Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eavesdropping is fun...and sometimes profitable

I am a confessed people watcher. Hate sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms but I amuse myself by watching the people and imagining their lives, illnesses, personalities, and the like. It’s much more fun in restaurants or airports where the stories about the people are liable to be happier. But do you ever eavesdrop on conversations? Come one, tell the truth! I know I do, though with poor hearing it’s not so easy any more. Still, lots of mystery writers get ideas from conversations overheard, and I’m no exception.

But last night the tables were turned on me. I was in a restaurant with a friend, and we were discussing another well-known restaurant in town. I mentioned that it appears in my current work-in-progress—in disguise of course but it’s the one I had in mind. “It’s very black part of the novel,” I said (as if I write very black!). I must have spoken more loudly than I thought because I saw the young woman at the next table turn around and look at me. From then on, she stole glances at our table.

As we were about to leave, she turned and said, “Excuse me, but did one of you say you write mysteries?” My companion was sitting closest to the other table and launched into almost a rundown of my career. Enthusiastically, she described my books, my time at TCU Press, and all the time the woman nodded, said appropriate words of interest, including “I love mysteries” and “I read 85 books last year.” My kind of person. She said she was a stay-at-home mom and had a lot of time to read, so I asked how old her children are. You could have knocked me off my chair when she said two were grown and gone and she had a teenager at home—and she said she was 47. I’d have given her 30!

When I could get a word in to Mary’s promotional speech, I asked if our new friend wanted me to add her to my mailing list. She did and wrote out her email.

I came home, sent her my latest newsletter, and had an almost instant reply saying she would look up my books and promising to be a fan.

Dinner was good; finding a new fan may even have been better.

Want to be on my newsletter list? Email me at j.alter@tcu.edu. I promise I only do a newsletter when I have something to shout about.

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