Heavy With Crunchy Thoughts

Monday night was the Robert Sawyer book signing at Chapters for his latest work Wake, followed by a dinner attended by the Hypergraphics at the Laughing Buddha, a terrific local pizza place. I nearly didn’t go – ate something I shouldn’t early on and thought my body would not permit it. But I pulled myself together and headed out, and am I ever glad I did.

It was a larger crowd than the store was expecting – a crowd surrounded him before the reading and staff members had to go back and grab additional chairs. They provided a microphone that tapped into the speakers of the store but he didn’t need it. Sawyer, reading from his palm device, read the first chapter from his book with passion and excitement, animatedly walking back and forth, changing his voice to suit the character like an actor in a recording studio.

After the reading, the questions ranged from the ordinary (where do you write, what’s happening with the television series based on one of your novels) to the intriguing. A young(ish?) man asked why Sawyer’s books had changed from more action-oriented fair full of aliens and dinosaurs to books that focused on more cerebral, thought experiments. Sawyer said that he made the deliberate choice to step away from the more fantastic elements of science fiction in order to broaden his audience – If your book had a dinosaur on the cover, he said, your audience would never grow. And for him, the move has paid off. He also talked about his process, working from the ideas he wants to play with and then moving down to the characters needed to tell that particular story. In Wake for example, Caitlin, the blind, mathematical genius teen was one of the last pieces to come to him for the novel. He also said that by choosing to work on large (and rather topical) ideas, it’s easier for the press, genre and mainstream alike, to latch on to the books as a springboard for articles – again, something that has worked very well for Saywer.

When the book signing was finished, we (the Hypergraphics) reconvened at the Laughing Buddha for food and drinks. Poor Sawyer had had a long day up until then, having been flown in as a guest speaker at a science writer’s conference in town before coming to the book signing, but he was very gracious while answering our sometimes clumsy, beginner questions. I’m writing this entry several days after the event and I wish I’d gotten to it sooner. He went over why agents are a must, to try short stories before heading the novel route (though mentioning nothing about the difficulties in the market these days), his opinion regarding podcasting and self-publishing and about getting your one million words of practice in. Above all, he stressed, you must be writing, always writing. Without the elbow-grease of sheer wordage, no number of books or websites will get you any closer to seeing your work professionally published.

(This was written over the course of several days. I either need to tune out the world or just stop being so spammy.)

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