Monday, June 13, 2016

Dinner is served

If you could host a dinner party where the guests didn't actually have to be alive, which three writers would you invite?

by Meredith Cole

Some books are so wonderful that they stay with you in ways that you can’t describe. You think about the books for days and weeks and even years. The characters haunt you. And you wish the book hadn’t ended when it did, but had gone on and on so you could have continued to enjoy it. Those are the books that make me want to meet the authors and chat. Two authors that I love (and have never met--but would love to!) are Kate Atkinson and Haruki Murakami. Happily both are alive.

The idea of hosting a dinner party for ghosts is both intriguing and sadly creepy. I think I would much prefer to teleport to someone else's party in the past, like the Algonquin Round Table, and listen in. Sure, I'd love to meet Dorothy Sayers or Edgar Allen Poe or Shakespeare or Jane Austen or Dorothy Parker or Louisa May Alcott or... But really, what sort of food would I serve? Would they eat? Can they eat? What if they don't get along? The party sounds far too complicated, in my opinion. Seems easier to focus instead on living writers.

Back when I started writing mysteries, I had no idea such a thing as a mystery convention existed. I’d heard of Science Fiction conventions (after all, they have way better costumes!) but not mystery cons. I went to Crime Bake first, and met Lisa Scottoline (who was so incredibly charming that the next time I met her she acted like she knew who I was). Lisa was and is hilarious and honest in a way that I didn’t realize a writer could be. I went to Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, and the Edgars—and I met more wonderful writers whose books I’d read. Sue Grafton. Laurie King. Laura Lippman. Sara Paretsky. And they were all smart, funny people who were delightful to talk to.

Writers in general are great dinner dates or drinking companions any day of the week. Freed from their cave, they enjoy talking to other people and are some of the smartest folks I’ve ever met. But in the end what they’ve given you in a book is what they’ve given you. And they’ve probably moved on ages ago to their next project. So cornering them for extra insight on a book they wrote years ago will often get you nowhere. Maybe some mumbo jumbo about their process (so and so was a boy before she was a girl), or how much research they did that got left out of the book. If that’s what you’re after, fine. But I suggest finding a group of fellow readers that also enjoys the writer and their books if you want to dig into meaning and share insights. It will probably be way more satisfying.

If you ever have a chance to meet one of your favorite writers, though, be sure to tell them how much you enjoy their books. That, for any writer, will never grow old. And sure, invite them to dinner. If they're not on deadline, they might even come.


Paul D. Marks said...

Good stuff, Meredith. And I was trying to figure who I'd want to have dinner with. And I also thought about the Algonquin Round Table people. I think that would have been a hell of a lot of fun, but hard to keep up with them :)

Meredith Cole said...

You're so right, Paul! They would be a ton of fun, but I think my liver would take quite a beating...

Susan C Shea said...

Excellent post. It's true: our genre's get togethers do give us a thrilling chance to break bread with live stars. I sat next to Sue Grafton many years ago at a conference lunch, was at Art Taylor's dinner table (with Alan Orloff as well - a twofer) at Malice this year, and have even become friends with some of the writers whose work I love: Deb Crombie, Rhys Bowen, Cara Black...the list goes on. Sparkling company, all of them.