Just a few suns ago…
I and my wife Valerie had the very great fortune to sit down to dinner with Brent Weeks and his wife Kristi (yes, she of the dedication page in The Black Prism) and talk writing, fiction, and personal lives before heading to the downtown Orlando Barnes and Noble for Brent’s reading and signing for the recently released The Black Prism.
Brent and Kristi are, of course, very nice and wonderful people, and though they had only been off the airplane for a few hours, they sat down with us and we talked to one another like normal people do, even though I am a longtime fanboy, Brent a New York Times bestselling author, and Kristi and Valerie initiated-but-still-learning wives of fantasy devotees.
We covered an awful lot of territory in forty minutes, including the cute tale of how Brent and Kristi met. The two have known one another since the seventh grade, though when he tried to ask her out in high school English class, she turned him down flat. After going to separate colleges, the two reconstituted their friendship at Kristi’s initiation, and they have now been happily married for 8 years.
We talked also about Kristi’s working a job she did not love to support Brent while he was writing (for 6 years), trusting in him to make it as an author. That, my friend, is love. You can see the soft glow of pride in her face as she talks about his career and his tender looks at her would have just melted your heart. They are a real team. (As Brent was preparing his reading, she was giving him notes, it was fairly obvious she had read his work thoroughly. Perhaps we have another David and Leigh Eddings style writing duo in the making?)
Brent and I also talked writing, particularly the fine art of blurbing other writers. I began the conversation by taking issue with Brent’s blurbing of Terry Brooks’ rather awful new novel Bearers of the Black Staff. Brent mentioned that in part, he blurbed it because Terry had done him a good turn in blurbing the Night Angel Trilogy when he was an unknown author of epic fantasy. And, he felt, it was a pretty good book, and every word you see on that front cover is something he believes to be true. We joked around about this for a bit, me being more strident than was called for (I was excited to be meeting Brent, what can I say? I went a little fanboy.), but all of us at the table having a grand old time.
I listened as Brent spoke about meeting Terry Brooks, something that was obviously very special to him, as he mentioned it several times! Brent reports that Brooks is one of the nicest people you will ever meet (something I can confirm, at least from meeting him in a signing line a few years ago).
The official event took place at the Barnes and Noble on Colonial Drive in Orlando, and a better venue for a signing you would be hard-pressed to find. Manager Marshall was cognizant of all the Weeks’ needs, and was fully prepared with a microphone, lectern, and an employee/Weeks fan whose introduction sufficiently riled the audience up for whatever Brent was going to present. Marshall made sure that those wishing a signed book did not bum rush the signing table, but took turns and moved by rows. The location was ideal as well. This is a two-story Barnes and Noble, connected by up and down escalators that are spaced apart by a balcony where normally tables and chairs for readers and computer users to set up, that was easily converted into a sort of hall. Brent stood at the far edge, against the railing looking down into the second floor, facing towards the back wall, which allowed sound to echo off it and into the ears of the listeners, so that the former schoolteacher did not even require use of the microphone for everyone to hear quite clearly. The venue easily accommodated, with a few standing folks, the 60-70 people who arrived for the signing, and the store was prepared with a enough copies of all Brent’s books that even random bystanders could have bought one to get it signed had they wished.
Brent chose not to read from The Black Prism explaining that since the first three chapters were online, he would only be reiterating stuff that most people, who cared enough to come to a signing, had probably already read. Instead, he read his essay on the origin of the theme in The Black Prism that he wrote for Powells.com. He has an excellent delivery and theatrical voice (shared with his brother, read the essay to find out how I know that) so that the story unfolded very well. Should they ever do an audiobook version of any of Brent’s books, they would not go wrong to have it read by the author.
After the 13 minute or so reading, he took questions from the audience. He fielded the normal questions about writing, writer’s block, and whether there will be more Night Angel books with aplomb. (Yes to the last one, plus he mentioned that he has a Durzo Blint origin short story that as yet he has not sold.) He talked about how he wanted to ensure the luxin of his Lightbringer series (potentially a four-part series) followed the laws of physics. He laughed and joked with the attendees, and when he sat down for a the actual signing of books, he spent a good bit of time having small conversations with the person in front of him, asking personal questions and generally taking an interest in his fans. Kristi was ready with the post-it note method of making sure everyone’s books were signed just the way they wanted, and she talked and conversed with the crowd when Brent was preoccupied with the current fan at his signing table.
I stood in line with Roy and Shannon. Poor Shannon had misunderstood or misread the time of the signing and had arrived five hours early from Tampa, a 2 ½ hour drive away. Roy was a signing newbie who finished the 629 page The Black Prism in a few days, and Shannon is a Maine-raised prolific reader who once owned over 11,000 books at his height. We had a grand conversation about our favorite epic fantasy authors, the state of the genre, why we like Weeks books, and how so few SF authors bother to make a stop in Orlando, even though the fandom here is really large. The line took a while to move (due to Brent being friendly and gracious with the fans) but it was worth it for the funny and interesting conversation I had with these two guys. I hope Roy sees this and we can work out some way to get to Dragon*Con, since he has never been and wants to go. He seemed like he would make a grand companion on such a road trip.
I, and everyone there I think, am extremely grateful to Orbit Books for taking a chance and sending Brent to Orlando, not knowing how the turnout would be. I think for a signing by an author with only four books to his credit, it was hugely successful, and would recommend that more publishers send authors my (I mean, Orlando’s) way. We sure would be awful greatful down here in these Southern(ish) parts.
Thanks to Brent and Kristi for being such tremendous people and for being gracious to this consummate fanboy (and his wife). We would love to have you come again anytime!