Killer Year–The Class of 2007


Of Gods And Men
July 12, 2006, 7:52 am
Filed under: Killer Year Founders, Sandra Ruttan

Pssst. I have a secret to tell you. Come a little closer. That’s it. Are you ready? Take a deep breath, because this is very, very important.

Authors are real people.

What? You gasp, shocked. How can this be? They seem so two-dimensional on the book flaps, and tend to have their head at a slight angle, which is the universal posture for profound wisdom.

I know I’m breaking the rules here, telling the truth to the masses, but the reality is that authors, editors, agents… They’re all people. Just like you. Even like me. Did you know that JT Ellison’s agent used a bad word? In the comments on that post, Neil Nyren said, “And, yes, we in New York — the OTHER other side — we’re very real!”

Well, if Neil Nyren says so, it must be true. So why am I so nervous about attending Harrogate Crime Festival next week?

I guess the answer is obvious. God is going to be there. Have you read all the commentary on Thrillerfest? BookBitch said, ”I looked up to find the beautiful M.J. Rose lounging outside the coffee shop with Lee Child. There were a few other people there too, but let’s face it, meeting Lee Child just sort of stopped time for me and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even remember who else I met there.”

I can relate. Lets face it – we all have people we really respect and admire. Some people just conceal it better than others.

Almost three years ago, I did something that changed my life. I went to a concert on a work night. Even stranger, I went with my brother-in-law. My husband sat at home playing X-Box, my sister was busy with something… Just Martin and I.

When the show was over, we watched the line start to form. Dozens of young girls, dressed to impress, buying CDs and anxious to get them signed.

Martin asked what we should do. Eventually, we decided we had to get in the line. If we waited until it tapered off, we’d be there all night.

When we got to the front of the line, the format was to pass over the CD with your name on a sticky so that the musician could sign it, then he looked up, handed it back, said a few words, and on you went.

Except for us.

As Martin’s CD was being signed, he slid a tape across the table and said he guessed the musician hadn’t listened to it in a while.

The musician picked up the tape and stared at it for a moment, mouth hanging open. Then he looked up, and that light of recognition dawned in his eyes. He was on his feet, shaking Martin’s hand.

Martin had played trumpet on that tape, the tape the musician had cut back in high school, when music was the dream. Now, here he was, following a concert, signing CDs for adoring fans.

The musician was in for a surprise when Martin said, “See who’s with me?”

It was the first time I’d seen Deric Ruttan since he left for Nashville ten years earlier. We’re distant cousins, but went through high school together. Same home room, same English teacher.

Deric had the music bug, even back then. He could take to the stage and do a rendition of Credence Clearwater Revival songs that had everyone on their feet, clapping along. He knew how to perform. It was in his blood.

Buying his first album was such a thrill. This was someone I knew, from smalltown Ontario, who’d achieved his dream.

Deric asked us to hang around, which was great. We caught up on all the years, and Martin and I tried not to laugh when girls came up and asked Deric to sign their chests.

Well, tried not to laugh too hard, anyway.

And truthfully? He was more down to earth than ever. The only thing that had changed was he had a much better poker face, didn’t react at all to the signature requests…

A lot of things changed for me that night, although I didn’t realize it then. I read the liner notes in Deric’s album, that talked about struggling to put food on the table for years in Nashville, watching people come and go, but knowing this was what he did, it was who he was, and that he wasn’t going to give up.

It was that perseverance that impressed me. Water on a seed planted in parched soil. I was still working through a creative writing diploma program, still dreaming of writing, still working in special education.

A year later, the first drafts of my first two books were done.

I owe a lot to Deric. He was the busiest person I knew, yet he still emailed and encouraged me to persevere. Sometimes, I wonder if he has any idea just how much that meant to me… But then I think of what he said in his liner notes himself, about meeting Steve Earle, who treated him like a peer instead of a nobody and encouraged him to keep at it.

It’s the power of what a hero can do for you when you’re still dreaming.

I had that experience about a year ago, when someone I admire encouraged me to pursue my writing. It made a huge difference for me, at a point where I was getting discouraged.

