There’s nothing to compare to the sight of your own book in an artful pile in a bookstore. Copperfields in Healdsburg, California, built a book berg last week as I swung through the San Francisco Bay Area to promote “Gutenberg’s Apprentice.” It was like a French wedding cake, with people plucking off pieces; by the end there were only crumbs. Everywhere I went, this gorgeous American hardback, glinting on tables and bookshelves, caused people to drool. One sensational event followed another: SF Center for the Book, Villa Montalvo, Booksmith@Arion Press, and talks at both my alma maters. I am gobsmacked (to use a choice British expression) by how interested everyone is in this arcane topic I’ve been pickling in for the past seven years. The most rewarding part by far is hearing those who’ve read the book talk about the things that meant a lot to them in it. Some said it was the immersion in the sights and smells of the Middle Ages; some the coming of age story of the young apprentice. One radio interviewer said I’d written ‘science fiction with a tech twist’ because I’d successfully recreated an entirely alien world.
Every reader will find something particular to themselves, and that is the beauty of stories. Amazingly, I find that I am able to speak to large groups without fright, energized by their interest and delighted to share what I’ve learned. All the strange little anecdotes I’ve tucked away bubble up as jokes: the way Gutenberg was fined by a judge for his foul mouth, the way the printers soaked their ink balls in urine to keep them supple overnight; the gorgeous three-color printing that showed Peter as a master just a few years afterward. At readings, the questions range from the large sweep of history to the little, documented details. I’m thrilled to be able to share it all.
At the very beginning — exactly a year ago, when my brilliant agents first sold this novel — someone told me to hold onto my hat and enjoy the ride. I’m enjoying it immensely. After all, I only get to be a debut author once.