I returned to Chicago for the Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row LitFest last week. First Emily Victorson of Allium Press of Chicago had arranged for a panel at the Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park.
Don Evans of Chicago Literary Hall of Fame moderated while D.M. Pirrone, Mary Burnes and I discussed writing fiction “Inspired by the Past.” My books include real historical figures in addition to my fictional characters. Diane’s series is set in Chicago right after the Fire, and she said most of her characters are fictional although she has a well known corrupt police captain in an ongoing role. Mary’s book set in a few very momentous days of 1919 has only fictional characters but against the backdrop of the race riots, the blimp crash and the murder of a child. But all of the books have Chicago as a character. The motto for Allium is “rescuing Chicago from Capone one book at a time” and all of the books are fiction with a Chicago connection although not all are historicals.
The Chicago connection is what makes the Printers Row LitFest so successful for Allium every year. The marketing experts tell you to know your readers and know how to reach them. A lot of our readers attend the LitFest and find Allium Press by going there. Certainly the covers of the Allium books are a big draw. Emily Victorson does a great job making them attractive. But I think it’s also the Chicago setting and the strong women characters that find an audience in the book lovers who stroll around the streets of Printer’s Row lapping up all the great feast of books that is offered.
I was thrilled to meet several people who have read all of my Emily Cabot mysteries and who were looking for the newest. We were excited to be able to tell them that DEATH AT THE PARIS EXPOSITION is just going out for review and will be generally available in September. So, of course, I asked, say, how did you originally find the series? And several people, like Lisa from Indiana in the picture below, found the series by coming to the Printers Row book fair. Here’s Lisa,
That’s Emily Victorson helping her and author Joan Naper in the foreground.
So it was good to attract more new readers at the book fair, figuring when they try one they’ll be interested in the other books in the series, and also the other books and series that Allium publishes. As Emily told people, if you like that, you’ll probably like the other books in the very nice catalog (you can get the PDF on THIS PAGE
I’ve read all the books, and I have enjoyed being drawn into a world that is different from the present, where I learn a few things as well as following the specific story. And it always makes you think, what was it really like to be there at that time? So D.M. Pirrone’s series set right after the fire gives you a feel for a city starting to rebuild where immigrants of various ethnicities were pouring in and learning to get along. And of course, when you walk around the city of Chicago after that, you can see the past superimposed on the modern features of the city.
I think that’s why I was drawn to write about the city in the 1890’s. I think when you go to Chicago now the imprint of the people who lived at that time is still there to be seen in Grant Park, and the Art Institute and the University of Chicago. I do like cities. Like people they have very distinct personalities. I love Boston, too. And Rome, Athens, and London are so different and so rich. So I really loved writing a book set in Paris this time. And to take someone as prominent in Chicago society as Bertha Palmer and see her in Paris conquering that city as she conquered Chicago was fun research.
I will be taking her back to Chicago in the next book which I’m still researching. And we had such a good time going back to Chicago (where I lived for over 25 years) for the book fair, it will have to be an annual thing. After all, as it turns out that is where I meet a lot of my readers and there’s nothing so satisfying to an author as meeting someone who has read and enjoyed the books. Now, that is a thrill.