Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Elin Hilderbrand in Houston

When I noted Elin Hilderbrand, one of my wife's favorite authors, was going to have an event at Houston's Blue Willow Bookshop celebrating the publication of WHAT HAPPENS IN PARADISE, I faced a choice: tell her ahead of time or just surprise her with a secret trip.

Blue Willow Bookshop is an independent bookstore in west Houston that is like the TV show Cheers: when you walk through the doors, you are among friends. We were told to arrive early because Hilderbrand can fill a room. My wife, a jewelry artist (betojdesigns.com), got the biggest and happiest surprise when owner Valerie greeted us...while wearing a pair of my wife's handmade earrings. A great night already made better.

The good folks at Blue Willow weren't kidding about the expected crowd. The small neighborhood bookstore filled rapidly. We arrived almost thirty minutes ahead of time and we snagged one of the last pair of seats side by side. We struck up a wonderful conversation with a woman named Elizabeth. We talked about Hilderbrand's books and other favorite authors, but as 7:00 pm rolled around, it was show time.

Hilderbrand spoke about why she focuses on what she calls beach books. If you've seen the covers of her books, you'll know what I'm talking about and will almost instantly recognize them as hers. She told a story about her childhood in a blended family, spending summers up on the beaches in the northeast. Sadly, her father's death stopped those wonderful times. She had a realization one day that she couldn't get her father back, but she could recapture those summers. Thus, her beach books.

The Q and A portion was also equally as good, with other folks asking the very questions I'd have asked, which for a writer, is a process question. Hilderbrand writes her books chronologically, shifting viewpoints as she goes. On a question regarding writer's block, I was pleasantly surprised to know she does the same thing as me: re-read the manuscript from the beginning until you've reached your stopping point. Generally, what has blocked you will work itself out.

Speaking of process, she completed her summer 2020 book yesterday in a hotel room, proof that professional fiction writers always are working.

I was also impressed Hilderbrand answered the perennial question: what is your favorite book. I have my own answer. So did she: BLUE BISTRO. Judging by the audible sounds of affirmation among the gathered crowd, it sounded like she wasn't alone.

Guess which book of Hilderbrand's I'll be reading first.

The line to get the new book signed was handled well, and my wife got to meet one of her favorite authors. All in all, it was a wonderful night. Thanks to all the folks at Blue Willow, Hilderbrand for her tour, and readers in general for always turning out for a live author event.

Oh, and if you're wondering if I told my wife ahead of time about the event, well she doesn't have a Facebook account and I don't think she's on Blue Willow's email list (I am), but I couldn't tell for sure. I ended up telling her about it and ordering the new book for her. It was the better decision because the anticipation built up in the days and hours leading to the event.

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