Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Guest Blogger Lydia Hirt

I’ve always identified myself as a reader. Growing up, I was the girl on the playground at recess, reading the Mary Higgins Clark I had smuggled from my house while waiting in line for four square. Directly from college I dallied in the advertising industry and was the only one who never saw our commercials air, since I would be reading Patricia Cornwell or Vince Flynn and inevitably ignore the TV. It seemed natural to me to move to NYC, with the sole determination to find a career in the book publishing world.

I now work in Marketing for G. P. Putnam's Sons and Riverhead Books, both imprints at Penguin Group. I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by books every day and the people that produce them. Just last week I saw Sue Grafton in the hall and was celebrity-struck as I scurried into my office, thinking how I had borrowed her first book, A Is for Alibi, from my high school library.

Many other iconic mystery writers have strolled through Putnam’s hallways, known as the “preeminent publisher of thrillers,” including the renowned John Sandford, Clive Cussler, Catherine Coulter, Patricia Cornwell, Tom Clancy, Ridley Pearson, Robert Crais, Robert B. Parker, Daniel Silva…and the list continues.

Books are to me what the sense of smell is to many others – an instant connection to the past along with a thrill of recognition; especially true with mysteries as I really connect with the characters throughout a series. Mystery authors tend to have a very loyal following, as their characters grow and develop along with an audience (I recently wrote about the Genre that Never Dies). Both Grafton and Sandford have been gracing bookshelves with the same characters since the 1980s.

In addition to working with established authors, it’s always a thrill to be part of an author’s career at the beginning. Each writer has a first book—the question of how to reach an audience and get people talking about a new author in a crowded genre full of well-known talents is something that really does keep me up at night and occasionally invades my dreams.

January 7, 2010 marks the release of Finnish author James Thompson’s debut U.S. thriller, Snow Angels. It is the first in a series featuring Inspector Vaara and I’m already looking forward to the next installment. Launching an author has unique challenges, but it’s exciting for both us as the publisher and the first time author (James, for instance, is just lovely), and it’s inspiring to help find deserved success.

People read mysteries for a variety of reasons, and I’m interested in hearing yours. Who are your favorite authors and do you remember what originally drew you to their book? Why do you read mysteries, and can you sleep in the dark when you’re finished (am I the only one that has a hard time falling asleep, imagining noises on my patio)?

Thanks for joining me here on Meritorious Mysteries. Molly, thank you for including me on your wonderful site!

Cheers and happy holidays to all!

Lydia Hirt

Connect with me at my http://www.novelwhore.wordpress.com blog or on Twitter
Do you plan to Buy Books for the Holidays?


Jen Forbus said...

Well, Lydia, you already know a lot about my crime fiction reading habits, but I'll share anyway. Robert Crais and Linda Fairstein were the two writers responsible for hooking me on the genre. And at heart I'm a character reader. I must have engaging characters, characters I can connect with and invest in. Crais and Fairstein both offer this in their writing. After being pulled into the genre, I've fallen head over heels for the works of Michael Koryta, Craig Johnson, Louise Penny, Chris Grabenstein, Thomas Holland, Alafair Burke, James Lee Burke, Tom Schreck...I could go on and on. They all offer a common thread being crime fiction, but they also offer uniqueness. That's why I often find it difficult to just pick one favorite. They all tend to be favorites but for different reasons. The genre is so rich and so wonderful, if I lived to be 200 I'd still have plenty to read - or listen to if my eyesight gave out!

Great guest post, Lydia!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Welcome, Lydia!
(where did you get that darling scarf?)

Like our Jen, I'm a big fan of character driven novels. Some favorite authors - James Lee Burke, Margaret Maron, Louise Penny, Carol O'Connell to name a few. Wanting to know what's going to happen next to my favorite characters keeps me coming back.

Anonymous said...

Jen~ You are my best resource on everything crime fiction!

Kaye~ Glad you like the scarf - it's one of my favorite Anthropologie finds!

J & K: I think it's so interesting how you both are drawn to the known characters of authors to whom you're already connected with (and for good reason- I love Kay Scarpetta, Lucas Davenport and Kinsey Millhone)... so what makes you pick up a new book, featuring unknown characters by an unfamiliar author? Is a trusted review enough motivation to invest money and time into a title, or is it the book jacket, or just plain timing, or someone unknown force?

Thanks so much for contributing!


Msmstry said...

Going back to the good ol' Myers-Briggs testing, I'm a risk taker. I'll always try something new—either at a restaurant or in a bookstore. I rarely venture outside the mystery genre, but show me a new author, let me read a couple of pages, and I'm ready to go with it.

Part of the reason I began reviewing mysteries was so I could help folks find new and lesser known authors. I think anyone can find an author with a big dump in the middle of the aisle. It takes some looking to find a new gem!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

You asked, "so what makes you pick up a new book, featuring unknown characters by an unfamiliar author? Is a trusted review enough motivation to invest money and time into a title, or is it the book jacket, or just plain timing, or someone unknown force?"

Great question!!

