A few things come immediately to mind when I think of the highlights of meeting Guy. I was first impressed and charmed by his gentility. He had few demands, and seemed energized despite being near the end of his book tour. And this guy tours in a hardcore way; long stretches in airports can be dehumanizing. He shook our hands and I could sense a strong degree of integrity, even through my fangirl fugue. He was quick to reassure me when I muttered something about the introduction I wrote (which completely hinged on this reoccurring joke involving a customer exclaiming "Dude, I CRIED", when he first read The Summer Tree). The whole thing seemed to go okay, but the true gem of the evening was Guy just...speaking. About his book, about his research, about the writing process, about the industry as a whole. I was particularly moved by his gratitude towards his fans, his publisher and independent bookstores.
I wrote furiously to capture it, but it went something like this (with apologies to Guy): Independent bookstores are an endangered species undergoing extraordinary pressures. Throughout my tour, at my request, every event in Canada and the US has been at an independent bookstore. Your buying my book through Words Worth Books and your attendance tonight is playing a direct role in supporting and promoting independent business. So thank you to the bookstore for hosting tonight's event.
I experienced a swell of bookseller pride. I was humbled by the care and time he took thanking everyone involved before he began speakng about his book.
When he DID begin his reading, he read from the very beginning of Under Heaven. And, there's an interesting backstory for me here. The following two passages are constantly quoted by the publisher and by reviewers when describing the book, and it became kind of rote in my head. I totally had them memorized:
You gave a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor.
The world could bring you poison in a jeweled cup, or surprising gifts. Sometimes you didn't know which of them it was...
I recognized them as soundbytes, promising drama. Marketing-saavy choices.
But when Guy read them, within the context of the story, in his charming, mesmerizing way, they resonated. The passages took on the quality of your favourite song repeated at just the right moment.
Another great moment was when he gave his definition of a story: interesting things happening to interesting people, told in an interesting way. Or when he spoke of the point of research for any work of fiction, which is to make it invisible to the reader within the story. The writer needs to know 5 to 10 times as much as will actually make it into the book.
Speaking with people and watching them walk away from the signing table after their turn, everyone seemed kind of floored to have spoken with him, shook his hand, had a question answered, just being in his presence. There was an energy to the whole evening that I really dug.
Thanks to everyone who made it!
AND, Guy left us with a signed galley edition of Under Heaven which we'd love to give away! Simply enter your e-mail below.