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:
- His first novel, “Chippewah Zoo,” has never been published.
- His second—title not mentioned—was also never published.
- His third work started the Kidd series, was published, but didn’t sell.
- 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.