When I was young and growing up in my native St. Louis, my favorite morning activity was reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the city's major daily newspapers. (We also had the Globe-Democrat back then—imagine, two daily papers!) I'd sit down at the kitchen table with my coffee (cream and lots of sugar at that age) and ask my dad to pass the "Everyday" section. My dad probably thought I wanted the "Everyday" section for the funnies, but if so, he would have been wrong. Instead, I hoped to find my favorite columnist: Elaine Viets. Elaine was my writing idol. She was funny, she was self-deprecating, she was young and hip and had her own column in a major daily newspaper.
I eventually moved away from St. Louis and began reading other major newspapers wherever I lived–the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer and now, the Orlando Sentinel. There were other columnists I enjoyed, but I never found another one who inspired my morning newspaper addiction the way Elaine did.
So imagine my surprise when I learned, sometime around the time my first novel was being released, that Elaine now lived in Florida and was a bestselling novelist! How can that be? I wondered. How did I not know this? My excitement about attending my first SleuthFest writers' conference in South Florida grew even more when I found out Elaine would be there, too.
I sat near the rear of the room in a workshop session for which Elaine was a panelist. At the end, I got up the nerve to introduce myself to her. I don't know what I said, exactly—something along the lines of being from St. Louis and being a huge fan of her column—but I do remember this: Elaine was gracious and funny and everything I imagined she would be in person.
But the coolest thing of all? Since that day, Elaine has treated me as a peer and mentored me more than I think she realizes. She's introduced me to some key people in the book business, she's connected me with promotional and marketing opportunities, and she's recommended me for some high level positions in writing organizations, among other things. More than anything, she's welcomed me into the writing community.
My first real "event" with Elaine - Lake County Festival of Reading
So I was thrilled and honored when Elaine recently asked me to participate in "The Next Big Thing"—a fun blog hop where authors help each other get the word out about their writing and books. It's sort of a promotional "round robin"—I won't bother trying to explain how it works here. The important thing is that we're all helping to get the word out about writers whom readers might not have otherwise known about.
To learn more about Elaine Viets and her hilarious, bestselling and critically-acclaimed novels, check out her "Next Big Thing" post over at the Femme Fatales blog.