Taking a break from The Storms of Denali book tour, Chris Olsen and I hiked to the top of Mt. Washington, encountering high winds and gray clouds. It was very satisfying to reach the top. Later, I gave a slide show at Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch, a wonderful spot for a reading. Thanks again to the Appalachian Mountain Club for the invite!
McCall Public Library was a great venue for my first reading in Idaho. The weather was sunny and warm outside, with jet skis zipping over Lake McCall, a sparkling sapphire of a lake in northern Idaho. With all the the sunny weather and recreation opportunities, would anyone show up for the reading?
I set up my slide projector on a computer table. Librarian Lida Clouser pulled down a screen for the slide show. She brought her husband and kids, who sat in the front row. One of her sons told her that he wanted to be either a writer or a climber when he grew up. Guess what, she said, the guy giving the talk tonight is both! The pressure was on.
Gradually people filed in, sitting down on the overstuffed chairs. Chatting with them, I discovered than one man had attempted Denali and many read climbing literature., so I knew they would love The Storms of Denali. By the time I started my reading, over 20 people were in attendance.
After the reading and slide show, I asked for questions. This is quickly becoming my favorite part of the book tour, as I get a sense on how people are responding to The Storms of Denali.
“Can you comment on the ethics of a husband and father going on a dangerous climb?” a woman in the front row asked.
“That was one of the questions I wanted to explore in the book,” I said, thinking of what I discuss in my writing classes through The Writer’s Workshop. “The narrator, John, is a husband and father, and he feels a lot of guilt about being gone and away from his family, but he still goes on the trip. His climbing partner Wyn doesn’t see any conflict with marriage and parenthood and difficult climbing routes. The two of them argue about this in the course of the book. In the end, I think readers will understand what I think about this issue, but in a novel you don’t want to make an obvious pronouncement; you want to embody it through the characters. You want readers to discover it as if on their own.”
The answer seemed to satisfy her. I looked over at the boy who was in the front row, holding my ice hammer. What did he think about the issue? The enthusiasm for climbing shone in his eyes. The summit seemed in his sights, no matter what the ethics or obstacles.
Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane is the central hub of the city’s reading and writing community. A thriving independent book store, Auntie’s invited me to read on Aug. 9. My fabulous publicist Andrea Dunlop helped me get coverage in two of the local papers, thanks to Rich Landers of the Spokesman-Review and Ted McGregor of the Inlander, as well as an interview on KPBX. Even with this coverage, I wasn’t sure if I would get a good crowd.
But soon, people started to trickle in, including Doug Sowder, my brother in law, and his wife Patty and then friend Duane Carlson. Slowly, the room began to fill until some 20 people were in attendance, a nice turnout for a reading, with lots of lively questions, and many books purchased. Long live independent bookstores like Auntie’s!
I’m always nervous before an interview. I like to arrive at least a half hour early, just to make sure I wouldn’t be late.
As I entered the Spokane Public Radio KPBX studio, host Verne Windham shook hands with me, his right hand curled up like a claw.
I shook his hand, trying not to stare at it. “Great to meet you.”
Then Verne opened his hand, revealing all healthy fingers. “Just like your character,” he said, referring to John Walker, the narrator of The Storms of Denali, who lost fingers to frostbite on the climb.
I laughed at the gag, which made me relax. I was keyed up in advance of our interview, but now calmed down.
Verne had read the entire novel and obviously loved it. It dovetailed perfectly with the music he was cueing up, including Alan Hovhaness’s symphony Mysterious Mountain. Interviews with such thoughtful, insightful folks like him are always a pleasure on a book tour. We talked for 20 minutes about climbing, writing and how I put the book together, a thoroughly satisfying conversation. I will put link up to the interview shortly. Thanks again, Verne!