Since most author events live in the virtual realm these days, we’re missing those in-person moments more than ever. To beat the virtual fatigue, we’re reflecting on these encounters—whether magical, shocking, hilarious, or serendipitous. While we wait for in-person events to start back up again, we’ll just be here reminiscing on the times where we met our heroes and our favorite stories felt all the more special.
7 Memorable Author Encounters We’ll Always Cherish
Heather says: It’s a small world, and I know this for a fact because I first met Kristin Harmel as a journalism student at the University of Florida, her alma mater as well. Kristin had come back a couple years after her own graduation to share advice on getting an internship in book publishing, my fondest wish. I actually didn’t end up making my way to New York publishing for a few more years, but now we’re in the same industry! Pretty cool. That little serendipitous connection just underscores my excitement to read each of her new books, like THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS. I can already tell I’ll be moved to tears by this World War II-era novel about a woman raised in the wilderness who uses her hard-won survivalist skills to help a group of Jewish refugees continue evading Nazi soldiers.
The New York Times bestselling author of the “heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism” (People) The Book of Lost Names returns with an evocative coming-of-age World War II story about a young woman who uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything.
After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.
Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel from the #1 internationally bestselling author whose writing has been hailed as “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author), “immersive and evocative” (Publishers Weekly), and “gripping” (Tampa Bay Times).
Joe says: As a young man working as a book buyer for Barnes & Noble in 1998, I volunteered to revive a venerable but lapsed reading series—the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings. For my last event as curator, I arranged for Ursula K. Le Guin to give a reading and Q and A along with Carol Emshwiller. I arrived to find the theater sold out, the first and only sellout I ever had during my tenure. Even my mother travelled in from Yonkers, as I had talked about meeting one of my heroes that night.
Ursula read from her latest book, THE TELLING, Carol from LEAPING MAN HILL. It was exactly the kind of night I hoped it would be, with an engaged pair of brilliant authors and rapt audience. As other folks got books signed, I brought around my mother, who emigrated to the US from Argentina, to meet Ursula—especially because Ursula was in the process of translating Argentine writer Angélica Gorodischer’s KALPA IMPERIAL for Small Beer Press. They spoke about Argentina in English, both being too shy to speak in Spanish for opposing but similar reasons, and I felt fulfilled, satisfied, happy.
Read Joe’s full story here.
In a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophes, George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams have the ability to alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields. Soon George must preserve reality itself as Dr. Haber becomes adept at manipulating George’s dreams for his own purposes.
Emily says: Growing up, I consumed almost every single book by Neal Shusterman and distinctly remember carrying stacks of his books through my local library to check out. Needless to say, when I was at the LA Times Festival of Books a few years ago, I was excited to meet him—although admittedly nervous since his stories meant so much to me; oftentimes when I’ve met authors, I’ve left disappointed when they were different from the heroes I’d built up in my head. But this ended up being one of the best author meetings I’ve ever had. I told Neal Shusterman how important his books were to me, and he seemed genuinely pleased and happy to meet me. EVERLOST, which tells the story of two children who wind up caught between life and death, was always one of my favorites. As the magical limbo world of Everlost expanded throughout the Skinjacker trilogy, I could practically feel my imagination and love of fantasy stories growing.
In this eerie and atmospheric novel, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what might lie in between.
Nick and Allie don’t survive the car accident—and their souls don’t exactly get where they’re supposed to go. Instead, they’re caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous, place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.
When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost souls, Nick feels like he’s found a home, but Allie isn’t satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the “Criminal Art” of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost.
Pronoy says: I had the good fortune of meeting John Irving one quiet afternoon, in the office of my boss, soon after I began working at Simon & Schuster. John Irving showed up in slightly oversize slacks and a tan jacket, his white hair slicked back, his complexion olive-tinted as if he had just come from a long day’s work in the sun. He was calm and jovial, exceptionally polite, but his eyes were dark and brooding. He spoke about the book he was currently working on and the lengths to which he had gone to remain authentic to his plot and characters. Garp, he told us, was a word he saw spray-painted on a Parisian subway car. It was, in fact, a political slogan used to draw attention to the 1968 invasion of Prague, but otherwise, it was monosyllabic and meaningless—as he imagined his character’s name to be.