In the past, it may have been any of these things. Or just serendipity. An instance that pops immediately to mind is being in the Baltimore airport several years ago waiting for a plane which had been delayed, and delayed and delayed again. Finished the book I was reading and went hunting for a new one. Just by chance I picked up a book by an author I had never heard of. The name of the book was Baltimore Blues, and I've been a Laura Lippman fan ever since.

A source I have gotten many recommendations from that I still trust is DorothyL. I've gotten to know some of the posters there well enough to know if what they're recommending is something I'll like. Friends recommendations probably tops the list. Including Ms. Forbus, but of course!

Anna J. Adams said...

One of the first mysteries (not counting Nancy Drew) that I remember reading was Lois Duncan's "Stranger With My Face". Now, I find myself drawn to Harlen Coben because his twists at the end usually make me angry (a good kind of angry), which is a mark of a good writer in my mind. I also enjoy John Sanford for heavier, compelling who-dun-its and for a laugh I live for Janet Evanovich's Stephenie Plum. When looking for a new author in a bookstore or library, I would say the look of the bookcover is 50% of the reason why I pick it up. The other 50% is a mixture of the blurb combined with the first chapter grabbing my attention (and not letting go) along with a sprinkle of word-of-mouth. If it's an author I read alot (Koontz, Sanford, Woods) then the cover doesn't matter; I just need that next book to complete the series on my bookshelf!

Anonymous said...

Msmstry~ Great point on how hard it is to find a gem - is there an example of an author you've discovered by scouring the bookshelves?

Kaye~ I've heard frequent mentions of Lippmann lately, I may have to check her out! What title would you suggest I begin with?

Heather~ Your mention of Stephanie Plum made me laugh out loud and blush as I remember repeatedly getting caught reading Evanovich under my desk in high school - Grandma Mazur is not a quiet experience! I've also recently become a huge fan of John Sandford as well, and like Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, though I find myself laughing through the Virgil books more (I would love to see he and Stephanie Plum join teams!).

you all seem to mention reading a first chapter - are you willing to do that online, or is it more of a physical bookstore experience for you?

Msmstry said...

Gems I've found while scouring bookshelves include Patrick McManus (I didn't know he wrote MYSTERIES), Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller ('way back when they first started writing). Of course, since I've been reviewing for more than 25 years and going to conferences for nearly 20 years, I don't HAVE to scour nearly as often as I used.

I do, however, discover many, many new authors at conferences, often simply by attending a panel for someone I already read, then finding the newcomer(s) and adding them to my TBR list.

Marilyn Brant said...

What a wonderful guest post, Lydia! Mysteries and books that had mystery elements (Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, The Westing Game) were my first reading loves. Then, when I started reading gothics, like books by Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, I loved how the mysteries were tied to romance.

Now, I'm a huge Janet Evanovich fan. (Isn't everyone?) Harlan Coben is fabulous and SO scary. I adore Hank Phillippi Ryan, and I loved Katherine Neville's The Eight. (Once upon a time, I also tried to write a mystery--it involved an "ice cream caper" and I think I spent too much time on the naming of flavors and not enough creating an element of suspense--LOL! :)

Hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Vicki Lane said...

What an interesting post! And comments too.

When I began reading mysteries it was generally British ones -- Christie, Sayers, P.D.James and I continue to be drawn to that setting. Tony Hillerman and Sharyn McCrumb were some of the first American writers that I began to follow.

Sadly, now that I write, I have less time to read but I get great recommendations from others, from Dorothy L, from (of course!) Molly, and from attending Bouchercon.

And I'm a sucker for a really good cover when it comes to taking a chance on a new author.

Anonymous said...

Marilyn~ You brought back memories of my mom's tattered Victoria Holt mystery I read ages ago... I bet it's still on a shelf somewhere - I may have to do some searching while home for Thanksgiving!

Vicki~ Thanks for your sharing. I love mysteries that take me out of my daily world (and unfortunately, that includes European novels) and will have to try the authors you mentioned. We're publishing British mystery author Philip Kerr's IF THE DEAD RISE NOT in March and I've only just begun the tale - but am doubly excited now!

Thanks again everyone for joining me and I hope you all eat far too much turkey this week!


Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, so interesting! And such fun that we share so many favorite authors. This internet thing could really go somewhere, you know? :-)you've got to admit it's such a treat to chat with pals from across the country.

And Marilyn, whoa. Thank you so much for mentioning me in such august company!I'm thrilled.

Talking about first chapters..what do you all think about those little first-chapter pamphplets? (Just oh-so-casually asking...)

And--Happy Thanksgiving!

WS Gager said...

I just have to add my very first time favorite is Catherine Coulture which you mentioned publishing. I fell in love with her writing when she was doing romances and have not gotten over the infatuation with the FBI series which is one of the only authors I will pre-order sight unseen.
As for new authors, it is usually by word of mouth. I don't have a bookstore close and when I do get to one, I never have much time to browse.
For those looking for a new author, my first mystery, A Case of Infatuation, came out this summer.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
W.S. Gager

Anonymous said...

I also love the scarf. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

Wendy Gager you are my idol.
A Case of Infatuation is an amazing read. Mitch Malone is a man among boys.