Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Now you see the humiliations that authors are put through,"

he said with a good-natured smile in his voice last night, after we missed him at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, due to the random catastrophe of a blown transformer and the liability issues involved in having a book-signing when the power was out.  He was talking about his next appearance, today at noon, at the downtown Costco.

He joked about signing a gallon jar of pickles for us.

Robert Crais is a New York Times-Bestselling author and Clarion graduate (I won't say what year; suffice to say it was a while back), whose writing credits are so lengthy that their word-count exceeds the upper limit accepted by most fiction markets, and who I was fortunate enough to meet last summer when he and Kim Stanley Robinson came down from LA to see Chip Delany, my instructor and also theirs, back in the day.  He's a wildly accomplished writer and a hell of a nice guy, and he taught Clarion in 2009, the year before I went, when my new friend and fellow writer Liz Argall attended, which was how I knew that he was coming to town, since I mostly live in a bubble of my own devising.

We tried to see him last night, as previously mentioned, but he'd left about ten minutes before we got there, so we made the pilgrimage to Costco today at noon.  Liz's husband Mike joined us as well.

As you might expect, Costco is a pretty bizarre place to hold a book-signing.  They do not have a book section, per se, so much as a long table filled with many copies of current bestsellers and the like (I'm pretty sure you have to play in the big leagues to get picked up by places like Costco), set in the middle of the store, between the clothing section and various bulky food items.  Saturday being a pretty busy day down there (though, to be honest, I've never seen Costco not totally packed with people pushing very large carts full of very large packages of food), there must have been five hundred or a thousand folks meandering around, shopping, while Bob cranked out the autographs (257 copies, according to the inventory manager).  Most of the shoppers were more or less oblivious, not being there for the book signing, or books at all, for that matter, which was great for us, as we were able to chat at some length with Bob, who, as I mentioned before, is really just a great, great guy (I was filled with warm and fuzzy feelings that he not only remembered meeting me, but also remembered a couple of things about me, and expressed interest in what I was up to these days).  One other person came to get a book inscribed, a zookeeper who worked with the elephants at Woodland Park (another interesting conversation), and a Costco employee also requested a book to be made out to his wife.

Of course, I also got a book inscribed, which I look forward to reading, and which led to a hilarious and almost quite terribly awkward moment when I got to the register and it came out that I am not a Costco member (we snuck in the exit to get in, sneaky folk that we are).  I had even said good-bye to Bob a bit early, so as to properly pay for my copy (and up his first-run sales appropriately; these things are, after all, important).  Luckily, the supervisor on duty recognized us and punched in the appropriate code, so I was able to purchase my inscribed copy, and it didn't have to go back on the shelf, for some poor soul to purchase all unknowing and then see that it was made out to someone else, which would have been rather awkward, I suspect.

Still, it was an interesting insight into the life of a successful writer (which, you know, I someday hope to be), and a chance to see and reconnect with a new friend as well, so yeah, in all, a lovely way to spend an hour or two on a dreary Saturday afternoon.

Now, of course, I must away from this blogging business, and get back to the writing and critiquing I'm supposed to be doing.  Ain't it the life, though?

Robert Crais' latest novel is The Sentry.  You can buy it here or here

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