Popular ‘Tale’ author returning to dish on latest book

Aug. 2, 2008
Lifestyles/Extra,The (Batavia, N.Y.) Daily News
By Ben Beagle

Barbara Myers of Dale is bringing members of her book club. Catherine Nestor of Batavia has picked up four tickets, including one for her sister in Olean.

They are among the avid local fans of mystery writer Julia Spencer-Fleming who are planning to attend a fundraising dinner for the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project.

Spencer-Fleming, who was the featured Tale author in 2005, is returning Aug. 15 for “An Evening with Julia Spencer-Fleming.”

For the price of admission, readers get a catered meal, help ensure the future of Tale, learn about Spencer-Fleming’s latest book, I Shall Not Want, and get some inside information about the next book in the series featuring the Rev. Clare Fergusson.

“I’m looking forward to catching up with folks in the area, and seeing old friends” Spencer-Fleming said in an interview from her home near Portland, Maine. “And I also want to answer readers’ questions. I like questions. That’s the best part of these programs.”

Nestor, who discovered Spencer-Fleming when the Tale project featured the Maine author’s debut novel, In the Bleak Midwinter, said she was attracted to the series by its unusual main character. Fergusson, a trouble-prone Episcopal priest, used to be an Army helicopter pilot.

Nestor was further won over after hearing Spencer-Fleming talk about her writing career, which began after winning a mystery novel-writing contest.

“I think she’s a great speaker,” Nestor said. “She’s humorous, and gives you a lot of insight into her stories. I thoroughly enjoy her books and, of course, they always leave you wanting more.”

This will be Spencer-Fleming’s third visit to the area.

It may also be her most important.

The Tale for Three Counties Council, the non-profit group that organizes the reading project for Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties, is counting on the author’s continued popularity to bring a good turnout to its first major fundraising event.

Tale organizers first met in February 2002 and presented its first author, Leif Enger, in March 2003. Since then, each March has brought a new author to the region. In some cases, authors have returned for additional talks and book signings when subsequent books have been released.

The annual Tale event has become a huge, year-round project in terms of financing and planning, said Leslie DeLooze, the Richmond Memorial librarian who started Tale in 2003.

“Most years, we’ve taken a leap of faith in terms of our budget,” DeLooze said. “We hope that this will give us a good financial start for the coming year.”

The dinner, DeLooze said, “is a great way to raise money and to keep people thinking about this event and reading in general. Our hope is to be able to keep offering this community-reads program on an annual basis; to be able to get the word out and to bring in an author of national prominence requires a substantial budget.”

Funding for Tale comes through grants, donations, sales of the authors’ books and other contributions from the libraries’ friends groups and sponsors. Last year, Tale instituted different levels of sponsorships, in which several local businesses have contributed.

The visiting authors are paid a speaker’s fee and Tale covers travel and lodging expenses. That’s in addition to promoting and producing materials and programs for nearly two dozen book discussions and at least three author presentations.

Readers were introduced to Spencer-Fleming through her debut novel, but have continued to followed the lives of the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne as they solve crimes and carefully navigate their own relationship through six books, all set in the fictional Adirondack town of Millers Kill.

“I’ve really enjoyed the series. I’m fascinated with the interaction with Clare, and how the church reacts to her escapades, and her and Russ. And the two of them together … I hate to see the stories end,” said Myers, who has participated in several Tale programs and whose own book club will discuss I Shall Not Want a few days after hearing Spencer-Fleming speak about the book.

Spencer-Fleming returned for a talk and signing in 2006 after the series’ fifth book, All Mortal Flesh was published.

Spencer-Fleming “has been very generous to Tale in being willing to come and talk,” DeLooze said. “She has a really big following here and it should be especially fun with the new book out.”

“An Evening With Julia Spencer-Fleming” begins with a buffet dinner at 6:30 p.m., followed by a reading, talk and book signing. Her latest book, I Shall Not Want, and three other titles will be available at the dinner. Tickets, which cost $30, are available at Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia; Alfred C. O’Connell Library at Genesee Community College, 1 College Rd., Batavia; Perry Public Library, 70 North Main St., Perry; and Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, 620 West Ave., Medina.

Julia Spencer-Fleming: www.juliaspencerfleming.com

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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