• March 2012

Philly's Fiction Writers Unite at The Liar's Club

By Jonathan McGoran
Author, www.jmcgoran.com
Member, The Liar’s Club

Writing has always been a solitary pursuit. But with the publishing industry undergoing greater upheaval than at any time since Gutenberg, it’s especially important to have friends.

That was part of the thinking behind the formation of The Liars Club in Philadelphia.

Named for its members’ proclivity for creating fiction, the group was the brainchild of two authors:

  • Jonathan Maberry, whose latest book, the thriller “Assassin’s Code,” is coming out April 10 from St. Martin’s/Griffin;
  • and Greg Frost (pictured below), a cross-genre fantasist author whose latest work is the Shadowbridge duology, “Shadowbridge,” and “Lord Tophet.”

The pair wanted to create a way for like-minded authors to get together and compare notes, share knowledge, network, commiserate, and plan for the future in a positive and upbeat way. And maybe even have lunch.

“The Liars Club, as Jonathan Maberry and I conceived it, was a strategic collective of authors sharing their promotional skills and experience,” says Frost, noting this was not to be a writers group. “The focus was not on craft, but on the business of writing.”

Maberry elaborates: “When Gregory Frost and I cooked up the idea for The Liars Club, we wanted to create a way for writers to help one another by sharing ideas, exchanging contacts, co-creating marketing game-plans, and letting the networking mojo really cook.”

The first meeting of the group, in 2007, included Maberry and Frost, as well as Leslie Banks (pictured below Dennis Tafoya’s book), and myself.

Since that time, The Liars Club has grown to include 13 members. The focus has changed somewhat—and with 13 members, it’s hard to schedule lunch—but the core idea remains: a group of professional writers who work to support each other and other writers, who hold talks, workshops, signings, and other events in support of bookstores, libraries, literacy, and the love of books.

The personal chemistry among the members of the group has been a key factor in its success: meetings and events are fun.

“I may be sort of funny and slightly charming,” says Kelly Simmons, author of “Standing Still” and “The Bird House,” both from Simon & Schuster. “But doing bookstore, library, and community events with The Liars Club offers readers and fellow writers a lot more laughter, anecdotes, and advice than I could ever offer alone. As a relative newbie I have learned so much from the group. Not only about the business, but the importance of an occasional margarita.”

Another important idea is that writers can promote worthy causes and help other writers and readers while promoting their books.

That was the idea behind The Liars Club’s 2010 Truth Tour, a series of parties across the region that celebrated and publicized independent bookstores faced with numerous challenges, and the Spring Library Tour, which highlighted the plight of libraries threatened by cutbacks.

A similar effort is The Liars Club’s monthly Writers’ Coffeehouse, a free information and networking event for writers that regularly attracts 50 to 75 attendees.

Individually and as a group, the Liars are regulars at events like the Philadelphia Book Festival and conferences such as Push to Publish and the Philadelphia Writers Conference.

“The Liars Club breathes life into the craft of writing by bringing real writers to real people in real places. I’m proud to be a part of it,” says Solomon Jones (pictured above), author of seven novels and the creator of “Words on the Street,” a partnership with the Knight Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, and others to teach writing to high school students. Jones’ latest novel is “The Gravediggers Ball.” His next novel will be published by Minotaur Books this year.

While The Liars Club events have aided important causes, they have also helped contribute to the Liars’ individual successes. Maberry has become a New York Times bestseller and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner, and Frost has been a finalist for every major award in the fantasy literature genres.

“The Liars Club has been vital to me, both for the support I get from my friends and as a vehicle to exponentially increase my effectiveness at marketing and promotion,” says Dennis Tafoya, a Philly novelist who writes crime novels set in and around Philadelphia. His first two books, “Dope Thief” and “The Wolves of Fairmount Park,” have been optioned for film, and his next, “The Poor Boys’ Game,” is due out from St. Martin’s next year.

At the same time, The Liars Club has generated publicity for itself as well, including features in Writer’s Digest, on Indiebound.org, International Triller Writers’ The Big Thrill e-newsletter, and Publishers Weekly’s PW Daily Newsletter, as well as countless blogs and local publications.

And while The Liars Club has been an important component of the members’ individual successes, it has been just as important in helping us avoid potential pitfalls. Throughout the publishing industry’s recent turbulence, the Liars have been able to share up-to-date information about an ever-shifting publishing landscape, help each other find new agents or publishers, and look to each other for advice, support, and networking.

Sometimes, more importantly, for solace.

Last year, the challenges of the publishing world were put in a different perspective when Leslie Banks, (pictured above), an original Liar and one of the group’s most beloved members, was struck by an aggressive form of cancer.

The Liars pulled together, raising funds and putting together a benefit to help cover mounting medical expenses. Sadly, one week before the event, Banks lost her fight, and the event was held as a memorial instead.

The Liars were stunned by the tragedy, and for several months the group was quiet as members struggled to overcome the loss. But the tragedy underscored the fact that as important as The Liars Club had become in our professional lives, the individual members have become even more important, as friends, and as family.

Looking ahead, The Liars Club is moving forward on a number of fronts.

The newest member is screenwriter Stephen Susco (“The Grudge”), who rounds out the group with Marie Lamba (“Drawn”), Merry Jones (“Behind the Walls”), social media guru Don Lafferty, Philly Poe Guy Ed Pettit, Keith R. A. DeCandido (“Unicorn Precinct”), and Keith Strunk (“Prallsville Mills” and “Stockton”).

The group recently entered the publishing fray with a short story anthology, “Liar, Liar” (also available for Kindle) on its own imprint, Mendacity Press, featuring stories from Liars Club members.

Other publications may also be in the offing. The Liars Club is offering an expanding array of writing classes, including a short story class, a YA novel class, and the very popular “Write Your Novel in Nine Months.”

A Liars Club Writers Conference is under consideration as well. For now, The Liars Club is taking its popular Writers Coffeehouse on the road, expanding it to other locations in the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area.

“I think we proved to be remarkably prescient,” says Frost. “It has remained a moving target, but we have been flexible enough so far to adapt to the evolving landscape that is publishing today.”

“The Liars Club has become the heartbeat of the Philadelphia writing community,” says Maberry. “When people come to our events, they know they’re among friends. No lie.”

To learn more about The Liar’s Club, visit liarsclubphilly.com.

Jonathan McGoran is the author of “Drift,” an ecological thriller coming out in summer 2013 from Tor/Forge.

Writing as D. H. Dublin, he is also the author of forensic crime thrillers including “Freezer Burn,” and “Blood Poison,” from Penguin Books.

For more information about Jonathan, visit his website: www.jmcgoran.com.

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