Friday, April 20, 2018

Visiting With The Killer Coffee Club

by Shari Randall

One of the biggest perks of being an author is getting to spend time talking with readers. Because I’m a writer, reader, and former librarian, I love talking books! I feel torn while writing because I stay away from the type of books I love reading most – mysteries. I’m afraid I’ll unconsciously pick up another author’s voice or plot point. While writing a first draft, I switch to nonfiction, biographies, or craft books, or delve into whatever I’m researching for the work in progress.

So I was especially thrilled when I received an invitation to visit the Killer Coffee Club to talk to readers about my new mystery, Curses, Boiled Again! The Club is run by Nikki Bonnani, a college instructor, personal trainer, and writer who moderates this long-running book group. Nikki is high energy - she reminds me of an Energizer Bunny. I think she’s met every author out there. The authors who have visited the Killer Coffee Club - in person or via Skype - are a Who’s Who of the mystery world: Brad Parks, Donna Andrews, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Rosemary Harris, Edith Maxwell, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Lee Child…. I could go on. The Club has been meeting at the Barnes and Noble in Ithaca, New York since 2009 when they discussed Louise Penny’s Still Life. The fact that Nikki chose that book tells you about her excellent taste in books and I’m not just saying that because she invited me.

I was thrilled to be invited, but also a bit terrified. I couldn’t make the trip to Ithaca, so I’d be doing the visit via Skype.

Not familiar with Skype? Wikipedia says Skype is “a telecommunications application software product that specializes in providing video chat and voice calls between computers.” In plain English, Skype lets you video chat on your computer.

I love what Skype does but I’m not keen on how Skype makes me look – like my passport photo. Still I was happy to do it. By the way, Nikki looks great on camera. She’s been doing Skype for a long time and is a pro. I noticed a few things that she did and that I didn’t do which might help you if you ever get to do a Skype interview:

1.     Check the position of your screen. Nikki had her computer camera set in one stationary spot. I Skyped on my laptop, while I was curled up on the couch. Not a good idea. After a while I noticed that I was veering in and out of the frame as I shifted position. If you Skype, set your computer in one spot, preferably in a way that makes you lift your chin while you talk. Not only was I looking down at my laptop, I realized that particular posture muffled my voice.

2.     Practice ahead of time. I Skyped my older daughter, who was bemused to be using this, to her, antiquated technology. We worked out a couple of kinks, most especially something I’d never thought would be an issue – lighting. I’d planned to sit on the couch with a floor lamp beside me, but I ended up looking a mobster in witness protection being interviewed on Dateline, all shadowy and obscured. Overhead lighting will make you more visible, but may be harsh. Be sure to experiment.

3.     Test your link. I had the link to Skype, which I confirmed with Nikki before the meeting, ready to go at interview time so I could simply click a button to connect.

The bottom line? I had such a good time talking and laughing with the Club I forgot to be nervous. Because Nikki is a writer, she asks thoughtful questions that spark great discussion. Her group also asked great questions, and an hour flew by.

I hope these tips are helpful for your Skype visits. If you have any tips on using Skype or on author visits to book clubs in general, please share them in the comments.

Shari Randall is the author of Curses, Boiled Again, Book One of the new Lobster Shack Mystery series from St. Martin's Press. RT Book Reviews called Curses, "a delicious cozy with deadly outcomes and plenty of probable culprits."

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