It happens about five times a year.
Best-selling author Nora Roberts gets together with other writers and has a book signing at Turn the Page Bookstore, the Boonsboro shop operated by her husband, Bruce Wilder.
People come from miles away, beginning to line up as early as 7 a.m. for a two-hour signing later in the day.
North Main Street buzzes with excitement as fans — some of whom identify themselves as “Noraholics” — scurry in and out of shops and restaurants, waiting in anticipation for a moment in the presence of the novelist.
Roberts’ momentum appeared to be going strong Saturday as she celebrated the release of her 200th full-length title, “The Witness.” Although the book is not scheduled for official release until Tuesday, visitors at the signing were able to fetch a pre-release copy.
Pam Napolillo, 54, of Sykesville, Md., traveled to Boonsboro with her husband, David, 52. She purchased a copy of the book and sat on a street bench reading it while she waited for her ticket letter to be called for the signing.
Napolillo estimates she has read about 150 of Roberts’ books.
“It’s the good thick plots. The unexpected endings. It just makes for a good read,” she said.
Judy Hunt, 48, of Hamden, Md., said she and her husband, Herb, visited Boonsboro a few weeks ago to see some of the local sites she’d read about in Roberts’ recent novels.
While in town, she found out that Roberts, who lives in Keedysville, was having a signing Saturday, so she came back.
“The stories are so intriguing. And here we actually get to see the town — Vesta (Pizzeria and Family Restaurant), the Inn BoonsBoro, the gift shop, the bookstore. Icing (Bakery and Cafe) is supposed to be in the next book,” Hunt said.
“We just had lunch at Vesta, and I’m gonna get my picture in front of the inn reading my book. It’s pretty cool.”
Cayla Haines, 25, of Fort Worth, Texas, said she began reading Roberts’ novels when her grandmother passed away and left a large collection of the books for her. She read “Three Fates” and “fell in love with it.”
Haines had been planning to visit her cousin, Robyn Wheat, 31, of Frederick, Md., when she spotted Saturday’s signing on Roberts’ website.
“I begged, ‘Please, can you take me to Boonsboro?’” Haines said. “I guess (Roberts) is considered a romance novelist, but her stories are adventure, mystery. She pulls you in. It’s almost like watching a movie in your head while you are reading the book.”
Opal Foley, 51, of Alabama, and her fiance, Donnie Seamster, 56, said they drove five hours from a work site in Paden City, W.Va., to see Roberts.
“There is not one bad book she writes. I love ‘em all,” Foley said. “I mean, she’s on her 200th book, so I think she knows what she is doing.”
Roberts said she hopes her writing has improved over the course of her 200 books.
“I certainly hope I write tighter and better than I did when I started 30 years ago,” she said. “If you don’t get better at something, there is a problem.”
Something that hasn’t changed throughout her writing career is the character-driven nature of her stories, Roberts said.
“Whether it’s a love story, a family relationship or a work relationship, the most important element is the characters and how they relate to each other,” she said.
Roberts said she sees book signings as “great fun.” Saturday, she met an exchange student from Germany a father-daughter fan duo.
“There are so many people, and they come from all over the place,” she said. “You see generations, sisters, friends, neighbors. Again, it’s relationships. It’s very cool.”
The book signing also featured writers R.C. Ryan, Sophia Nash, Sarah Pekkanen and Carolyn Turgeon, and local authors Marie and Maxine Beck, and Patricia McDaniel.