My Favorite Book Signing Event: Alex George, Author of A GOOD AMERICAN (And Giveaway!)
I have a new favorite book signing event. Alex George, author of A Good American, came to town last Thursday night and it will forever be one I will treasure forever. Rainy Day Books brought the English bred, Midwest
stranded transplant author to town to discuss his new book. Vivien does a wonderful job with her events because she conducts interviews rather than has readings, which I prefer. This format gives readers a great behind the scenes view of the author’s journey to publication and the book’s inspiration.
Speaking of inspiration, Alex’s came from his own descendants. His great-great grandparents eloped and fled England for New Zealand and many years later, his mother left New Zealand to live in England. His own journey to America provided him with first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be an outsider. As soon as Alex begins to speak, he gets the “you ain’t from around these part, are ya?” look. Being an outsider is a universal theme most people can relate to and that was his way of “writing what you know.”
Music is a huge part of A Good American and that is no surprise after learning Alex is a huge fan of jazz music. The backdrop of New Orleans is where the main characters Fredrick and Jette land upon coming to America, not chosen by accident. Alex told the audience that immigrants coming to America via New York was a bit cliché so he thought of something different. I have just begun reading the story but here is how the characters “decided” on New Orleans:
Fredrick approached the ticket booth clutching a fistful of notes. He pointed to the waiting ship. “Are there still tickets available for that ship?” he asked.
The clerk nodded. “We have some for the third-class cabin.”
“And it’s headed for New York?”
“The Copernicus? No sir. It’s going south. New Orleans, Louisiana.”
Frederick frowned. “That’s in America? The United States?”
“Of course,” answered the clerk.
Frederick was doubtful. “I’ve never heard of it.”
Jette squeezed his arm. “New York, New Orleans, what’s the difference? They’re both New. That’s good enough.”
Being an immigrant himself, Alex wanted to tell the story of an outsider, a universal theme most people can relate to. It took him five years to write the story since he was working full-time as a lawyer, having to rise early in the morning to pound out some words before heading off to the job that paid the bills. He had already published a couple of books in the UK, so he sent the finished manuscript to his agent in London as well as Emma Sweeney, his agent in the United States. The rejections came back one after another, including one from Amy Einhorn saying she loved the first two-thirds but after that, eh. If you don’t know, Amy Einhorn Books is an imprint of Penguin and carries some heavy weight. She joined Penguin and the first title she published was the bestseller, The Help. This feedback was HUGE! So he rewrote, actually put an ending in that he had already written in his head, and resubmitted to her. He waited, and waited, and waited some more. He ended up at a party for another writer friend in New York and Amy was also there. She sort of remembered him and said she would read his resubmitted novel. This is a two-fold phenomenon (or is that phenomena?-eh, whatever), folks. One, she sort of remembered him which wasn’t a lie. Two, she said she would read his novel and she did. THAT is a publishing miracle.
One of my favorite quotes from him was “Wear your research lightly.” Just because you have read three tomes about corn yields doesn’t mean your readers need to know it, too. He also said something so perfectly in relation to writing historical fiction. I wish I had written it down word for word but essentially he said he had to be careful when laying down his story’s tapestry atop the landscape of history. We have to respect the facts yet figure out a way to weave our story in with it. What a perfect way to describe writing historical fiction.
After the interview, I purposely got in the back of the line to have my book signed. Because it felt like we were old pals, I gave him a huge hug, thrilled beyond belief to finally meet him. We have been Twitter friends for a while-whomever introduced us, thank you!-and it was surreal to talk in person. I stuck around afterward, totally feeling like a groupie, and chatted with Roger from Rainy Day while Alex finished up official author business with Vivien. We went for a bite to eat and talked about writing, family, Twitter (we gushed about all of you) and had a ball. It was wonderful, enlightening, and just like talking to an old friend. Alex in person is like he is online: gracious, charming, funny, and humble.
If you get the chance, please, PLEASE go see him. From what I have heard so far, the book will make you laugh and cry, which happen to be my requirements for a great book. The reviews have been fantastic and People Magazine will be publishing theirs any day now. Google his name and you will find great interviews and write-ups all over.
Because I want you all to read this book very badly, I am giving away a signed copy of his book. I will send you one directly from Rainy Day Books, my local independent bookstore. All you have to do is leave a comment on my blog, retweet the link to this post, or share it on Facebook. You will get an entry in the drawing for each one. Drawing ends at midnight CST on Thursday, March 1st. I will announce the winner on Friday’s post!
While you’re at it, wish Alex a happy birthday! Today is his birthday!