Monday, April 20, 2015

THE ANIMALS, Christian Kiefer, and Author Events

Last Thursday, I went to my local Books, Inc. to see Christian Kiefer speak about his latest book, The Animals. It got me thinking about the different reasons people go to author events. I've never been much for sitting and being read to, and the only books I generally have signed are those that are my very favorites (if I ever have the opportunity) or written by people I know.

I heard about Kiefer's book early on, and while it sounded right up my alley, I was on high alert about the animal bent. Sure, I come across books with violence done to or about animals, and while I don't like it, I lump it. I even respect it when done for reasons that work with or add to the plot. But I don't often seek out a book I already know has such scenes without knowing more.

Then my friend Shannon over at River City Reading wrote a review about the book, which you can read here. It sparked a good discussion and I'm sure the review is fantastic and you should read it. I did not read it, because if I ended up reading the book I wanted to come to it fresh for any review I might write of my own. But Shannon told me she thought it was squarely in my wheelhouse. Curiosity double-piqued.

So why did I go to Christian's event? Here's my thing. I don't go to author events to hear about a book. I don't go to hear a reading. I don't go to get an autograph. All of those things are likely to happen, but that's not why I go. I go to learn about the person. What was going to push me over the edge to reading The Animals wasn't going to be what Christian read to me, it was going to be Christian.

Although there are certainly exceptions to my premise, I'm a fairly firm believer that interesting people with great senses of humor write the kind of book I like to read.* That doesn't mean their books are necessarily funny. Most of what I read is pretty dark and gritty. But those are my people. The wicked smart, the totally nerdy, the utterly engaging, the ones that make me want to laugh and break out the bourbon and sit around a scarred wood table and have a chat. In life I like to surround myself with people smarter and funnier than I am. Why would I want something different in my books?

(*Within my general reading areas. No smart and funny author is going to get me to read dinosaur porn. It's a thing, look it up - or not. Though now that I think about it, if it was FUNNY dino porn, oh never mind.)

When Christian was done reading and speaking, I couldn't get my copy of The Animals signed fast enough. It was a really diverse and interesting reading/discussion. Christian talked about his love for long sentences (big points scored) and meticulous drafting (30-40 drafts!) to get things just as he likes them as a Faulkner-obsessive.

We talked about his fascination with our philosophical centers, who we are, what gives us purpose, makes us better people, makes us tick. I asked him if anything in particular brought about the use of animal rescue as a backdrop for his story, and he told me about a visit he made to the Animal Ark, a wildlife sanctuary and education center in Reno, Nevada.

While visiting, he was in the middle of what he called "a failed draft" of The Animals, and it struck him that a place like the Ark was where his protagonist needed to be. That's how well he knows his character and his character's center. That's a character/author connection I want to read.

Smart? Well, he reads Martin Heidegger. For fun even, maybe? Hell, I can barely make sense of Heidegger's Wiki page. We talked about free will and "umwelt" (the self-centered world; thanks, Google!). Christian mentioned that his next book deals with cartography (something I didn't have to Google, huzzah!) and he'll dive deep into research on that subject as well.

Funny? Yep. We talked about stupid decisions and at some point a small boy went running down the main aisle of the bookstore yelling "Ahhhhhhhhhh!" To which Christian responded without missing a beat by raising a fist in the air and repeating "Ahhhhhhhhh!" From that we learned about his six sons.

I was fascinated by Christian's bird tattoos. I'm a lover of birds (heck, I have a dog named Bird) and the stories behind tattoos, and we got a chance to chat about them briefly. They all relate to his family, his wife and sons.

This is why I go to author events. I don't go often, but when I go and get to meet a person who is that smart and engaging and can still relate to anyone and everyone in the audience who asks a question and do so with grace and humor, I call that a total win. I couldn't tell you much about what Christian read from his book, but I can tell you I bought it and I can't wait to read it . And the one after that as well.
If you get a chance to go see Christian, do so. He's also a poet and a musician and wrote a soundtrack to go along with The Animals. It's called What You Have Come for Is Death, and it can be found on iTunes along with his other music. The rest of the tour can be found here on Christian's website, If you live in New Mexico, Colorado or California you're in luck.

Why do you go to author events? Alternatively, why do you not?


Shannon @ River City Reading said...

I'm with you. My indie is about a three minute drive from my house and has events several nights a week, but I'll only go if it's a book I've read and really enjoyed or an author I'm interested in. So glad to hear this was such a great night - can't wait to hear what you think!

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

I was going to say how super cool it is to have your indie so close, and mine is probably three minutes farther. Sometimes it just feels like an hour away. It was a great event, he's a fun and interesting guy. If I didn't have a 700-page dead sea scroll to get through, I might read it next. :)

Julianne - Outlandish Lit said...

Wow, this event sounds amazing. I tend to only go to events of authors I know, but I should change that! He seems super cool and interesting, despite his hat. I really, really want to read The Animals now.

Christian Kiefer said...

Good, Julianne! Read it! :-)

About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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