Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Revealing Encounter

“Have you ever read anything by her? She’s really good.”

A stranger said this to me last week, while I was browsing shelves of books at our local thrift store. She pointed to one as she spoke – The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton.

I picked it up, opened to the dust jacket, started to read the description. “No, I haven’t,” I said.

“I’d buy that one, but I’ve already read it,” she told me. “You’ll like it.”

The woman telling me this is mid-forties, polished, professional. Wearing a nice outfit, flawless makeup, hair that obviously cost more than a Wal-Mart cut’n’style (which looks great on her). Not someone I’d typically meet in a social situation – me, in jeans, a black dragon tee shirt and a gray hoodie, no makeup, hair that hasn’t been cut or styled since high school, nails painted black, sneakers with skulls on them. But put both of us in front of a shelf of books, and suddenly we have something in common. We like to read. And all readers can find something to talk about.

I thanked her, she smiled and continued shopping. I bought the book (along with a Nora Roberts, a Sidney Sheldon, and Relic, because I’ve seen the movie and have been wondering what the book is like. Hey, it’s a thrift store. I gorge on books there).

This lovely woman clarified something for me. What she did for Kate Morton is what I want. More than anything, I want people who have never met me to approach strangers in bookstores (or thrift stores), point to my book, and say, “Have you ever read anything by her? She’s really good.” If I take away nothing else from my writing career (and here it is, just getting started), I want to excite someone with my stories, and make that social-niche-transcending connection happen over my books.

Has a stranger ever recommended a book to you? If so, did you end up buying it? What’s the most interesting, most unusual or best book recommendation you’ve ever received? I’d love to hear your stories!


Marta Stephens said...

“ The woman telling me this is mid-forties …We like to read. And all readers can find something to talk about.”
This is a powerful paragraph! I can easily see the stark differences between you two and yet, see you both stand side by side talking about your favorite books.

I have a story for you that in a way is somewhat along the same lines. I was getting out of the elevator at work yesterday just as a woman stepped in. I’ve never met her, have never seen her in our building before and I’ve been here since 1998. I didn’t think anything about it when she said, “Hi, how are you?” (We’re a pretty friendly bunch at BSU.). But then she asked how my books were going. After taking a second to process her question (I was a little stunned to be hear an unexpected question, from a stranger, at an unusual place and time) I told her my writing was going well.

Before we could talk further, she got off the elevator at the next floor. There I was left to wonder who she was, had she read my novels and who had recommended them to her.

Life is pretty grand sometimes.

s.w. vaughn said...

Marta, that is awesome! I would've had such chills. How cool that word gets around about your books, without you even knowing about it! Hey, your books are worth talking about! :-)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I love this. It is amazing how different we are, yet so similar.

I was sitting on my deck, looked across to my neighbours and saw she was reading my book. I immediately dropped to my knees and crawled back into the house. The fear and excitement was overwhelming.

I live in a small community. One day I stopped at the post office in Vanderhoof to mail some books. The postmaster spotted me, came out into the front and introduced me to the other patrons in the room. My face turned 50 shades of red. I kept hearing my mother's voice in my head, "Say thank you, Joylene."

We don't write our books with these incidents in mind, but when they happen, it's surreal and exhilarating. My grandmother used to say, "Goosebump City."

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Thanks for sharing this very interesting moment in your life, S.W. I enjoyed the "scene" and especially liked hearing about what you were wearing. Not in a weird way, but because those sneakers with skulls and the black dragon tee shirt are so YOU. LOL. Loved it!

Because I live in a small town, and because I've been in the papers and done book signings, book clubs and library events a lot, I'm often approached by folks who've read my stuff. It's such a thrill for me - they look at me with stars in their eyes as they walk down the aisles in Wegmans, slowly approaching (LOL, at me?) and tentatively ask if I'm me. Of course it doesn't hurt that I have my photo on the backs of some of my first books. Ha. I do love that feeling - it's a real high. Then of course, I feel slightly ridiculous and unworthy, too. Ha.

I didn't exactly answer your question. Most of my book referrals these days have been online and not in real life. I love meeting authors online and then getting their books. Sometimes it's a joyous experience, and the other times... well, we won't talk about those. LOL.

s.w. vaughn said...

Joylene, I love that phrase - Goosebump City. I think I would've crawled back in the house, too!

Aaron, that's the perfect way to describe it - high and ridiculous, all at once. LOL. I get most of my recommends online too, which is why this little experience was so weird! :-)