In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, each month, four authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For December's author forum, BookPage brought together Robert Gregory Browne, Holly Jacobs, River Jordan and Lisa Unger to ask: What book would you like to receive as a holiday gift?

ROBERT GREGORY BROWNE
The book I'd really like to receive as a holiday gift would have to be a signed, pristine copy of Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald Westlake. Anyone who reads crime fiction knows who Westlake is, but for those who don't, let's just say he was a master crime fiction writer, so good that he could change his voice depending on the particular subgenre he chose to write and did them all equally well. His Westlake books are laugh-out-loud funny; his Richard Stark books are lean, mean and ruthless; and his Tucker Coe books are great murder mysteries featuring a flawed hero whose guilt threatens to consume him.

I first came across Somebody Owes Me Money when I was 13 years old. The woman who lived next door to us had a subscription to Playboy magazine, and when she was done doing whatever it was she did with them, she'd pass them along to me and, believe it or not, I read the articles, including the fiction. The Westlake novel was serialized over a couple of issues and the moment I started reading it I not only fell in love with Westlake, but I knew that this was what I wanted to do for a living. Make up stories. I promptly went out to the library and checked-out every Westlake book I could get my hands on.

But Somebody Owes Me Money was the first and will always be a favorite. It's the story of a Chet Conway, a cab driver who goes to collect on a bet he won, only to find that his bookie has been murdered. Things go downhill from there. If I could get a first edition signed by Westlake, I'd be a happy man. Better yet, I wish Mr. Westlake could come back to life and deliver it personally. I always wanted to meet him but never got the chance. I was thrilled, however, to recently meet one of his good friends, sometime collaborator, and an amazing writer himself, Brian Garfield (Death Wish, Hopscotch), who told me that Westlake was ever funnier in person than he was on the page.

Robert Gregory Browne is the author of Whisper in the Dark and other thrillers. His next release, Down Among the Dead Men, is scheduled for release in 2010.

HOLLY JACOBS
Just one book? Okay, so maybe not a specific title, but if I was asking for just one book for Christmas, I’d ask for something old. Something with a beautiful binding, with illustrations.

I love old books. There’s an air of permanence about them. Books that have been here more than a century, that people have owned and treasured. They were made to last. Receiving a gift like this means someone knew me well enough to know that old books delight me, and that they went to effort to find one. This isn’t the kind of gift you can buy in the mall. It’s a gift that requires effort and thought.

So, if I only received one book this year for Christmas, that’s what I’d ask for.

Romance novelist Holly Jacobs is the author of Everything But a Christmas Eve (Avalon). She lives with her husband and four children on the shores of Lake Erie.

RIVER JORDAN
The perfect holiday book gift would be a complete surprise. Here’s why. What I envision is not the most recent bestseller (although those can certainly find their way under my tree) but something unusual. Something that speaks a bit of a treasure hunt. A rare package with a book unknown to me, yet perfectly suited to my all-over-the-bookstore taste. The greatest gift would be for a book that would thrill, engage, enlighten. Something precious to the giver, perhaps a favorite of their own, and therefore precious to me. Or perhaps a book that simply whispers my name when they touch it: ‘River must read this!’ Books are more than mere inanimate objects but instead are bridges to the past, portals to secret worlds, mirrors of other lives and visions of the distant future. During all my travels, in the strangest and wildest places, monasteries or friends’ libraries, there has always been one unknown title that finds its way into my hands at precisely the right hour. This is the gift I crave. A delicious, amazing, unexpected little volume of poetry. A rare leather-bound classic. A newly discovered tale of a mysterious life well lived. All I ask is for the blessing of a book for Christmas—whatever the giver’s wild, beautiful selection.

River Jordan writes Southern fiction from her home in Tennessee. Her latest release is Saints in Limbo (WaterBrook).

LISA UNGER
Since I’m a serious book buyer, I can’t imagine waiting to be gifted a book. I buy hardcovers, mass market, trade paperbacks—fiction, nonfiction, poetry. I buy from independents and chains alike. No electronic readers for me, though; I need the jacket, the smell of paper, the heft of a real book in my hands. So, if I don’t have something I want, it probably hasn’t been written yet.

In 1984, New Zealand author Keri Hulme published a stunning, beautiful novel entitled The Bone People. The winner of The Booker Prize, this is one most gorgeously written, character-rich novels I have read. Decades later, I still think about it. Since then, I have been waiting for another work by this author. Anything. If someone finds her shopping list in the trash, I’ll read that. The rumor is that her next book is slated for 2015. I’m patiently waiting, Santa.

Lisa Unger made her thriller debut with Beautlful Lies. Her latest release is Die for You (Shaye Areheart).

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Tom Robinson is an author publicist and media consultant working with authors across the country. Visit his website.

PREVIOUS AUTHOR FORUMS
August 2009 Author Forum

September 2009 Author Forum

October 2009 Author Forum

November 2009 Author Forum

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