Sunday, March 18, 2012

2012 Southwest Florida Reading Festival

Saturday I attended the 2012 Southwest Florida Reading Festival. There were lots of great authors, food, books and all sorts of bookish fun!

I took a quick glance through the room where there were all sorts of books for sale, and checked out some books by local authors, even meeting Violeta Barrett whose book First Love I reviewed last year. She's a very pleasant and charming lady!

I purchased a couple of books, and then headed over to listen to author Erik Larson. It turned out to be SRO (Standing Room Only), but we found a couple of the few remaining seats.

Mr. Larson was very amusing, and a great way to start out the morning! He began his talk by telling the audience that he lives in Seattle, and when he woke up in south Florida this morning and looked out the window, he thought he was in a post-apocalyptic movie, as he saw the brightness in the sky! (There isn't much sun in Seattle!)

He then told a story of a friend who is also an author and showed up to a book signing at an independent bookstore in south Florida, and at 8 AM there was no one there-- just 30 empty chairs! Finally a woman showed up and sat in the far back corner. The author invited her to move up front, so they could have a personal talk and she said, "Oh, I don't know. I may want to leave early."

Mr. Larson then told the crowd that he'd be doing a brief 28-page reading from his book, and then asked how many hearts dropped when he'd said that? He said he personally would rather do a vasectomy without anesthesia than listen to another author read his own book. Funny guy!

Some things that I learned from Mr. Larson:
  • It takes him about a year to find a story.
  • He likes to break it down to its DNA and rebuild it.
  • Every time he reads the book A Night to Remember (which is about the sinking of the Titanic), he reads it hoping that this time it won't sink!
  • He's a huge fan of libraries.
  • Says that it is always the last person in the line at the book signing that you need to worry about. Says that happened once. He saw the last woman in line, and he knew she would be "trouble". He said she walked up and put the book down, leaned in and said, "My husband is trying to kill me." To which he replied, "Who would you like this book made out to?"
  • He does his own research and visits the sites himself.
  • One woman remarked over the comparison of his description of America during the Depression and life today. He said you have to be vigilant. When there is one law passed, what will be next?
  • Much of his book In the Garden of Beasts had correspondence. A member in the audience wondered whether such a book would be possible in 100 years? Today people don't write letters-- they tweet and blog.
  • He chooses to write non-fiction, and loves what he does. He doesn't think he has a fiction novelists sensibilities. You have to wish all kinds of misery and pain on your characters, and he doesn't want to do that.
Mr. Larson's talk was very enjoyable, and then we all headed over to have our books signed.

He even did a little drawing in my copy of Isaac's Storm!

Then my friend hopped into a line for Erica Spindler and had her sign my copy of Last Known Victim and took her picture (she and I just waved to one another)... 

...while I hopped over in another line and had Alex Kava sign my copy of Damaged...

I really wanted to hear the talk by Thrity Umrigar, but I missed it. So I had to settle for her just signing my book and posing with me...

Then we sat down and spent some time with author Jane Green, who is promoting her latest book Another Piece of My Heart. After we first sat down, I was telling my friend that Mrs. Green has six children! My friend exclaimed, "Six kids??" At that the little girl in front of us turned around and smiled at us. It turns out she was one of the six! (I proceeded to tell her that my mother is one of twelve kids!)

Then Mrs. Green began speaking, and here are some things of note:
  • I discovered that she is British! I didn't know that!
  • She writes longhand in notebooks.
  • She is amazed that she has written 13 novels! She has a little ADHD in regards to writing, and is always being distracted by life.
  • She used to be a journalist for the Daily Express. She found herself drawn to fictional writing, and left her job and gave herself three months to get a publishing deal.
  • The first person she sent a sample to picked her apart. She was feeling defeated and ready to give up, but a friend encouraged her to not listen to just one person. So she sent a few chapters to 13 agents who handled authors that she loved, and within a week 9 of them had responded that they loved her work!
  • Most of her books are about 100,000 words.
  • Her book The Beach House was born from regular encounters with a 60-ish woman with long white hair, riding a bike near their beach house while smoking a cigarette. She became fascinated with this woman, and created a story in her head about this "midnight pruner" based on this woman.
  • Parade magazine contacted her about interviewing Hugh Grant for them. She said that she thinks probably every romantic male lead in every story she's ever written has probably been inspired in some way by Hugh Grant, and she absolutely loves him! However she was aware that he is known to be a "difficult interview". She wound up telling Parade that she didn't want to "interview" him, but instead would like to "do something" with him and then write about it. She knew he enjoyed golfing, so she thought that they would golf together, but she was told "no", he would not golf with her. So, knowing that he likes to play Snooker (a version of pool or billiards) she suggested that, but was again turned down. Finally she offered to make him lunch, and he accepted. So she contacted a friend that lives in Notting Hill (of all places) and asked to borrow her kitchen and home, and the day went wonderfully! She then became known as something of the "celebrity whisperer" at Parade, and was asked to do an interview with Harrison Ford, who is another "difficult interview". He wasn't interested in having her cook for him, and instead suggested he take her for a ride in his helicopter. She got quite sick during the flight, but she learned that he has a ranch in Jackson, Wyoming and he does search and rescue in his free time there! Apparently he listens to the radio and when he hears of lost or stranded hikers, he'll hop into his helicopter and head out. She thought this totally bizarre, to envision being lost on a mountain and when the helicopter lands you see Harrison Ford has come to rescue you!
So Mrs. Green was quite sweet and pleasant, and we enjoyed our time with her.

After that I grabbed a bite to eat. There aren't many options for a pescatarian when eating at festivals like this. I wound up going with the Mediterranean Rice.

Then I hopped in line to have a couple of books signed by author Lauren Oliver! She was very nice!

On the way out of the festival, we grabbed a strawberry ice to share.

When I got home, I wound up with quite a haul for the day...

Last Known Victim by Erica Spindler, The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar, Damaged by Alex Kava, and The Devil in the White City and Isaac's Storm both by Erik Larson...

...Before I Fall and Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis.

What a great day! I already can't wait until next year!

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