Recently, I had a surreal experience, one that helped put things in perspective for me. Someone emailed me a link and told me to check it out. I did.

It was a link to a blog, where a person who’d been struggling with their writing was talking about getting an email from someone who told them not to give up. It was such a moving post, I was sitting here, teary-eyed, thinking how nice it was that this person had been encouraged to persevere.

And then they mentioned the name of the person who’d emailed them.

It was me.

I’m just a person. I have hopes and dreams, experience disappointment and discouragement, just like everybody else. Not-so-secretly, some days I still feel like the kid that’s crashed the party, everyone looking around, wondering if someone will show me to the door. I can honestly say that the people in the industry I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have never treated me this way – I’m just surprised, some days, that I’m seeing my dreams become a reality.

Thinking about all of this has helped me reach a few conclusions. One is that I never want people to think I’m unapproachable. There’s only one difference between myself and an aspiring author: twenty-some-odd pages that form the legal contract for my publishing deal.

The other is that I’m not allowed to drool over my idols at Harrogate Crime Festival next week. They really are just people. In some cases, people I’m fortunate enough to call friends.

This means I really do have to stop calling Ian Rankin God.

At least, publicly.

** I will be at Harrogate Crime Festival next week, which means I won’t be blogging on Wednesday. CJ will be here instead. The plan is, provided I have internet access, I’ll blog live from Harrogate on Friday with an update on the festival.

And on that note, because of Harrogate, I will be posting something on my blog tomorrow that will be essential for people who want to recognize me at Harrogate… Yes, a picture of me, in colour, without my hair straightened.

Sandra Ruttan
Suspicious Circumstances
On Life and Other Inconveniences

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23 Comments so far
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I remember when I went to a mystery book fair/convention in Philly and I was standing in line at the front desk because my key card had demagnetized. When I turned around, I musta turned white, because Dennis Lehane was standing right behind me. I just froze and walked away really quickly, because if I’d stopped to talk to him and ask him to sign my book, all that would’ve come out would’ve been something like, “blahmaneemoba …. maaanaaah….uuhhhh. mmmmm…..”

Comment by Tracy Sharp

I embarrassed myself by HUGGING Rhys Bowen the last time I saw her (it was the second time we’d met). Truthfully, though, I don’t think she minded. Much.

J.A. Konrath stopped by our Sisters in Crime meeting last night, and he’s one of the funniest, most unassuming guys I’ve ever met.

And I adamantly refused to tell Lee Child what my initials stand for, no matter how charming he is.

It’s so funny how I’ve overcome my “peon complex” over the years – the more “famous” people I meet, the more I realize they’re regular folk, just like me, and the easier I find it to talk to them. You can’t really assign god status to a guy (and I’m still talking about Lee here) once you’ve seen him eat a Black-and-Bleu Burger – RARE.

I’m waiting for the day when some little adoring fan trips over her tongue when she meets me. 😉

Comment by J.B. Thompson

Beautiful post, Sandra. Encouragement means so much to new writers, and paying it forward is the least any of us can do. I’ve been blessed to have some really great writers around me, published, unpublished and God status who have all supported me on my journey.
And as the journey continues, I relish the opportunities to meet my Gods. Through booksignings and ThrillerFest, I’ve met so many of the folks I read religiously, and it’s been a great experience.
Have a great time at Harrogate, and give kisses to the God from Dublin for me.

Comment by JT Ellison

I hope you have a GREAT time at Harrogate!!! I wanna go!!!!!!!!!!!

This is a wonderful post, but I dare you to call Ian Rankin “God.” Just because……

Comment by Cornelia Read

Tracy, I relate to that! But don’t you wish you could go back and talk to him now?

JB, now I really want to know what your initials stand for! You wouldn’t tell Lee Child? I’d probably give in in record time! But I don’t keep that many secrets.

JT, I shall print this off as proof that I was told in writing to give him a kiss. Then if he has any complaints, I can direct them at you. “Just following orders.”

Cornelia! LOL girl! I’m going to call you Supremely Enlightened and Funny One when I meet you. Or maybe I should stick to Ms. Read… (am I the only one who hates that? Ms. Ruttan…. yuck!)

