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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Authors and their Tales

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 19, 2014


At the recent state conference of the Ohio Library Council, the emphasis was authors.  Several authors had been invited to address the librarians in attendance and I wanted to share their thoughts.


Sara Paretsky began her professional writing career in 1982 with the character V I Warshawski in the book “Indemnity Only.” 


She made it clear that she didn’t begin writing in 1982, which began as a child when she loved writing stories.  Paretsky enjoyed detective stories, but felt that most didn’t portray women in a positive light and her writings have changed that.


“Sisters in crime” was formed in 1986 as a worldwide organization to support women crime writers.  Awards followed in Paretsky’s career, including the British Crime Writers Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement.


She is a native of Kansas, and today resides in Chicago with over 25 books to her name.  Paretsky feels that an agent in essential in the publishing industry due to the contacts that can be made, and the promotion that is required to become a successful author.


Early in her writing career, she worked for a Chicago insurance agency, served as a marketing manager, tutored college students, and sang in a choir.  She said it was a luxury to be able to quit traditional working to spend full-time writing.


I remember the first books of Karen Harper in the 1980s.  She is a native of Toledo, and today resides in Columbus and Florida depending on the season.


Her tales are influenced by her college days at Ohio University, as well as her love for Tudor history enhanced by frequent trips to the British Isles making her stories real to the location.


Today, she said that the Ohio State University Library is a favorite place to access information for future books.


I was entranced by her speech, as it was clear that her ability to “tell a tale” extended into her writing skills to make her Tudor novels come to life in the reader’s head.


Harper was a high school English teacher for many years before turning to writing full-time and has written 60 books including suspense and historical novels, as well as her first Ohio Amish novel.


She brought copies of her novels that have been translated into Russian and Indonesian, as she found the illustrations interesting in comparison to American versions.


James A. Willis is a native of upstate New York who now resides in the Columbus area and is the author of more than a dozen books including the “Weird U.S.” series of states.


Moving to Ohio in 1999, he founded “The Ghosts of Ohio,” a nationally recognized paranormal research organization.  He is a sought-after public speaker to present his programs about the paranormal.


It is interesting that his presentation includes the fact that he doesn’t believe in “ghost stories” which have become popular due to social media and the Internet, describing many as simple urban legends.


Even with his writing career, Willis has a “regular job” to support his family which includes his wife, daughter, parrot, and two narcoleptic cats.


His 2013 book, “The Big Book of Ohio Ghost Stories” features some 75 of Ohio’s most famous and infamous ghosts.  He allows the readers to decide if you believe in the ghost stories or not.


Willis’ next book is a joint effort with the Kent State University Press due to be released in 2015, and may include information about a local historical site.


All of the authors noted that becoming a professional author can be a slow process, and breaking through to the point that writing is your whole career can be difficult.


The role of a publisher, editor, and agent can be critical to “breaking into” the bestseller category; and never ending writing is needed to become a professional writer.


Another author at the conference summed it up by saying, “not everyone is meant to be a writer, not everyone has a story to tell, some people are meant to read and enjoy other’s works.”