By Katie Mills Giorgio, correspondent
Even after more than two decades as a writer, Lisa Gardner still loves to interact with her readers.
“For the longest time I really believed that my mom had a giant warehouse full of my books,” she laughed, calling from her home in New Hampshire. “It’s still a thrill 25 years later when you talk to someone you don’t know and aren’t related to and they say they read your books and really love them. I don’t think as an author you ever get over that. It’s bewildering in the nicest of ways.”
Eastern Iowans will have a chance to interact with from No. 1 New York Times best-selling thriller novelist Gardner when she kicks off the 2018 Out Loud! Metro Library Network Author Series this Friday at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids. She said attendees can expect for her to share some of the behind-the-scenes elements of the publishing world.
“I like to talk about the writing journey, how I got published and how I got into this,” she said. “I love to attend those talks still myself because it’s a unique profession and how authors get it done is always an interesting tale. I think readers, those of us who loves books, want to know about the process of how a book comes to life.”
She equates her presentation to something like VH1’s “Behind the Music,” except with less drama.
“It’s interesting that of all the things I talk about, the thing that is most shocking to people is that authors actually do love one another and are extremely supportive of one another’s careers,” Gardner said. “Karen Slaughter and Tess Gerritsen are not just my favorite authors to read, they are like my favorite people in the world. So I tell people this is not cutthroat behind the scenes. When you can find someone who can make a living at this and listen to the crazy voices in their head telling them to write, you gravitate toward them. It really is an incredible collegiate industry and it’s intriguing to me that of all the things I talk about that has the audience saying ‘no way!’”
Of course, Gardner’s books — more than 30 novels with some 22 million copies in print — are filled with plenty of drama, or suspense, really. She said her ideas for crafting a story are drawn from real life crime.
“I’m really a psychological thriller writer and what I’m looking to answer in books is the answers we can’t get in real life. What is the nature of evil? Where does it come from?” she said. “I’ve found that what’s interesting is there’s no one answer to that. ‘The Perfect Husband,’ which is my very first suspense novel is the Ted Bundy serial killer and that you can argue is the evil that is born. But ‘Say Goodbye.’ which is arguably my toughest novel, it’s not for the faint at heart, is about the cycle of violence and the evil that is made... again there is no one answer, but we are all fascinated by it. And I think of the things books can do that TV and movies can’t is delve deeper and try to provide some of the closure. Real life doesn’t always give us the answer and that is what a good fiction novel can do.”
But the writing itself can be challenging, she said.
“One of the things I have to come to terms with 25 years later is that I don’t sit down all excited to write a book. It’s more a compulsion, and threat of death from my publisher helps too,” she said, laughing. “It’s one of those big misconceptions that authors love to write. Some of us actually hate writing. We just can’t help ourselves.”
Gardner does enjoy all the research that goes into creating her stories.
“I spend a lot of time with experts,” she said. “It’s one of the things I work hard on partly because I want to know. I’m a mom. I live in the world. I would like to understand what is going on in the world around me.”
“And I think really great entertainment can always inform,” she added. “I think for the true reader, like myself, you want to walk in somebody else’s shoes. For me, books are one of the fundamental building blocks of empathy and understanding and education. It doesn’t matter the genre. There’s something to be learned from each story that is told. We keep reading and reading and reading because we want to learn.”
Now in its 11th year, the Out Loud! Author Series is a collaboration of the Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha libraries. It will also include talks by acclaimed authors Jacqueline Woodson on June 8 and Matthew Dicks on June 22. The presentations are free and open to the public. RSVPs are not required but appreciated. For more information visit http://metrolibrarynetwork.org/outloud.
l What: Out Loud! Author Series presents Lisa Gardner
l When: 7 p.m. Friday
l Where: The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, 7725 Kirkwood Blvd. SW, Cedar Rapids
l Cost: Free but preregistration is requested at Metrolibrarynetwork.org/outloud/