After a Twitter exchange with Laurie Grassi, Books Editor of Chatelaine Magazine, it seemed time to confirm that the worldwide launch event for River of Stars will involve an onstage conversation with her and a reading (and signing) on April 4th, at 7 PM, at the splendid Toronto Reference Library. No charge, all welcome, though I will say (cautiously) that to be sure of good seats come early if you can.
Laurie and I had drinks together a few weeks back, meeting for the first time. We made each other laugh, confirmed a bunch of loved books in common (Bel Canto, yes!) and she was gracious about one or two of her favs I don’t love (may have been laying an ambush, of course). I’m looking forward to chatting with her on the 4th. I like conversations at events like this, livelier than just standing up front alone, and I enjoy having another mind, perspective, sense of humour to bounce off, and good questions make me think.
Of course if I start thinking on stage, who knows where we’ll end up.
I’ve had some memorable launches, could almost, with enough time and memories dredged up, do a chronicle of them. We used to use the library at Hart House on the University of Toronto campus, and I loved that room (anyone remember being there for a launch?). It had very personal associations for me, as I used to skip law school classes to read the New Yorker and Harpers in that library. The room was warm, had deep leather couches for some lucky attendees, others squeezed in on the floor close to me, for the last couple of events they left the doors open to let people in the hallway hear and even ran a sound system out there … and then Penguin and the university organizers ran afoul of fire regulations for numbers in the room and we had to move to the theatre space in Hart House, which I never liked as much.
Venue makes a huge difference, as any actor or singer will tell you. The intimacy of the Hart House library made me (and I suspect a lot of the audience) feel very differently than we did when shifting to the big theatre stage and raked seating. I like the Reference Library setting we’re using in April, we were there for Under Heaven three years ago. The atrium space can hold a large audience, but is very wide, so people aren’t pushed way, way back. Somehow that feels better.
I’ve read on tour in a pub, twice, in Ottawa, for Perfect Books. That was fun. A single malt at one’s elbow does nice things at an event, yes. And people are …well, sometimes slightly different at the signing stage, after a couple of Stellas or Cosmopolitans. I’ve also read in churches a few times. No, I didn’t tailor the subject matter to the location, but neither did I have a single malt.
Oh. Wait. I lied. A church in Calgary (I think) was where I read with a head cold I’d reported online, and a reader came up in line at the end, crouched by my signing table, took out a glass and showed me, discreetly, two scotches from which to choose. He then poured me a good, ‘curative’ shot. That is a reader.
I am attaching, for the pure nostalgia of it, a photo Martin Springett digitized, from the launch of The Darkest Road – in 1986! It shows Mike Hale, later a novelist, who was also a graphic designer and did the layout for the trilogy, Martin, who did the three covers, Sue Reynolds, also a novelist later, who did the map for Fionavar, a somewhat younger version of me, and John Rose, the founder/owner of Bakka Books in Toronto where we had the celebration. Yes, I smile looking at it. Yes, it makes me feel old. There’s a line I love in John Fowles’ Daniel Martin: “Ban the green from your life, and what are you left with?’