by Victoria McClendon-Leggett
We arrived at Brazos Bookstore in Houston early and had time to leisurely scan through a few books….
…before authors Barbara Shapiro and Tim Johnston showed up.
They arrived in a happy mood, introducing themselves and talking a bit about their latest books. For Johnston, this was The Current, a novel centered around a car accident which is conceptually similar to his previous work, Descent. Shapiro’s latest work is The Collector’s Apprentice, a novel set in 1922 that deals with art theft, mystery, and “a bit of romance.” After speaking briefly about their newest works, they talked a little about themselves and their careers. Johnston shared with us that he has an MFA, but was working as a carpenter prior to writing his first breakout book…
and Shapiro who has a PhD in Sociology told us that she quit a high-pressure job to pursue writing novels after a conversation with her mother.
The two got along very well, and seemed to enjoy each other’s company and the crowd.
Shapiro is a planner, outlining her novels extensively and even creating a color-coded notecard system. Johnston described himself as a “pantser,” which is an author who flies by the seat of his pants. He begins the novel with an event and characters, and then works through things to see how they turn out.
They were also different presenters. Shapiro was very demonstrative…
…expansively emphasizing her points with hand gestures and facial expressions.
Meanwhile, Johnston was a minimalist…
…more introspective and displaying an economy of movement.
But the two meshed well. When Shapiro described her publication history, noting that her first several books didn’t sell, she was thankful for her husband, and emphasized that beginning writers need a partner who “has a salary and benefits.” Johnston quietly said, “Ah, I need a partner with a salary and benefits.”
Alas, both a highly successful now, making quite a nice living from the royalties on their books, although Tim Johnston still teaches Creative Writing at the University of Memphis.
After the discussion we had a chance to get a few books signed by the two authors who were also kind enough to pose for a group photo with us!
indeed, with the event being so much fun, the book store manager asked the entire audience to pose for a photo with the authors.
With Shapiro’s book being (partly) set in France, we headed a few streets over to dinner at nearby Sweet Paris Crêperie, which offers excellent service, good crepes, and amazing milk shakes.
We filed in and ordered our crêpes at the register, and they were brought to us at our table as they were ready. There was a variety of sweet and savory crêpes available at the restaurant, but as it was well into dinnertime everyone among us decided to go with savory.
Makayla tried ham and gruyere, and I had the Alaskan crêpes, which were stuffed with smoked salmon, pickled red onions, capers, and scrambled eggs, and were topped with dill sour cream and scallions. For dessert, we ordered milkshakes to go.
The best flavor by far was Makayla’s Nutella graham cracker shake or the Reese’s shake, enjoyed by Professor Yawn and Stephanie.
With sweet treats in hand, we headed back to Huntsville a little bit smarter and a lot more full.