Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dan Simmons is a neat-o guy

I love a good book signing I do. Especially when you get an author who clearly loves his subject matter, loves the craft of writing, and enjoys discussing all the above. On Sunday, February 22nd, I had the pleasure of hearing Dan Simmons talk about his new novel Drood, his fictionalized account of Charles Dickens's terrible brush with death - the 1865 Staplehurst rail accident - and the strange happenings that followed. Was Drood a real person? Did Dickens really meet him? Or, was Drood only an imagined horror?

One of the things I love about book signings/readings is the insight into the mind of an author, and Dan Simmons certainly did not disappoint. If anything, he was incredibly forthcoming about his book and the particulars of writing, the research involved in the telling of a fictionalized true story, etc. For example: why choose Wilkie Collins to be your narrator? Simple. By all accounts, he was nuts. How fun for a writer is that?

Some seriously exciting news that came from Mr. Simmons on Sunday, too: the tantalizing promise of Guillermo Del Toro, of Pan’s Labyrinth fame, signing on to turn Drood into a film. Yes, the book is that spooky. Can you imagine how spooky the film, in Del Toro’s hands, will be? I dare you to try.

Wow. Getting’ shivers already.

The tragedy was a deadly life-altering event for Dickens, who never managed to escape the horrors of the experience. In fact, after the Staplhurst train wreck, he never completed another novel to his name, choosing instead to travel the countryside (which was incredibly nerve wracking) and present his work theatrically. His last great work, Our Mutual Friend, was in manuscript form at the time of the crash - indeed, it was in his coat pocket, which he had to retrieve from the wreckage of his rail car.

Lastly, I gotta say – for a Sunday afternoon book signing, and an OSCAR Sunday afternoon book signing at that, 60+ people turned out, and it was fabulous. As Mr. Simmons mentioned to me later, after the final signature had been penned, and the last fan photo had been snapped, “I love independents. You can tell the difference between signing at a big box chain store and a local indie –the experience is just different.”

Hurrah for Dan Simmons.

And for independent bookstores, too.

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