Archive for the ‘Author Appearances’ Category

Crime Scene 2012

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Hello, friends! I had an absolutely splendid time this past weekend at Scene of the Crime, and thought I’d share what I could with you. I had a great “handler” at the festival (basically, a person assigned to make sure the visiting author is supplied with coffee and doesn’t get lost), a Wolfe Islander named Kristina, but I forgot to ask her to take some photos while I was reading & panelling, so mea culpa for the absence of pics.

Scene of the Crime has a perfect setting: Wolfe Island. Wolfe is the largest of the Thousand Islands, it’s a gorgeous ferry-ride from Kingston (excitingly remote!), and it’s the kind of island where everybody knows everybody and everything is connected. All ten authors stayed at the same B&B. YOU GUYS. Could someone please write a cozy, locked-room mystery featuring ten mystery writers in a rural B&B? Thank you.

When I asked organizer Violette Malan how many people she was expecting, she waved her hand and said, “Craploads. Actually, we’re at capacity. We never turn anyone away, but we can only guarantee meals for 100.” This is the genius thing about SotC: it’s small, it’s friendly, and there’s zero room for pretension. I got to chat – really chat – with readers. I learned that some bookclubs do road trips together (hello, Jane and the Stratfordians!). Another reader & writer (hi, Susan!) taught me the finer points of church hall dinners (tip: snag your pie at the beginning of the meal. You get the best selection, plus you can go back for seconds while looking all innocent). And, speaking of church-lady dinners, we were so very well fed. I’m in awe of the SotC Board and volunteers, who worked incredibly hard and made everything look so very easy. Thank you for inviting me!

My fellow authors at SotC were Thomas Rendell Curran, who writes detective fiction set in pre-Confederation Newfoundland – a setting that, as he says, completely justifies description of the weather in a novel’s opening; D. J. McIntosh, author of The Witch of Babylon, who offered the most succinct writing advice I’ve heard in some time: on the first page of your crime novel, “avoid boredom”; and John Moss, who writes the Quin & Morgan series set in Toronto, and who is fascinating on the subjects of old limestone houses, swans, and beekeeping.

Then there were the ladies. Not just any ladies, but the Ladies Killing Circle. They crack jokes. They wonder – very seriously – whether there is enough wine. And they represent, among other things, two decades of crime fiction written by Canadian women. When accepting their Grant Allen Award for contributions to Canadian crime writing, member Vicki Cameron explained that in the early 1990s, it was incredibly difficult for women writers of crime fiction to be taken seriously, let alone get published. So the LKC (which began as a critique group) called for submissions and edited their own anthology, also called The Ladies Killing Circle. This wasn’t vanity publishing: stories from each of their seven anthologies have won mystery-writing awards. And they’ve launched the careers of a number of Canadian writers, as a result.

The Ladies are vicious in name only; you couldn’t find a more welcoming, generous, congenial group of authors. And they’ve inspired me to work at building my own writing community. In fact, that’s one of my goals for this fall.

So that was my Scene of the Crime 2012. What are you up to, in the dwindling weeks of August?

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At the Scene of the Crime

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Hello, friends! I’m so excited about this week. Tomorrow, I’ll be skyping with a group of YA readers in Prescott, Arizona. And this weekend, I’m appearing at the Scene of the Crime Mystery Festival on Wolfe Island, Ontario. I’ll be there with DJ McIntosh, John Moss, and Thomas Rendell Curran, as well as the deliciously named Ladies Killing Circle.

I love Scene of the Crime. It’s friendly, informal, and it includes a church-ladies’ dinner that usually ends with pie. The first time I went, I was an aspiring writer and I went at the encouragement of my friend Jay Ridler. I met – gasp! – Real Live Authors, who were approachable and funny, and with whom we all went for drinks afterwards. So I’m especially thrilled to be going back this year as one of the authors. I will do my best to be as engaging and welcoming as they all were to me. If you’re in the Kingston area, please come! It’ll be delightful.

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On performance

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Yesterday, my almost-four-year-old had a birthday celebration at his preschool, to which his whole family was invited. It was absolutely beautiful: thoughtful, focused, loving, and joyful. And yes, I wept. But I’m more interested in my son’s response, which was an intense blend of pride, excitement, the need to control his own surge of emotions, and stage fright. It’s all completely logical, and it would probably have been odd had his response been more straightforward. But it made me think about author appearances and public performance.

I was an extremely shy, introverted child. (Yes, this is Author Cliché No. 2, second only to “I always wanted to write”. But being a cliché doesn’t make it less true.) I preferred to play alone, or with one good friend. Changing schools – especially midway through the school year – made me dry-heave with anxiety. I consistently, seriously, contemplated breaking my hand, on purpose, before piano recitals. And let’s not even discuss public speaking.

Actually, yes, let’s. Because I detested it. I’d work hard researching a topic, writing a script and memorizing it, and practice delivering it to an empty room. And then, on the day itself, I’d go hot-and-cold-and-dizzy with nerves, and blast through the entire speech in 30 seconds of unintelligible, warp-speed muttering. What a complete waste of time.

