My Brush With An Urban Fantasy Guru


I recently had the good fortune to attend a book signing, at Foxwoods, by one of my favorite authors, Sherrilyn Kenyon.  She is on a book tour, promoting the latest book in her Legion series, Born of Fury. For those of you who haven't heard of her, she writes mind-candy urban fantasy novels starring beautiful warrior men, and filled with smart wit, unforgettable characters, and save-the-world plots.

As an aspiring urban fantasy author, I am compelled to connect with others of my tribe, and it would not be an understatement to say that Kenyon is a tribal leader. With 65 books on the best seller list since 2004, and a writing speed that is unequaled (she writes 4-6 books a year!), she has the writing career most of us dare not even dream about.  But that's not why she is one of my favorite gurus.

During the Q&A portion of the signing, Kenyon just talked to us. She didn't have a speech prepared, and no one collected questions that could be vetted before being presented to her. Interspersed with the questions from the audience, the narrator for the current book, Fred Berman engaged her in a casual conversation about her work and her life. She answered EVEYTHING. No cagey "I can't talk about that", or "Sorry, that's personal," or anything of the sort. Every person who stood and addressed her was given respect—even appreciation for taking the time to come out, or for reading her books, or even just for asking a question.

She talked about her struggles and her family, two topics she generously shares with her fans. Her life has had genuine stressors, from homelessness to parenting disabled children. Nobody handed her success. She didn't have a friend or relative in the business. She made it big because she worked hard, and she never gave up.

After Q&A, we made our way to the concourse, where the author signed books. Because my friend and I had to take a bathroom break (and because we meander, rather than walk, when there are pretty stores with shiny objects around), we were nearly dead last in line---a long, long, long line. No stranger to lengthy queues (I've been a fangirl of a variety of bands, authors, actors and at least one anime character since adulthood), I wasn't worried. That is, until I noticed dozens of people in front of me with bags and bags of books for her to sign. I swear, my feet almost packed up and left, and I would not have blamed them.

Miraculously, I noticed two things: After signing one or two books for them, Sherrilyn asked the people with troves of books and other swag (slang for, in this case, licensed memorabilia) to return to the back of the line. How awesome was that? I'll tell you: Monumentally awesome. In one move, she showed her appreciation for the plight of folks still standing in line, AND appreciation for the superfans who undoubtedly buy six of every book she puts out.

The second thing I noticed was that she stands at a pedestal for the entire book signing, so that fans did not have to bend over to greet her and take pictures with her.

A couple of hours later, when it was finally my turn, the book maven greeted me with a huge smile and an even huger hug. She took the time to listen to my gushing adulation, comment about our shared southern accents ("With our accents, people think we're so nice and sweet till we go southern on them."), and show genuine, yet brief, interest in my writing endeavors.  That's why she is one of my favorite, famous authors: She is a real person who engages with her readers, and shows her fans she understands if not for "us", there would be no "her". 

Rock on, Sherrilyn Kenyon.