There are so many authors whom I love to read and whom I’ve had the distinct joy of getting to know personally and even count as friends, including many who blog here. But for this post, I’m going to write about my Dream Team of thriller writers and the thrill (see what I did there!) of meeting them.
This Dream Team is in no way a slam against anyone not on it. Everyone who might read this (including you, Mom) is a much better writer than me. This a group of authors who I’ve read for decades, first for enjoyment and more recently for craft. Gayle Lynds, Douglas Preston, Daniel Silva, James Rollins, Steve Berry, Lee Child and Joe Finder. Maybe you’ve heard of them.
I haven’t met Daniel Silva and James Rollins yet so they’re on notice.
Joe Finder I met while picking over books at Otto Penzler’s The Mysterious Bookshop in NYC, which may be the single most pretentious sentence I’ve ever written. We were both at ThrillerFest. He was very kind and encouraging but he had a meeting with his agent to get to and I had to get a sandwich at Subway. Still, wonderful meeting and box checked!
Meeting Doug Preston was cooler and more awkward. About three years ago, I was at the Portland Jetport with my family on our way to New Orleans. My son had stopped into the bookstore to sign copies of his book, Neighborhood Heroes: Life Lessons Learned from Maine’s Greatest Generation. A woman picked up a copy and was talking with us about it when her husband walked in. “You’re Douglas Preston!” I stammered. “I love all your books!” This was probably the first time my kids had seen their Dad go FanBoy and it was over an author.
What a dork.
They were on their way to ThrillerFest. We had a lovely chat. Two years later, as my first thriller, An Unbeaten Man, was about to be released, I contacted Doug to ask for a blurb. I began with “I’m the guy you met in the airport.” And he remembered! But, as my wife pointed out, I was and am a pretty memorable dork.
And he wrote a fantastic blurb for my book!
The first time I met Steve Berry was this summer at ThrillerFest. With Gayle’s help, Steve had already written a wonderful blurb for my book and I desperately wanted to meet him and thank him. He was teaching several classes at CraftFest and also was meeting with all the members of the Debut Class, which included me, but I couldn’t wait. I ambushed him the first time I spotted him at the hotel to tell him how thrilling (did it again) it was for me to have a blurb from Steve Berry!
He was, of course, incredibly gracious and then spent numerous hours over the next few days with me and the other debut authors, educating us about the nuts and bolts of being published authors and also instructing us in clear detail on how to become better authors. I wrote down every word then went home and rewrote my second book in the Michael McKeon series using all the techniques he taught. And I was rewarded when Gayle heard me read the first two chapters in Bar Harbor and said I had taken a gigantic step forward as an author and that the new beginning was one of the best she’d heard. I will take that with me forever.
I tried to meet Lee Child several times at ThrillerFest this summer but he was always surrounded. I was beginning to think I’d never get the chance. Then, late one afternoon, I went to the bathroom. I was the only one in the bathroom, at a long line of urinals. I heard the door open and a tall man stepped to the urinal next to me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I realize it’s Lee Child. Damn. I’ve been trying to meet him, but every guy knows that urinal etiquette demands eyes forward and no chit-chat. So I say nothing. I finish and walk to the sink. He does too. Now we’re both at the sink. There’s no sink etiquette except I can’t pretend I just spotted him. So I say nothing. I walk out of the bathroom. He follows. I get in line for the next session. He gets in the same line in back of me.
Double damn. There was no reason I couldn’t say hello to him in line except that we’d just left the bathroom together and got in line together and how could I pretend to just spot him now? But what the heck. I turn to him and say: “Hi. This would’ve been really awkward in the bathroom, but I just wanted to say that I’m a huge fan and thank you for your work.”
Phew. He says thank you. We go our separate ways. Funny story for me. He probably remembers nothing of it.
But later that day…I’m in another bathroom at the hotel. I’m the only one at the urinals. The door opens. Someone enters. Someone stands at the next urinal. Out of the corner of my eye, I glance up.
It’s Lee Child.
He glances down at me and says: “You again?”
I’m sure this didn’t make any impression on him, but I will forever tell people that Lee Child is my stalker.
I’ve saved Gayle Lynds for last because I am so proud to say that I not only have met Gayle, but have become friends with her and with her husband, John. And I can say that Gayle is a huge factor in whatever success I’ve achieved.
I first met Gayle years ago at a Backspace conference in NYC where I won a copy of one of her books, which she autographed for me. Years later, I was walking through Walker Library in Westbrook, turned the corner, and there was Gayle Lynds! In Westbrook?!?
She had just moved to Westbrook with John. We started talking and, as anyone who knows Gayle knows, she is one of the kindest people anywhere and someone who is always adopting new authors. She read a prior version of An Unbeaten Man, gave me incredibly helpful advice and is even responsible for the title. We in the thriller and mystery communities and particularly those of us in Maine are incredibly lucky to have Gayle among us.
And I’m still a FanBoy!