Meeting Sandra Brown

Again I had the opportunity to meet a well-known author, as discovered by Twitter. On what I think was her third tour stop, New York Times bestselling writer Sandra Brown came to Charlotte’s Park Road books to promote her recently released title “Seeing Red”. As it had just dropped on Tuesday, none of those in the appreciably-sized audience had yet completed it. I am not sure when I will get around to it, as my booklist is already large and growing more quickly than I can maintain it, but I have enjoyed the four other titles by her that I’ve read. These are: Envy, Mean Streak, Ricochet, and The Crush. As she is Southern, (which one can clearly hear in her accent), many of her titles take place in this storied part of the United States that I call home.

But before I attempt to recall what the meeting was like (and we all know my reliability on that score is questionable at best so I hope I am not eviscerated if slightly inaccurate) let’s look at how I got there. I am nothing if not a good planner. Not in the sense that I plan my life and know what on earth I’m doing, hey I’m working on that part but well..,. Anyway, more along the lines of figuring out how I will travel to a destination and what I will find there. Because I had errands to run at Queens University anyway, I decided I would head to that side of town and just stay over there until the time came for Brown’s presentation, which was at 7 PM.

Of course this meant I needed to find somewhere to eat. So I launched the GPS app BlindSquare to do a search for restaurants near Park Road Books and found one called the Park Road Soda Shop, only a couple doors down. I confirmed its existence with Google Maps, since sometimes BlindSquare has given me erroneous entries. The ambience and food very much reminded me of a spot I often frequented while residing in the Triangle, Suttons Drugstore on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street. This is on purpose, as the Charlotte restaurant also bills itself as a throwback diner in the 50’s style, serving burgers, dogs, and shakes. I ordered two hot dogs all the way, fries, orangeade, and a lemon pound cake to go. All were delicious.

Upon exiting, I found a table and chairs immediately outside of the door. Probably questioning my sanity for parking there in the intense heat (but I love it hot!), a passerby woman carrying a child offered to assist me down to Park Road Books. At that time it was only 5:30 or so, but as the crowd size began to swell around 6 I was glad to have secured seating. Given my hearing issues, I should probably have sat closer to the front. It was all good though, and everyone around me was nice. One of the workers piled my plate with refreshments: cubes of cheddar cheese, crackers, and two deep sugar cookies. That actually filled me up even more.

A bit harried from a crazy day that had involved airport delays, a driver taking her to the wrong place, and a morning interview, Ms. Brown arrived pretty much on time and began to regale us. The room roared with laughter for most of it, which meant that I didn’t exactly pick up on all of the jokes. But she told us about the inspiration behind “Seeing Red” which was that her daughter was in the area where the Oklahoma City terror attack occurred in 1995, and Brown worried about her safety. She was fine, thankfully, but the city was shaken up obviously. From this arose a book in which a female journalist attempts to interview a survivor of a similar attack who had become a photographic icon, but for reasons unknown decided to disappear from the media’s eye. As with much of Brown’s work, there is suspense and sexuality, and as she told us, a deliberate conflict between the male hero and female heroine. This is what moves the story forward.

After her amusing presentation, she took a series of questions. What is her writing routine like? She rarely if ever writes at home, having established an office with a couple of employees into which she can retreat to do her work. She says this helps her separate the spheres more effectively, as people would sometimes not take her writing time seriously, and she too would allow herself to be distracted.

Does she ever write multiple books at once? Again, no, because she enjoys having a life.

“I wish I had the energy of my colleagues,” she quips, “but I don’t know how they do it. … Putting out a book a year is enough for me.”

The final question came from an individual whom I think has written her own book and is trying to decide how next to proceed with regards to publishing. Brown says she thinks the editorial filter is still needed, as it can help “protect consumers” from shaky writing. She compares it to other purchases, such as cars and appliances, which must receive inspections before being distributed to the public. While she does note this, she also states that self-publishing just wasn’t her path but if one really wants to go that route then give it a roll.

“I just feel that if it has my name on it, I want it to be as good as it can be,” she says in closing. “If an editor is asking a question, then the reader will probably ask it as well” a good reason to listen carefully to what they have to say and make revisions where necessary.

At the talk’s conclusion, we were invited to meet and shake hands with Ms. Brown. I did this quickly, welcoming her to our city (I should have said the Queen City), and thanking her for coming. I was then whisked outside, where I sat on a cushioned chair and listened to the town go by until my ride arrived.

So all in all, it was a fun night out in Charlotte. I continue to get my feet all the way under me as time goes by, and certainly being able to plan and successfully execute an evening like this is a confidence boost. Hopefully I will have some major other types of confidence boosters to report on shortly, but those will come when finalized. Till then, I’ll keep on reading.

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