Joni and I went to two author events this week. They (the events and the authors) couldn't have been more different. Wednesday, we saw Jodi Picoult in San Rafael at Dominican College (with Donna and Phil), sponsored by The Book Passage. There were 200 people in attendance. Friday, we saw Keith Thomson (Once A Spy) at Keplers, where there were a total of 12-15 people, of which a few were Thomson family members. Never mind that Sing You Home is Picoult's 18th novel and immediately went to #1 on the USA Today book list and that Thomson's Twice A Spy is his second novel and didn't make the top 50. What they had to say, and how they said it, was dramatically different.
She was really interesting. As I'm sure most of you know, she writes books about knotty issues. This book tackles the struggles with infertility, religious conservatism, and gay awakening (her son "came out" two years ago). She said that she gets the subject matter for her books by asking "what if" questions that she can't answer. Besides having interesting story lines, she's such a good writer. I've read 175 pages of the new one (I've read her other 17) and am enjoying it immensely. Her skill as a writer is definitely reaching a very high level. This one, though, is very unique because she wrote 10 songs (she has written over 100 songs, including a stage musical for teens) and has a CD attached. She even indicates at 10 different places in the book where each song should be played. She brought along the woman who sings the songs and wrote the music. The singer performed three of the songs. Needless to say, that was a first for an author event for me.
She told a very interesting story about the movie, My Sister's Keeper, that was based on her book. The director was Nick Cassavetes. She spoke with him before the movie was filmed, and he promised that he wouldn't change the ending (which is quite a shocker and upsetting to some - right Donna?!). Unfortunately, she said that once you give up your rights, you, as the author, have no more control over what the movie studio does. In this case, somebody behind the scenes alerted Jodi that Cassevetes was changing the ending. She called him and got no response. She went down to the studio and was kicked off the set. She was, needless to say, not happy. (Postscript: She got a little bit of karmic revenge when Cassevetes was fired from his next movie).
The audience was about 10-1 women. I asked her why there was such a big disparity between men and women when almost all of her books treated men and women equally. She said that she gets about 200 letters each day, and that 48% of them are from men. Then she said (dismissively, I might add) that the reason so many more women than men were in attendance that night is that women like to get out of the house more than men do. Ouch. Bitch-slapped for being a man.
He was promoting his second book, which is a sequel to his first one. He said that his next one will not be a second sequel, but he can't tell us what it's about (one of those "I can tell you, but then I would have to kill you"). He talked a little bit about one of the two protagonists, Drummond Clark, being based on someone that he knew of. He raised the very real question of what do you do with an ex-CIA agent who knows a lot of secrets and who then develops Alzheimers. In the first book, the CIA tries to neutralize (i.e. kill) him. It's an interesting question to ponder.
He did give a demonstration of a drone. He had a small one with him that he basically flew using his iphone. That was pretty cool. I had heard a lot about them but didn't really know what they did. I guess they're used to hover over areas to determine what's there. He mentioned a sheriff in the Midwest that used them to find meth labs instead of him and his deputies being shot at when they went in person. He said the drones come in all sizes. The Israelis have drones that are the size of 747s.
The advantage of Thomson over Picoult is that I was the first in line to have my book signed by him while the line for Picoult was probably 75 strong (I was about #20). But all in all, I would say don't miss Picoult. You can miss Thomson but his books are a good read.