It was an amicable separation. We knew it was coming for several months and we did our best to keep it civil. Were there some tears? Sure. After a decade that began with an awkward introduction, getting to know each other, some courting, and eventually letting our relationship develop into something intimate (often involving discrete cash transactions) there was bound to be some pain involved. But I had to leave. I simply had to. I had received a job offer I simply couldn’t turn down. I was moving to Georgia and, while it would have been nice, it was unlikely all my Pittsburgh-area readers could come with me. I mean I own a SUV, but with a wife, a child, two dogs, and my growing rock band tee shirt collection, it was already a tight squeeze.
I had worked hard to develop solid relationships in Pittsburgh. I probably met every library director, bookshop owner, and mystery book club group in the area. I spoke to civic groups, got to know multiple reporters, and became friends with some fantastic local writers. Now I had to leave and start over near Savannah, Georgia where the demand for mysteries set in Pennsylvania isn’t exactly mind-blowing. But, it’s going to be okay. I have a plan that can’t fail. Well it can totally fail, but I’m like 90% sure it won’t. Or maybe 75%. Definitely over 30%. Follow these steps and you can bounce back from your recent divorce.
Step One: Date some librarians
You know who likes books? People who choose to work around books. You know who likes authors? Not very many people, but librarians will give you a shot. If you don’t strut into your local library acting like your Lee Child (unless you are Lee Child), then you have a shot. Just be yourself (unless you suck) and donate some of the books you have written. That’s right, show them some leg. This may leave them wanting more. If not, your face may end up on a DENY ACCESS poster in the library lobby, but at least you’re getting noticed!
Step Two: Get to know some pimps
If you want to expand your clientele, then you have to see the people who know the business. Bookstores are brothels for readers and there is only a slight chance it will be raided by the cops. Be willing to work the streets and give out some freebees. Bookstore owners can show you the ropes and tell you which dark alleys to avoid. Don’t be pushy, but make it known you are completely available. Consenting adults can usually come to an agreement.
Step Three: Try online dating
You can still use the hashtags related to your former location, but branch out and use some new ones. Explore the local Facebook pages and start “liking” posts with your author page. Make sure your profile doesn’t imply you’re a serial killer and—for God’s sake—have a decent profile picture for people to view. Don’t lose your readers because your photo reminds people of Nick Nolte on a bender. Put on your best face and don’t act like you have others ready to go in the freezer.
Step Four: Be a swinger
Sure, people can be wary of the whole group thing. Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons. Sharing yourself with so many others can feel awkward at first, but you learn something from every encounter. Is it perfectly safe? Of course not. But you must take some risks to reap the rewards. When it’s over you can consult a physician if any symptoms persist for more than four hours.
Step Five: Remember your past mistakes
You’ve been here before. Remember the flirting, the seduction, the exhilaration, and even the failures. Be better this time around and make sure you give it your all. Did you say something careless at a party? Did you flub a speech at a local gathering? Do you still cringe at the way you dumped coffee over yourself while mingling with a book club? You made it through those moments and perhaps you can avoid some repeat occurrences.
People change. People move. Life goes on. There are no guarantees another break-up won’t occur at some point, but when it comes to author/reader divorces and the books seem like your children, there is always joint custody.
J.J. HENSLEY is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. He graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Administration of Justice and has a M.S. degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University. Hensley’s works include the novels Measure Twice and Resolve; the latter was named one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was a finalist for Best First Novel at the 2014 Thriller Awards.
To learn more about J.J. Hensley’s most recent book, click on the cover below: