Last Saturday I made my annual pilgrimage to the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago. I started the day by attending an author event with Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, and Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters. While the moderator left something to be desired, these two amazing women made it an enjoyable event. After hearing Stuckey-French talk about Radioactive Lady, I’m definitely adding it to my TBR list.
Much of the time was spent discussing point of view. The moderator and several audience members were really interested in Brown’s choice to use the 1st person plural point of view in The Weird Sisters. Eleanor talked about how she’s always been interested in how stories are told. She asked herself why people don’t use 1st person plural. Then she did it and found out...it’s hard. However, for The Weird Sisters, she likes how it highlighted that you can’t escape your family. She told us that the “we” of The Weird Sisters is always all three of the sisters.
Stuckey-French talked about her difficulty in developing Radioactive Lady. In fact, one of her friends told her after reading a draft, I love your characters but you need a new plot. Ouch. The book really took off for her once she started writing Marylou Ahearn’s character. Previously, the story had been told from Dr. Spriggs’ point of view. Radioactive Lady is in 3rd person with different characters taking the lead from chapter to chapter. Stuckey-French said she didn’t use first person because she worried that the characters would sound too much alike.
Another interesting part of the conversation was the reaction of both authors to V.S. Naipaul’s recent comments about female authors. While completely dismissing the idea that men are better authors than women, Brown said male and female authors are treated differently. She brought up the gender disparity in reviews that was a major topic around the time Franzen’s The Corrections came out. Eleanor also pointed out that we don’t have to criticize male authors to celebrate female authors more.
Afterwards, I finally got to meet Eleanor Brown and have her sign a copy of The Weird Sisters.
After some browsing and a yummy lunch at Flaco’s Tacos, I got a book signed by Pete Hamill. Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to sit in a sweltering tent for an hour to hear him speak beforehand.
Then it was time for the walk over to the Harold Washington Library Center to see Chicago-based authors Marcus Sakey and Sean Chercover. I was excited to see that copies of The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes were on sale despite the release date being a few days away. Thanks Dutton for letting this happen! Another pleasant surprise was seeing Meredith Baxter in the lobby doing a signing.
Sakey and Chercover began with the story of their first booksigning, which took place in Kokomo, Indiana. It was a bit of a comedy of errors as they forgot the time change, lost their radio promotion, and sat trapped by a strange man obsessed by serial killers. Fun times. Marcus Sakey has come a long way from that signing with major Hollywood names optioning two of his books. Ben Affleck has the rights to The Blade Itself and Tobey Maguire the rights to Good People.
Sakey talked about how The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes grew out of a quote by Satchel Paige, who said “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” It gave Sakey the idea of asking the question “Who would you be if you didn’t know who you are?” Chercover jumped in to say that the theme of identity runs through all of Sakey’s works.
Marcus Sakey has a different sort of project on his plate right now -- writing and hosting a new show for the Travel Channel called “Hidden Cities.” Sakey will travel to different cities to investigate the impact of crime and chronicle specific crimes. The first episode looks at Chicago and three famous events/people: the 1968 Democratic Convention riots, John Dillinger, and H.H. Holmes, the serial killer featured in Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. I’m looking forward to checking this show out.
Both authors will be at Bouchercon this year. If you’re going to be there too, go see them!
I had my brand new copy of The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes signed afterwards.
That was the end of my day at the Printers Row Lit Fest. A light rain had set in by that point, and I was ready for a rest! If you're in the area, you should definitely go to next year's Lit Fest. Though the number of booksellers has decreased in recent years, they continue to have a great selection of author appearances that are worth the trip.