SEP1This is the one I’ve been waiting for! Despite living in Chicago for a good part of my adult life, I never managed to make it out to Naperville (far western suburb) to attend one of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ booksignings in her hometown. But finally, after years of hoping, she did an event not just close to my hometown, but in my hometown!

I had a feeling there would be a lot of people at the event, and I was right. However, I don’t think the bookstore was quite prepared for the size of the crowd. I was determined to arrive early in order to get a decent seat. I got there nearly 45 minutes before the event began and already about 70% of the seats were full. Initially the store had as many chairs out for the event as they’ve had for some lesser-known mystery author events I’ve attended. It was clear the setup wasn’t going to work. As people continued to pour into the store, the staff began putting out extra chairs.  The author’s books were in numerous places throughout the bookstore. There was a large bookshelf right next to the microphone filled with The Great Escape; I should say filled until 15 minutes before the event started when one of the staff came and took every book from the shelf, as they were running out up front.

I doubt if anyone who arrived early thought the wait wasn’t worth it. From the moment she was introduced, until the question-and-answer period ended, Ms. Phillips kept the audience completely entertained. I’ve gone to a lot of author events over the past few years, and this was one of the most entertaining, enjoyable events I’ve attended.

Ms. Phillips began by asking if anyone in the audience was a member of RWA, and then proceeded to do a nice informative plug for the organization. After asking a few more questions of the audience, she did a trivia quiz, which involved her reading quotes from her various books. If a reader thought they knew the book, they could raise their hand at any point. Ms. Phillips assured the audience that if they were correct they would get a great reward, but if they were wrong she would make fun of them (which she did, but in a very humorous way). The rewards were pencils. Since I didn’t win anything, I never was close enough to see what was on the pencils; next time.

After the quiz Ms. Phillips gave tidbits for a few of her books. She commented that in her mind, all of her characters live in the same universe and can wander into any of her books. Thus, while she was never interested in writing a series, characters from previous books pop up in later books. She said she doesn’t feel as if she has anything fresh to bring to the Chicago Stars, but commented, “Who knows,” as she said the same thing after This Heart of Mine, but then wrote Natural Born Charmer.

Ms. Phillips said that she’s currently 80 pages into her latest book and that it’s not a connected book. She said it’s too early to say anything else right now, and noted that she’s not getting any faster as a writer. She commented that when her sons were younger she was quite disciplined and wrote while they were in school. Right now she’s using a digital timer as a writing tool. Each day she sets the timer for two or three hours and writes. If she takes a break for any reason she stops the timer until she returns to writing. That way, she makes certain to write for a fixed amount of time each day.

The audience had a lot of questions for Ms. Phillips. One of my favorites was about Anna Fields (Kate Fleming), the original narrator for her books who died tragically in 2006. Ms. Phillips said that the two began talking on the phone during the first narrations, but later met in person. The author said that she feels sorry for Shannon Cochran, the narrator for The Great Escape and Call Me Irresistible, and told Ms. Cochran that she’s “working against a ghost.” It was clear that a number of readers in the audience, as well as Ms. Phillips, were fans of Anna Fields.

Ms. Phillips told so many interesting stories that I found myself listening rather than taking notes a great deal of the time. What fascinated me was how animated she was, and engaged she was with the audience. Although there was a table and chair for her to sit at (and many authors do), she stood throughout the hour, walking back and forth, regularly involving all parts of the audience with the talk. Early on she asked who had driven the furthest to attend the event. It turned out that people had come to the signing not just from all over the state, but from far into neighboring states. And if given the chance in the future, I will drive a fair distance to attend another one of her events.

I’m on the lookout now for more events close to my home. But I’ve also managed to find a number of events around the country that AAR readers may be interested in. But, as always, I could use your help. Do you know of any authors who are coming to your home town? If so, please let us know about it. If you know of any events that we missed between now and mid-August, please post them in the comments section. If you know of any events occurring after mid-August, please send them to us at aarbooksign  AT and we’ll add them to our mid-August post.

Disclaimer: I found these signings by extensive Web searches of both author and bookseller Web sites. They all appear to be free, but please contact the bookstore before you attend an event for additional information. And please let us know if you do attend a booksigning, and how you liked it. A few of the authors on the list aren’t strictly romance authors, but have either been reviewed at AAR in the past, or have appeared in AAR forum discussions.

Upcoming Booksignings: July and Beyond

Susan Elizabeth Phillips, July 21, Anderson’s Bookshop, 2:00 p.m., 123 West Jefferson, Naperville, IL.

Karen Slaughter, July 22, Cerritos Library, 2:00 p.m., 18025 Bloomfield Avenue, Cerritos, CA.

RWA Literacy Signing, July 25, RWA Annual Conference, Anaheim Convention Center, 5:00 p.m., 800 West Katella Avenue  Anaheim, CA. (Note: this event is not free)

Karen White, August 1, Books & Company at the Greene, 7:00 p.m., 4453 Walnut St., Dayton, OH (other events at the author’s Web Site including Atlanta, GA, Cincinnati, OH, and Lexington, KY).

Iris Johansen, July 21, Barnes & Noble, 1:00 p.m., Colonial Plaza Market Center, 2418 E Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL (other events at the Barnes & Noble Web site).

Mary Kay Andrews, July 21, Haslam’s Book Store, 3:00 p.m., 2025 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, FL.

Deborah Harkness, July 24, Barnes & Noble, 7:00 p.m., 2500 N. Mayfair Rd Suite 196, Wauwatosa, WI.

Lauren Willig, July 26, Cerritos Public Library, 7:00 p.m., 18025 Bloomfield Avenue.

Carla Neggers, August 2, Books-A-Million, 7:00 p.m., 430 Gorham Rd, South Portland, ME,

Ilona and Gordon Andrews, August 4, Book People, 7:00 p.m., 603 N. Lamar, Austin TX.

Kay Hooper, August 7, Barnes & Noble, 7:00 p.m., Cary Commons, 760 SE Maynard, Cary, NC.

Chelsea Cain, August 11, Barnes & Noble, 7:00 p.m., 18300 NW Evergreen Pkwy, Beaverton, OR.

Sherrilyn Kenyon, August 7, Barnes & Noble, 7:00 p.m., Carriage Crossing, 4610 Merchants Park Circle,  Suite 521, Collierville, TN (other events at the Barnes & Noble Web Site including Oklahoma City, OK and Des Moines, IA).

Debbie Maccomber, August 25, Schuler Books, 1:00 p.m., 3165 Alpine Ave,  Walker, MI (other events at the author’s Web site including Naperville, IL, Edina, MN, and Brentwood, TN).

Kathy Reichs, August 30, Barnes & Noble, 7:00 p.m., 11025 Carolina Place, Pineville, NC (other events at the Barnes & Noble Web site).

Jayne Castle, September 4, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 12:00 p.m., 117 Cherry St. Seattle, WA.

Laurie King, September 6, BookShop West Portal, 7:00 p.m., 80 West Portal Avenue, San Francisco, CA.

– LinnieGayl AAR