Thursday, June 21, 2012

One More Page & Alma Katsu

I love bookstores. Whenever I go on trips, I am quick to check to see if there are any bookstores in town worth checking out. So I was delighted when I heard a new independent bookstore had opened locally, One More Page Books. The bookstore hosts a number of author events and reading groups; they also carry a unique array of chocolate and wine.

The six block walk from the Metro is accurate but it's a winding trip through some of Arlington/Falls Church's residential streets. Fortunately there are also bus routes that run fairly very close. That proved useful tonight. The June weather was hot and humid beyond belief, so walking was out of the question.

So I went to Alma Katsu's book launch for The Reckoning, the second book in her Taker Trilogy. I'd heard about the books from following the bookstore owner's twitter feed. The beautiful covers intrigued me enough to learn more about the books. I think I was one of the few at the signing that had not read the first one already though.

Alma Katsu was a delight, though. A petite woman, she worked in intelligence for thirty years before making the break to a full time writer. Rather than doing a reading, Katsu told us what the last year has been like since her first book came out. Her third book is actually due at the same time her second one is being released, so I can only imagine the planning and coordination involved. Some of it sounded like a cautionary tale to go with the old "So you wanna be a writer?" question. She made the comparison of feelings towards a first book as similar to a first child; for the first, you have great plans, everything will be coordinated and planned. By the time the second one has rolled around, you’re just ready to get on with it and you have no delusions whatsoever.

One thing Alma Katsu talked about that surprised me was quitting the day job. Most writers I know caution against that idea completely. Her publisher/editor reacted to that decision with "Uh, okay, right, hope it works for you." Honestly I would be a little nervous about that prospect, too. But she had good reasons why it made sense. As she pointed out, working for the Alphabets (i.e. CIA, NSA, etc) includes a lot of very strict non-disclosure statements and rules about interacting with the media. That doesn't translate very well for publishing purposes, especially for interviews. But she also added it took some adjusting to life outside those confines. Her schedule now is a far cry from a normal eight hour day, sometimes coming up for air in the middle of the day, before working late into the evening.

The funniest story came from a book trip overseas. Katsu has been fortunate to have her books already translated into several languages already, including Spanish, Polish, and Italian. Her Italian publishers brought her over for a few days. She’d thought it’d be the usual "meet and greet" when it was a steady block of interviews, including having her picture taken by several paparazzi. (That they could have gotten photos from her website apparently hadn’t occurred to anyone.) So she had these photo shoots with these typical older Italian photographers that didn’t speak English very well and mostly suggested poses with gestures and such. Katsu demonstrated some of them and they were the silliest of silly. What was funnier was when she received the links for the photos later and saw they’d done photos for most of the major authors that went through from Salmon Rushdie to Isabel Allende – all making the exact same quirky set of poses.

The One More Page’s owner was celebrating her birthday, so there was cake! Both a small ice cream cake before the signing and a large sheet cake with the Reckoning cover on it for afterwards. They also had a choice of Spanish sparkling wine and a Zinfandel/Shiraz blend.

The signing line was growing longer and longer as I was leaving. I was delighted to meet Alma Katsu and get my books signed, but also needed to head for home. I will caution people, if they want to browse at length, check their schedule on the website to make sure there isn’t an event. It is a smallish shop, so they have to move some shelving and block other sections to make enough space, so some places are hard to access. The store does offer a free frequent buyer program and will special order/ preorder books for you.

Honestly I love the bookstore. It’s a great alternate option to have available, even if I can’t get to it regularly.


Alma said...

Julia, It was wonderful to get to meet you, and thank you so much for the write up. I had a great time & it sounds like you did, too. Two cakes--that's a first, I think.
best, Alma

Julia said...

I had a great time, Alma! I'm looking forward to reading both of your books.

Amy said...

I was hoping to get out to the event last night but plans changed at the last minute. Sorry I missed it. It sounds like it was a great time!

Julia said...

Amy, sorry you couldn't make it! It was a great event -- lots of people crowding the store.