it works.
  • He mentioned he would be attending a conference/meeting in the fall, and would be participating in a “review the first page” of submitted works. He said it was vital for authors to grab the reader within that space, and to then keep up the action.
  • He complained about what seemed to him to be the increasing practice of extreme and frequent violence in new books.
  • He mentioned that he likes to read, among others, The Gray Man series. I presume he’s referring to ones by Mark Greaney.
  • While signing my copy of John’s latest book, I mentioned my efforts at writing a novel, and that I’m “not yet” published. He said it seems to him that beginners often submit their first novel, get back a rejection, try to fix it, and then do this over and over. He suggested it would be better to leave the work and move on to writing a new one. I commented that my current WIP has been, among other things, a learning opportunity. He nodded and agreed that’s a good thing and not uncommon for new writers, but then re-iterated the advice to leave it and start on the next thing. In this regard, he related his own beginning experience:
    1. His first novel, “Chippewah Zoo,” has never been published.
    2. His second—title not mentioned—was also never published.
    3. His third work started the Kidd series, was published, but didn’t sell.
    4. His fourth—the second in the Kidd series—was successful.

FYI: Poisoned Pen has a busy calendar of author signings. You can attend in-person as I did to get the opportunity for the Q&A, a signed-in-person copy, and the chance for a brief one-on-one moment, or you can attend via live-stream on the Internet (and submit a question), or you can view recorded copies at a later date.

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