Have you ever attended a book signing? If so, was it an individual book signing or a group one? I’ve had the pleasure of attending both types of autograph events. What a thrill it was for me to meet Ginger Rogers when she signed her autobiography at a Borders bookstore. As of now, I’ve only participated in these events from a reader’s standpoint. I’ve listened to stories from authors about signings. One story has remained with me (but apologies for being unable to attribute the source-I can only remember the story, not the author). There was once a group signing with many authors signing their books. A lady approached the author and told her she had heard about her from a number of her friends and would like to buy one of her books. Which one would the author recommend? And, by the way, the reader’ll be reading the book in a corner of a hospital room because her husband has cancer. The author closed her book cover. She reached for the woman’s hands and told her to wait for another time to buy her book because one of her characters had just received a cancer diagnosis. The author graciously told her to head to the author three seats over because that writer’s book would be perfect for her at this time in her life. That story lodged into my head, and I’ve thought of it several times over the past year. But this week this story hit home. This time it was personal.
We’ve all read books that have a character we recognize from our lives: a cancer survivor, a rambunctious toddler, a tough boss. We’ve all read books that might have a storyline similar to something we’ve faced at one point or another in our life: a job upheaval, a sudden move, the first kiss. Some books set in other realms or universes have themes to which we can relate: helping a friend, fighting an inner battle, searching for truth. But usually these characters or themes relate to someone we’ve known in our past or something that might have occurred a while back. Rarely does a sentence hit us in the gut because it relates to a battle we are currently facing. As I was reading The Rancher’s Reunion, I read this exact type of sentence.
In the book The Rancher’s Reunion by Tina Radcliffe, the hero thinks about a genetic disease that ravaged his father. Then he considers his choice not to undergo genetic testing. I froze because I am currently awaiting results of a genetic test. The character thinks about the battle within himself about why he won’t get tested: if his test comes back positive, he doesn’t want to worry about every twitch or ailment being a symptom that the disease has become full blown. He believes this factor outweighs the relief he might feel if the test comes back negative. So early on in the book, his decision has been to not receive genetic testing or counseling.
In my life, this is a reality as I write this. My daughter Kath has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called VHL (Von Hippel Lindau disease). Outside of doctors and people who know someone with this disease, not many people know about it. But I’ve received a crash course about it since September of 2014. This is a disease where time counts. Genetic testing cannot be postponed as scans and monitoring are crucial to this condition. My other three children have tested negative, but my husband and I are waiting for our results.
So this time a book is personal. And I’m the one who is reading it knowing something in my life parallels one of the subplots. And I’ll still finish the book because the characters are compelling and strong.
(And as an aside, I’m still reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass and I recommend this for writers in all stages of their career. It’s readable and it has some good information. I just hope in later editions the publisher will fix the typo on page 184).
Have you ever attended a book signing? If so, which author did you love meeting? Let me know.