And I have a feeling you’re going to get me into a lot of trouble at BoucherCon!

Comment by Sandra Ruttan

a few years ago elliot gould was here for a screening of the long goodbye. it took place at a great old theater in minneapolis. but what was weird is that everybody was avoiding him. there was this huge empty space/buffer all around him wherever he went. sitting in the back of the theater before the movie — going into the lounge for popcorn. not a single person was talking to him. and he’s a very cool, approachable guy. i kept thinking okay, i have to go talk to him. this is awful, poor guy. he shouldn’t be hanging out by himself. but i couldn’t think of ANYTHING TO SAY. i swear i spent a half hour trying to think of what i would say to him. i felt he’d heard all the crap about how much i loved his movies, and how did they get the cat to do that in the long goodbye. i knew he’d heard that a million times! i wanted the conversation to transcend the usual stuff — but i had no idea how to do it. so the movie finally started at that was that.

😦 i’m so ashamed.

after the movie he got up on stage and talked. we’d written questions, and mine was the first he was given. it was the cat question. he used a clicker.

Comment by anne frasier

Great post, Sandra. An encouraging note or word from someone you respect can make all the difference. I don’t know if I would have finished my novel if it hadn’t been for my friend Kathy Mackel (The Departed) telling me to keep going.

Anne, my one encounter with Elliot Gould many, many years ago was in an elevator. I was in the ICM or William Morris building (I can’t remember which) and Gould got on wearing this HUGE pair of headphones — like the old-fashioned closed-earred headphones from the seventies. He was listening to music.

This was LONG before walkman’s. And it struck me as odd and funny. But HE was the one isolating himself from the world. So maybe you shouldn’t feel so ashamed.

Comment by Rob Gregory Browne

While it’s true that after some time of meeting famous people (be it writers or actors or astronauts etc) you do tend to finally realize they are human. However, on ocassion one you admire highly comes by and though you “act” fine, your heart is in your throat for a few moments…and worst of all… is trying to get that “shit-eating grin” of “oh, my gawd”, off of your face!!

Comment by deslily

I’ve had a few brushes with fame, some really weird and some really fun. Arnold Schwarzeneggar offered me popcorn in the Cincinnati airport once. I was so freaked out I edged away without speaking.

A few years after that I ran into Danny Glover at the Baskin & Robbins on Fountain Square in Cinci. I sorta thought I recognized him, but I couldn’t place it. I thought maybe he was someone I knew from school. So I started chatting with him and he told me who he was and that he was in town to film “A Rage in Harlem.” Because things had started off so casual, when he turned out to be someone famous, I didn’t melt. He just ended up being a guy a chatted with while getting ice cream.

Probably the weirdest moment was when I found myself, totally by accident, at a party in a hotel in downtown Cincinnati. (Hmmm, a Cinci theme here). I’d gone with friends to see David Bowie in concert, and afterward we got dragged to this party. My friend vanished, and I didn’t know anyone else. I ended up by the buffet table alone. After a bit I noticed this guy next to me and he was jonesing bad for a smoke. “Oh God, I need a cigarette.” Over and over. I didn’t smoke, so I couldn’t help him out. Turns out he was trying to quit, so he didn’t really want a cigarette, he just needed one. We talked briefly about not much and we both admitted we didn’t really know anyone at the party. He wandered off and my friend showed up. “Oh my god, you were talking to David Bowie! What did he say?” “Huh? That was Bowie? Oh, well, not much.”

I guess when you see a guy on stage he looks a lot different than when you see him next to you at the buffet table.

Comment by Bill Cameron

rob: i feel better. thanks. 🙂

bill: that was funny as hell!!! 😀

Comment by anne frasier

The unwritten rule out here in La La Land is that if you see a celebrity, you pretend like they are just another one of the masses and you basically ignore them. Easier said than done.

One of my funniest brushes with fame was back in 1988 or 89. (For those of you who heard me tell this one at ThrillerFest, you can stop reading.) I was just out of college and working at a small television production studio in Hollywood. We did things like People’s Court with Judge Wapner (he sent everyone candied fruit for Christmas one year) and SportsLook for ESPN. We also did a lot of one shot deals. Pilots, specials, interviews, that kind of thing. My job was basically as the gofer, do whatever kind of person. One day we were doing something with Dudley Moore. I was very excited. I mean, Arthur was coming!

