Perhaps not in lights, but it was definitely my name on the marquee in front of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library in Kerrville last Saturday. Blondie took a picture, so we have the evidence. It seems that they like to do author talks on Saturday afternoons, and it would appear that Phillippa Gregory or Diana Galbadon already had busy schedules – so the librarian in charge of author-wrangling emailed me to ask if I would come and talk about the Trilogy. Of course I said agreed; I’d much rather drive an hour and talk with a group of people about my books, or local history, or the vagaries of 19th century frontier Texas then sit at a small table in the front of a big-box bookstore and watch shoppers carefully avoiding me for an hour or so. There’s just no contest there – and frankly, doing a talk and answering questions is much the better way to build my local fan base anyway.
This talk turned out to be for an audience of about a dozen or fifteen, in the basement meeting room of the library, which – since it is built on a steep hillside overlooking the river, looked out on a stone-paved terrace and a line of trees at the edge. I’d feel such an idiot, standing at the podium and talking to such a small group, so we circled the chairs and sat down. As it also turned out, most of the audience hadn’t been able to read any of the Trilogy yet, not even the librarian. Although the library does have a single copy of all three books – they have hardly spent any time at the library and the reserve list for them is lengthy. Gratifyingly, as soon as they return, out they fly again! Excellent news for me, and perhaps they might even consider buying another set, if Adelsverein is going to be that popular.
For my talk, I did a brief overview of the entrepreneur scheme, the grand plans and bungling that doomed the Mainzer Adelsverein, outlined how I came to be interested in such a relatively obscure historical event, and what I did for research, and how I really had to make up very little regarding the various historical events that I touched on. Amazingly, most of the people present – just about all of them from Kerrville or close by - had not heard much about either the Adelsverein, or the travails in the Hill Country during the Civil War, so much of I had planned to talk about was a) new and b) interesting. All in all, a pleasant afternoon, well spent – although we did have to hustle back to San Antonio in time for me to get to work – in my ‘author’ tailored suit and well-chosen accessories, which proved something of an astonishment for the Saturday evening co-workers, who are used to seeing me slop around in something considerably less professional-appearing.
On Tuesday evening, with my computer returned to me and functioning more or less normally (fried mother-board and CPU, but all docs retrieved and saved – whew!) I followed up the library talk with a book-club meeting, on-line and through an organization called Accessible World, which provides books to the vision-impaired. Nan Hawthorne, another author and IAG member, had finagled me into putting the Trilogy into the Accessible World library, and Book One was the book to read for Accessible World’s historical novel book club. So that made another very gratifying hour, linked into their internet ‘conference room’, with about fifteen people who had read “The Gathering” and loved it, loved the characters, and had lots of detailed questions about what was real, what were the character’s motivations, and why had I written things in the way I had. Now, that was an hour that went past very quickly. It’s caviar to the writer’s soul, hearing from people who have read your books and are passionately interested. It makes up in a small way for the months and days, spent alone but for the world that you have created in your head, when you hear from people beginning to share that world and to become as engaged and interested in that world as you are.
And as of this morning, and possibly thanks to a wonderful write-up from David Foster at Chicagoboyz – the Amazon ranking for all three books of the Trilogy was at and around 150,000, which is possibly the highest it has been at since all three were released for sale in early December. So it appears that I am a few steps closer to being a famous ‘arthur’!