Laurell K. Hamilton made quite an entrance in the basement of The Bridge Tap Room and Wine Bar, 1004 Locust, next door to Left-Bank Books, the event sponsor. She and her husband Jonathan were escorted in for the launch of her new book, Kiss the Dead with their two body-guards. The crowd hushed as Laurell, a small, slender woman with long, wavy light brown hair, approached the microphone. After thanking everyone for coming and introducing her husband, she shared a story to set the mood. It went like this –
At one of her readings, a fan came up to her and said she had discovered Laurell Hamilton just two weeks ago, loved her work, and had read every one of her books, enjoying them immensely.
Laurell replied, “I’m flattered; it’s amazing that you read them all in two weeks, you must have read constantly. You must be a homemaker.”
“Oh, no,” the lady said, “I went to work every day, but sometimes I can read at work.”
Laurell replied, “Oh really, what type of work do you do?”
The fan said, “I’m a safety inspector at a nuclear power plant.” Laurell held up her hands with a look of chagrin on her face and everyone laughed appreciatively. No explanation needed!
Then Laurell just announced that she suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and said she was a pacer, which she proved by pacing most of the evening. Unfortunately, she had a very short microphone cord, so could only go about 6 feet in either direction which seemed to annoy her. She explained that as part of her ADHD, she suffers from dyslexia so she has trouble with letters, for instance, nibble and nipple. She cannot distinguish the b’s from the p’s, which when you’re writing a dinner scene, could be rather embarrassing, but she said Jonathan and spell-check are great helps to her ensuring that the nipples and nibbles stayed in all the right places. Laurell also thanked her fans for their patience and understanding about her foibles when she misspells words on her blog. She said that the Kiss the Dead had been a particularly hard book for her to write and edit. For the first time in her life, she had to request an extension on her deadline. However, with Jonathan’s help, she had finally finished and was happy to present it. With that, she opened the floor for questions.
The first question was about Laurell’s creative process. “Some writers have said the creative process is like getting pregnant,” the fan said. “First there is the fertilized seed, and then a gestation period until the author writes and delivers the product.” Laurell replied that she did not like that analogy and, for that matter, she had not liked being pregnant which brought knowing laughs from the audience. “Oh, don’t get me wrong—I am delighted with my daughter, but the actual time spent pregnant was just uncomfortable.” Laurell likens her creative process to typing–freewriting, things like, “I do not know what to write about today or where to start, but I’m going to keep typing anyway. Then one of her characters just kind of steps up and tells her what he or she wants to do or where he or she wants to go. Sometimes though, Laurell added, they don’t always tell her correctly. There are frequent side-trips which prompt a return to the original path. Writer’s have to be the kings and queens of rewrites, she asserted.
Another fan explained that she was also a writer also and wanted to know how to avoid getting bogged down by research. She had been researching explosives and had spent months on the subject. She wasn’t sure how much she needed to know and was afraid of embarrassing herself by not writing accurately about the material. Laurell suggested that if she had gotten so bogged down in the research process that she had spent months on it, then she definitely should reevaluate her needs. A writer only needs to know enough to carry out her plot line. Additional research becomes overly time-consuming and wastes valuable writing time. Jonathan suggested that the author should investigate two areas: first, chemistry which would tell her how much material to use to cause the explosion; then physics which will tell her how far the scraps of exploded materials will fly, but for now, he agreed with his wife that she should just put an editor’s note in her writing that reads “more research needed here” and go on with her writing. Laurell added that the way in which the plot proceeds will determine how extensive an explosion would be needed to do the desired amount of injury to the character and the property in the area in which the explosion occurred.
Laurell was asked where she came up with the names of her characters. She said mainly from a Sanscript Book of Baby Names, but Heraldry is where she started. She confided that she is terrible with other languages. With her ADHD, she is lucky to speak English well. This was confirmed when she and Jonathon had had traveled to France, and she had wanted to say a few words in French to her readers. Her interpreter didn’t hide her concerns about the suggestion, “You can try, but you will not do well. You can try, but you will FAIL. You speak French like a British peasant!” Laurell laughed with the rest of the crowd and went on to explain that Jonathon is fluent in both French and Italian. He speaks Italian so well that when they were in Italy, Americans would come up to them asking if he spoke ENGLISH! Jonathon recalled that during the same trip a lady asked for directions to the church that they had just left. He gave her directions to the church in his best broken English. He was her hero!
Another reader said her writing style seemed different in the last book. There was not as much street description. Laurell answered that there were a lot of characters in Kiss The Dead, and she can only put in so much description to meet the page count, so the characters won over the setting. It’s a balancing act and one which she hopes will please the majority of readers.
Someone asked if she would to a reality show. She said, no. She could not imagine Jonathon and her coping with cameras being stuck in their faces every time they turned around. She had enough to do to cope with her family, her animals, her writing, her travels to promote her writing, and her life in general without that kind of complication.
The event was well-attended; I estimated the crowd at over 200 people; everyone seemed to come away with the same opinion. Laurell K. Hamilton is an intelligent woman with a terrific sense of humor. She’s a dedicated writer who knows her craft. She’s willing to give a hand-up to others trying to succeed. She has obstacles, and she cheerfully vanquishes them. She values her husband, her daughter, her fans, her writing, and her life.