Or was it? Because I now have an introvert’s dream job. And yet I regularly stand before small and large groups of people and read to them, talk to them, answer questions, and generally do what my husband calls “the Y. S. Lee Show”. And it’s fine. More than fine: it’s fun. Occasionally, it’s even inspiring.

I’m so far removed from the kid who, in Grade 1, hid in the cloakroom at recess because I was the new kid. And I don’t think it’s because I had an overnight personality change. I think it’s because of all the practice: public speaking assignments, changing schools several times, and working as a university professor. When you are forced to do something, over and over again, you adapt. Hone techniques. And rehearse a show of confidence that, eventually, becomes very real.

I’m still definitely an introvert. I love working at home. I don’t miss having colleagues (if I want chit-chat, there’s always Twitter!). And too much noise, for too long, makes me flee the scene. But I hadn’t thought about how much I’ve changed until I saw the blend of expressions on my little-big boy’s face yesterday.

How about you: are you an introvert, an extrovert, or that rare (and possibly mythical) balanced creature? How do you deal with author appearances or other public speaking gigs?

Interviews are a different kind of performance, and I had such a fun time with Trisha of the YA YA YAs when she interviewed me as part of her Summer Blog Blast Tour. Do you like night soil jokes? If so, you’ll love Trisha’s questions as much as I did!

Trisha’s also written a really lovely appreciation for the Agency novels that’s gone straight to my head. Obviously, I adore her taste in books!

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A women’s detective agency? Why?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Hello, friends! I’m guest-blogging this week at Bites, where Donna asked me why I chose to write about a women’s detective agency in Victorian London. The short answer? I love bright and shiny anachronisms. The longer answer is here.

And did you know that this coming week, May 5 – May 12, is Canadian Children’s Book Week? In celebration of children’s books, my friends at Young Kingston have organized a group signing at Novel Idea Books on Sunday, May 6. I’ll be there from 3 to 4 with the award-winning Ann-Maureen Owens. Hope to see you there!

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Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Hello, friends. Well, The Traitor in the Tunnel is well and truly launched.

Thank you so very much to everyone who came out on Saturday, especially to Lauren (who drove 150 km to get here!) and to Sara, who brought me an amazing array of retro Nancy Drew postcards, and a tentacle in my favourite colour:

I didn't know I needed a tentacle-finger until I had one.

At parties, one of the first things I usually do is lose my drink, and this past Saturday was no exception. The difference was that I didn’t have a chance to locate it: instead, I spent the entire two hours talking. For me, this is sheer lunacy. (To give you an idea: there used to be days when I didn’t utter a word until my spouse came home from work.) And when I wasn’t gabbing, I was reading.

So thank you, thank you, thank you! I am exhilarated. I am exhausted. And I feel so much love in the world for Mary, James, and the Agency.

I am, above all other things, grateful.


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A very modern Victorian

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Hello friends! This week, I’m writing a series of short essays for my Traitor in the Tunnel blog tour, which starts at the end of this month. The tour will feature some of my favourite YA bloggers, including the Story Siren, I Swim for Oceans, the Booksmugglers, Reading in Color, Steph Su Reads, and the Bookmonsters. Hurray!

My theme for this blog tour is Victorian Obsessions and some of my research for it led me to a series of poems I haven’t thought about since I was a PhD student: Modern Love, by George Meredith. Modern Love is actually a sonnet sequence – a chain of fifty connected poems, each with the same rhyme scheme and all on the same subject.

That’s already ambitious. Yet Meredith goes further. Most sonnet sequences are about love – the development of a romance, the triumph of true love, pure and passionate. But Meredith turns this around completely, because Modern Love is about the breakdown of a marriage; his own marriage. Here’s the first 16-line sonnet, “By this he knew she wept with waking eyes”:

By this he knew she wept with waking eyes:
That, at his hand’s light quiver by her head,
The strange low sobs that shook their common bed
Were called into her with a sharp surprise,
And strangled mute, like little gasping snakes,
Dreadfully venomous to him. She lay
Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away
With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes
Her giant heart of Memory and Tears
Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat
Sleep’s heavy measure, they from head to feet
Were moveless, looking through their dead black years,
By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall.
Like sculptured effigies they might be seen
Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between;
Each wishing for the sword that severs all.

This sonnet blows me away every time I read it. It’s ruthless and violent, fiercely radical and brutally effective. I’d never guess that it was written in 1862; to me, it sounds more like 1962. And it’s a great reminder – especially to me, since I’m now writing about “the Victorians” and invariably generalizing a bit – that every era has its startling exceptions.

What do you think of the poem? Are there other exceptions (Victorian or otherwise) that it calls to mind?

As well as a blog tour, I’ll be having a launch party in Kingston to celebrate the publication of Traitor. Hurrah! The details:

Saturday, March 3, 2012, from 3 to 5 pm

Novel Idea Books, 156 Princess St, Kingston

If you’re local, I’d love to see you there!


