I am still on cloud nine. Actually, a friend accused me of levitating in one of the pictures I posted on Facebook. I had the opportunity to meet my favorite living author this week. Part of the reason this is such a big deal is because I have been hooked on Victorian literature since middle school, and most of my favorite authors died long before I was born. As a teenager, when all of my friends were crushing on actors and musicians, I was lost in a book, dreaming of fictional characters. So, let me back up and tell the story from the start…
I spent years reading British novels from the 1800s for fun. Then I decided to make a career of my love of literature and spent seven years reading books required by my professors. Then I spent another five years teaching British literature and reading and rereading the literature I was teaching. It wasn’t until after my strokes that I started reading contemporary books, about the last five years. Many of these new books I really liked; however, I missed all the details and descriptions of the Romantic and Victorian periods. I really do care what the décor, clothing, and scenery looks, smells, and sounds like. I want to feel like I am in the story myself. Most modern books are so focused on action and character development, and afraid of boring the reader, that I never really feel like I have been part of the story.
Then I read The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I got lost in the story—all three stories. This Australian authoress wove three stories into one that included the past and the present, fairy tales, gothic elements, mystery, a bit of romance, and descriptions that allowed me to get lost in another time and place. And then I did something I had never done for a living author—I googled her. I had to know more about this Kate Morton. I learned from her website that she had also written The House at Riverton and The Distant Hours, that she also had a background in Victorian Literature, that she also has two sons, and the similarities continued. I promptly “liked” her Facebook page and read the other books. I felt a connection to this woman I had never met, who lived on the other side of the planet, through her words and imagination.
Then I saw the posts about her fourth book, The Secret Keeper, and that she would be doing a book tour for the U.S. release, and would be in Houston. Houston! That’s over four hours from me, and I don’t drive since the strokes. I was so disappointed that she would be so close, yet so far from me. I pouted about it a few days, and then started to think of options. My husband and sons couldn’t take me because of work and school schedules. I checked Greyhound, Amtrak, and the airlines, but each was a bit outside my discretionary budget or physical ability, not to mention my family had serious (and to be fair, legitimate) concerns about my traveling that far with only my service dog. I had about given up hope when I mentioned my frustration to a friend who shares my literary and writerly passions. In jest I asked her if she was interested in going on a road trip with me. Imagine my elation when she said yes! Not only was the answer yes, but her son donated his travel points from his job so we could spend the night in a luxury hotel in Houston.
Our road trip was earlier this week. We drove to Houston Tuesday, checked into the hotel at 4:00, rested a little and freshened up, enjoyed a lovely Oktoberfest-themed dinner in the concierge lounge at the hotel, and then went to my first book signing. I am sure it has ruined me for all others. The Blue Willow Bookshop hosted the event at The Forest Club. Everything was lovely and expertly organized. We checked in and received our books and tickets. There was wine and hors d’oeuvres during the meet and greet time. We found seats in the back where Gizmo (my service dog) wouldn’t be in anyone’s way, and I wouldn’t be in the direct line of any camera flashes which could trigger a migraine and ruin my evening. Thankfully, there were no camera flashes.
At 7:30 p.m., the 90 member audience settled in to hear Kate talk about The Secret Keeper, her writing process, and related anecdotes. Then she took questions from the audience. Kate was informative, relaxed, interesting, humorous, and very real. After all the questions were answered, the book signing began. I was so grateful to have a chance to visit with Kate, and that my friend took pictures for me.
My night ended back at the hotel with a late night snack from room service, and a walk with Gizmo. The next morning we enjoyed a lovely breakfast buffet in the concierge lounge, packed up, and headed home.
This was my first road trip since my strokes, and my first book signing ever. Everything exceeded my expectations. Should I ever be blessed to be a best-selling author, I hope I am as kind and thoughtful of my readers as Kate Morton is. But today, most of all, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have recovered so well from the strokes, and that I have amazing friends, and that one particular friend is crazy enough to take me and Gizmo on a road trip. Thank you, Marsha!