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Authors to make joint appearance at Mystery Lovers

| Friday, Aug. 26, 2011

A book tour goes something like this: A manic dash from an airport to a hotel to a bookstore. Reverse the steps, then repeat the cycle for as many cities as there are on the itinerary.

It might seem like a glamorous lifestyle, but unlike a rock band or a touring theatrical company, the majority of writers fly solo with no support group or handlers or managers.

Laura Lippman knows book tours can be lonely treks, which is why she's happy to be appearing with friend and fellow writer Alafair Burke on Sunday at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont.

"The survival tip to be a touring writer is, every city where you know someone, reach out to that person and say 'Meet me for a drink,' 'Meet me for dinner,'" Lippman says. "Not because it's not fun and enjoyable and a great gig to be talking to people about your book and meeting people who read your books, but because, inevitably, you're on. You have to be your best self, you have to be your nicest self, your most gregarious self.

"It's very energy-sapping, and so it's nice to be with someone who will let you slump a bit in your chair and maybe even let you be a little bit snarky if occasions call for that," Lippman says. "Not that Alafair or I would ever be snarky, but I've heard some people who are."

Burke agrees.

"You need a break from talking about yourself," Burke says. "It really can affect your sense of self-importance, that you think the entire world is waiting for your book. It's kind of nice to sit down with somebody who is going to talk to you about their life, what's going on with their kid and their job, and you don't have to say what the new book's about."

Lippman and Burke are promoting new stand-alone novels that depart from their series work. Burke's "Long Gone" is about a murder that takes place at an art gallery. Lippman's "The Most Dangerous Thing" follows five adolescents who grow into adults, hiding a secret from their childhood.

Sharing an event with another writer might seem counterintutive, given that opportunities to meet readers in the flesh are limited. But the synergy of a joint appearance allows writers to express themselves more naturally.

"It's more interesting because it's a conversation and it goes back and forth," Lippman says. "It's like watching two good tennis players. I think it always works great. I would always prefer to do an event with someone."

Writers increasingly use social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with readers. But online experiences, Burke and Lippman both believe, are no substitute for meeting readers in person.

"I still think when you go personally to the store, at least for some people, that's going to be more special than being one of 5,000 Facebook friends," Burke says. "And it matters a lot to the independent bookstores I tend to go to."

Burke believes that, in tandem, social media and live appearances can benefit a writer. They also feed into each other in an unexpected way.

It's interesting "to go on a book tour now," Burke says, "having gotten messages on Facebook and Twitter saying 'I'll see you tonight,' and recognizing that person in the second row as the person who posted a picture of herself with her cat. It makes it a much more rewarding and less stressful process. You really do feel welcomed when there are people you 'know,' even if you have never met them before."

Additional Information:

Alafair Burke and Laura Lippman book signing

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free; reservations requested

Where: Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont

Details: 412-828-4877 or www.mysterylovers.com

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