That night, I started IN ONE PERSON. A story of sexual awakening, in which Shakespeare is as much a presence as homosexual and transsexual desire, and where everyone, regardless of their profession or station in life, is as brilliant as the poets they reference. It’s no wonder that the book is endorsed by Edmund White, who famously said in his Paris Review interview that he sees no problem when every character in a novel is a genius.
Read about Pronoy's full meeting with John Irving here.
Sharon says: I discovered Jill Lepore and her work during my freshman year of college, and her approach to writing about and researching history inspired me immediately. In THE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN, Lepore utilizes Wonder Woman and her eccentric creator, William Moulton Marston, as a jumping-off point to discuss the history of the lie detector, the suffragist movement, and Margaret Sanger and the history of Planned Parenthood. During my junior year, I was fortunate enough to hear Jill Lepore speak at my college, and she delivered an amazing lecture on how narratives and iconography have been produced, reproduced, and altered through US history. I was so inspired by her lecture that afterward I bought a copy of THE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN and she signed it! The book still proudly resides on my bookshelf.
Heather says: Confession: I had never read a book by Tamora Pierce before attending a signing at Books of Wonder in New York City a few years ago. My best friend had been a devoted fan since childhood, so I was merely tagging along as a fellow bookworm. However, somewhere between the reading from her new release (TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER) and the conclusion of an entertaining Q and A, I found myself utterly charmed by the YA fantasy author. Not one but two signed books came home with me that night, and I plunged right in to the first book in the Tortallan Universe, ALANNA. A medieval tale about a teenage girl who yearns to become a knight, ALANNA features an irresistible blend of coming-of-age drama, adventure, and romance that readers of all ages can enjoy.
From Tamora Pierce, the first book in the Song of the Lioness Quartet, honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award.
“From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.”
In a time when girls are forbidden to be warriors, Alanna of Trebond wants nothing more than to be a knight of the realm of Tortall. So she finds a way to switch places with her twin brother, Thom. Disguised as a boy, Alanna begins her training as a page at the palace of King Roald. But the road to knighthood, as she discovers, is not an easy one. Alanna must master weapons, combat, and magic, as well as polite behavior, her temper, and even her own heart.
Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins—one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and make her a legend in the land.
Sue says: I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Marianne Wiggins many years ago shortly after she published EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN, a beautiful and mesmerizing novel set in 20th century America in the years between the great world wars, that became a National Book Award Finalist. Meeting an author of a book I love is always a thrill but meeting Marianne was more than that, it made me a devoted reader. She went on to write THE SHADOW CATCHER, about the American West based on the well-known photographer Edward Curtis, which I also loved, devouring every word. But then much to my dismay I had to wait 15 years for her new work, PROPERTIES OF THIRST, and it was totally worth the wait.
Set at the beginning of World War II, PROPERTIES OF THIRST starts on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed and from there unwinds a complex story centered around family, dedication to country and duty, the meaning of honor, the tragedy of racial injustice, prejudice and the true meaning of love.
Fifteen years after the publication of Evidence of Things Unseen, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins returns with a novel destined to be an American classic: a sweeping masterwork set during World War II about the meaning of family and the limitations of the American Dream.
Rockwell “Rocky” Rhodes has spent years fiercely protecting his California ranch from the LA Water Corporation. It is here where he and his beloved wife Lou raised their twins, Sunny and Stryker, and it is here where Rocky has mourned Lou in the years since her death.
As Sunny and Stryker reach the cusp of adulthood, the country teeters on the brink of war. Stryker decides to join the fight, deploying to Pearl Harbor not long before the bombs strike. Soon, Rocky and his family find themselves facing yet another incomprehensible tragedy.
Rocky is determined to protect his remaining family and the land where they’ve loved and lost so much. But when the government decides to build a Japanese-American internment camp next to the ranch, Rocky realizes that the land faces even bigger threats than the LA watermen he’s battled for years. Complicating matters is the fact that the idealistic Department of the Interior man assigned to build the camp, who only begins to understand the horror of his task after it may be too late, becomes infatuated with Sunny and entangled with the Rhodes family.
Properties of Thirst is a novel that is both universal and intimate. It is the story of a changing American landscape and an examination of one of the darkest periods in this country’s past, told through the stories of the individual loves and losses that weave together to form the fabric of our shared history. Ultimately, it is an unflinching distillation of our nation’s essence—and a celebration of the bonds of love and family that persist against all odds.
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