So finally he gets there. He’s quiet, but very nice. Oh, and short. But that’s not important to the story. The parking lots at the studio were small and we had to do a lot of moving around to make everyone fit. Apparently Mr. Moore’s car was blocking several others. I went out to check and saw that this was indeed true. So I went back and told him we would need to move his car. I then offered to do it for him.

He stopped. Looked at me. Gave me a smile that said “you’re young so I’ll forgive your idiotic behavior.” Then really said, “That’s okay. I’ll do it.”

See, Mr. Moore was driving this huge, 30s or 40s era Rolls Royce.

Oh, another near brush with fame today…The Hoff was in the building this morning.

Comment by Brett Battles

Ha ha, Brett. Imagine if he’d handed you the keys!

Comment by Bill Cameron

Wow, and just the other day one of my friends from the UK was gushing over you Anne! You know what made me feel better? Hearing Ian Rankin on a radio program talk about having a note from one of his musical “gods” on the wall in his office.

I no longer felt embarrassed about my Ian Rankin postcard beside my desk.

Rob, isn’t it amazing when someone gives you the boost you need? I’m glad everyone in Killer Year has experienced that so we can all be part of this experience together.

DesLily – I’m going to work on not smiling. At all! Or having an “Oh my GOD” look!

Bill, you were scared of Arnie? LOL! Great stories, though.

Brett, I think JT was hoping for Hoff photos. She can’t get enough of those videos.

Unwritten rule – right. But are you telling me if you saw someone like Al Pacino or Robert De Niro you wouldn’t want their autograph?

And you were called an idiot by a celebrity. What a moment of personal pride, I’m sure!

Comment by Sandra Ruttan

sandra, i had to scroll back through there because i thought you had to be talking to another anne. that’s the online equivalent to looking behind me 😀

Comment by anne frasier

Arnie was, um, big. He had volume. His arm was bigger around than my waste.

Yes, I was skeered.

Comment by Bill Cameron

My other elevator story is getting on and discovering that Cher was there with one of her “people.”

As we rode, she kept glancing at me, as if I was expected to recognize her and gush, but I did exactly as Brett says and ignored her.

Then she starts talking very loudly about how Bob Mackey thinks she has the perfect body for his designs. I’m surprised she didn’t turn to me and say, “Hey! I’m CHER!!! Notice me!!!”

Comment by Rob Gregory Browne

Aw Anne, you’re gushworthy! Yes, he really was reduced to jello by you!

Bill… this goes well with talk of getting you a bib for BoucherCon elsewhere!

Well Rob, maybe she thought you were hot and wanted some attention from you! You never know. Maybe playing hard-to-impress is what works with famous women.

Comment by Sandra Ruttan

I just realized that I said Arnie’s arm was bigger than my waste. It was bigger than my waist too. No comment on the size of my waste, or the need for a bib in relationship to it.

Comment by Bill Cameron

Had to chime in on Arnie — he was visiting my mom’s office in DC, and everyone was lined up to meet him. She had this gorgeous sweater on, and Arnie is apparently a tactile person, he went to touch it. Of course, his hands are so big, he ended up cupping her breast. So my mom got felt up by the Guv.
I have another one about OJ and Nicole in an the Denver airport, but I’m saving it for a blog.
Nashville is a lot like Hollywood. We’re teeming with stars and celebrities, but no one cares. They’re treated just like everyone else, which I think is nice.

Comment by JT Ellison

Great post, Sandra. It made me laugh, cry, and tilt my head in the universal expression of wisdom.

Seriously, I count you as one of my inspirations to keep going.

Aww, shucks.

Comment by Daniel Hatadi

I think it was me who was supposed to say aww shucks. I’m not sure if my face is redder than my hair.

But you should really work on that universal symbol of wisdom now Daniel! When you’re credited with the rebirth of the PI genre, everyone will want your photo.

Comment by Sandra Ruttan

But I love saying aww shucks!

Comment by Daniel Hatadi

very nice blog!mary

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