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The Traitor is coming!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Hello friends! It’s been a busy week. I was at Kingston WritersFest on Thursday, where Adwoa Badoe and I read and talked about our books. Adwoa’s first YA novel is called Between Sisters and it’s about 16-year-old Gloria, who goes to work as a maid in modern-day Ghana. You can’t really get further, geographically and culturally, from the Agency, but our terrific moderator, Susan Olding, led us through a lively conversation about social pressures, personal expectations, imperialism, our protagonists’ characters, and our writing process. She bridged the two worlds of the novels beautifully. I loved the really thoughtful audience questions, especially from Beth and Clara (hi!).

with Susan Olding and Adwoa Badoe; photo by Bernard Clark


photo by Bernard Clark

I also stopped in at Lethbridge, AB’s first-ever Word on the Street festival and chatted with readers there about the link between research and writing. Good times.

I’m reading Claire Tomalin’s Austen bio, Jane Austen: A Life, at every stolen moment and absolutely adoring it. It’s not just that I’m an Austenphile; Tomalin is such a wise, sympathetic, subtly observant biographer and she makes me think about things anew. For example, she really challenges my opinion of Sense and Sensibility, until now my least favourite of Austen’s novels. Tomalin argues that S&S is a debate connected to the politics of the 1790s, and that Austen’s characterizations of Elinor and Marianne are much subtler than I’d previously thought. I’m determined to re-read it, now, and see if I agree.

And finally, I have an official North American publication date for The Traitor in the Tunnel! February 28, 2012 is the Big Day. Huzzah!

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Autumn’s here

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

My name is Y. S. Lee and I’ve been a sloppy blogger all summer long. Now that it’s late September, it is time to change my inconsistent ways. Starting this week, I’ll return to my weekly blogging schedule and post something each Wednesday. Promise.

What’s up with me?

As a reader:

My husband just gave me a copy of this book.

If you know how I feel about Claire Tomalin and Jane Austen, you will know that I am over the moon and can’t wait to rip into it (figuratively, figuratively). But he outdid himself this time, because he gave me this edition:

Did you hear my scream of delight? I’m torn between sleeping with it under my pillow, locking it away under archival conditions, and reading it in one sitting while children scream and my life crumbles around me. Ahem.

As a writer:

Tomorrow, I’m appearing at Kingston WritersFest with YA author Adwoa Badoe. We’ll be reading and talking to memoirist Susan Olding on the subject of “Life Lessons”. This is my first literary festival as an author, rather than as reader and fan, and I’ve been looking forward to this for ages!

I’ll also be skyping in to Lethbridge, AB’s Word on the Street festival this Sunday. I’m very excited for this, too, and glad that I’ll never know how big my head looks on a projection screen. If you happen to see it, don’t tell me, okay?

As a human being:

My three-year-old’s been singing his favourite fall song, Hawksley Workman‘s “Autumn’s Here”, without consideration for parental feelings of musical satiety. The child is merciless, so I’ve decided to inflict it on you, too. This link takes you to a superlong live rendition.

How are you all? What are you up to? What did I miss, while I was not really here over the summer?

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Just a snippet

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Hi, friends. I forgot to bring my camera to Mississauga. This is the story of my life. Fortunately, one of my readers, Shann, remembered, and so I get to share this moment with you. Thank you, Shann, and to Oscar C. who took the photo.

And thank you to everyone who came and asked such fun and interesting questions! I had a lovely time, and hope you did, too.

P.S. I remembered the 4th bodily humour (from our conversation about Renaissance medicine, remember?): phlegm. Glamourous, glamourous phlegm.



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The book that got away

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Hello friends! This week, I’ve become obsessed with books that elude me in some way. They include:

1. Books I didn’t finish, even though they began well and promised to be very satisfying (Judith Flanders’s The Invention of Murder, which I began when pregnant but didn’t get far before having the baby. When I come back to it, I’ll have to start over.)

2. Books I’ve lent to friends, but can’t remember who or when (Old Filth, by Jane Gardam, where are you? Do you have it, Katharine? Eugene, did you take it out west?).

3. Books I’m convinced will be good but to which I failed to do justice as a reader, and which I’ll have to re-approach some day (Paul Theroux, My Other Life).

4. Books I swear I own, but cannot find for the life of me! I’m ransacking my house right now for Claire Tomalin’s biography, Jane Austen: A Life. I ran across a reference to it the other day and read the first few pages on Amazon (addictive: I dare you to read them and not buy the book immediately). Claire Tomalin is my favourite biographer. I own most of her books. I’m actually, ridiculously, saving one (Mrs. Jordan’s Profession) indefinitely because I don’t want the day to come when I have no Claire Tomalin books to look forward to. And now I’m ready for my Jane Austen moment.

If only I could find the blasted thing.

Am I alone here? What are your books that got away?

In other news: quick reminder that I’m at Mississauga Central Library on Saturday, reading, signing, and talking about the Victorians. Details here.

And I’m interviewed in OurKingston this week. Worryingly, the article’s called “A Promise of Violence”. I assure you, I did not get aggressive with the reporter.


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