Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Dennis Lehane reading/signing!
As promised, here's my rundown of the Dennis Lehane event that I went to last night. It was hosted by the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library, and co-sponsored by the Open Door Bookstore in Schenectady, NY. The event was free but required advance registration (which of course, I did online at the exact.very.minute that it opened).
This was my first-ever book reading/signing, and I've been a Lehane fan for a while, so I was pretty darn stoked. If you're unfamiliar, Lehane has written several well-known fiction novels, such as Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island, and The Given Day.
First, I had to decide which book(s) to buy. I was going to get a hardcover copy of his new one, Live By Night, which is coming out next week. However, it was $30 and I couldn't have gotten it last night--if you bought one, he would sign it afterwards and you could pick it up at the library on the release date next week. I was feeling impatient (wanted my book NOW!) and also wanted more bang for my buck, so instead, I bought paperback copies of Shutter Island (my fave Lehane book thus far) and Gone Baby Gone. I also had my own copy of A Drink Before The War with me.
Armed with my books, I got a pretty good aisle seat towards the front of the presentation room. Lehane came out and the party began!
He started by doing a reading from Live By Night's first chapter. Dennis Lehane is a master of the Boston voice, both in print and in person, so hearing him read on behalf of his characters was awesome. It's a historical fiction novel (or a "gangster novel", as he put it) set in 1920's Boston during Prohibition. Very different from some of his past crime novels (like the Kenzie and Gennaro books). I'm eager to get my hands on a copy after hearing the reading!
After the reading, Lehane took questions from the audience. And I gotta say, this guy is a HOOT. So funny. My favorite parts of the evening were when he would tell stories about his visits to Boston, especially after his books turned to movies and he became more well-known.. (Like the drunk guy in a bar who came up to him and demanded, "So, you the guy that wrote The Departed, eh?...Is Matt Damon really short?")
I took a few notes, so you could get a sense of what he covered during the Q+A:
On his best advice for aspiring writers:
"My first piece of advice is to read. Read all the time. If you don't read, then you need to do something else."
"Writing, like anything, if you're gonna get good at it, it takes 10 years...I published at 8, but I didn't know what I was doing until ten."
"Always have your character want something. 'Mike realized he was out of milk.' That's a great opening line, because everyone will keep reading until he gets the milk, or he doesn't."
"Don't think of yourself as a writer; think of yourself as a storyteller."
On screenwriting vs novel writing (he has been a screenwriter for The Wire):
"Novelists are God, and screenwriters are God's tailors...And somehow, God's tailors get paid more than God."
"The hardest thing as a novelist is describing rooms...because you have to describe something static and make it interesting. Screenwriting makes that so much easier."
On writing recurring characters (like Kenzie/Gennaro) vs new ones:
"Writing about the same characters...it's like putting on an old pair of jeans. They're comfortable, but they're a little out of style, and they don't fit as well, because you got fatter...but there's a sense of discovery with new characters that I love...that's why right now, I prefer writing non-series novels." (Sorry readers, sounds like no more Kenzie/Gennaro in the near future!)
On how involved he was in the making of the movie Shutter Island:
"I was involved...until Martin Scorsese took over. At that point, what are you gonna say? 'I dunno Marty, I think the camera would look better over there?'"
He also mentioned that Leonardo DiCaprio's company already bought the rights to Live By Night, so you can expect to see that on the big screen sometime in the future!
Overall, it was a fantastic event. Lehane was clearly very comfortable with the audience, and there was lots of laughter to go around.
Afterwards, we lined up in the hallway for the signing. Lehane was friendly, and graciously wrote me a happy birthday message in my copy of Shutter Island:
I had him sign the other two books as well (sans birthday greeting). As he was signing, I'll admit I was a little fan-girly, with shaking hands and goofy high-pitched voice. I rambled for a little while, complimenting him on how well he writes "Boston-speak", and as he finished up the books he smiled and said thanks. I high-tailed it out of there before I ruined the moment with any additional silly comments. Overall, a win for me, since I am generally a nervous squirrel by nature and had seriously entertained the possibility that I could end up puking on my shoes.
So that was my birthday evening with Dennis Lehane! (Wow, I did not mean for that to sound as illicit as it does.) Tell me--have you been to any good author events lately?