These days I write a monthly column for a neighborhood magazine in Winston-Salem. As a huge supporter of the literary non-profit Bookmarks (I am currently president of the board of directors) I cover all sorts of Bookmarks events from author visits to summer reading programs to our annual book festival. I’m going to start re-posting some of those articles here, for readers who may not live in my neighborhood but would still like to know about some of the cool things that can happen when books are involved. This is from the April column:
I had the privilege to talk about The Lost Book of the Grail at St. Philip’s Cathedral in Atlanta, Georgia this past Sunday morning. Let me say right off the bat that, although the novel is set in a cathedral and there is a lot of ecclesiastical history and activity within its pages, I made a concerted effort to be sure the book was not preachy in any way. While its characters sometimes struggle with issues of faith or worship, the book takes no authorial stance on these issues. I’m not trying to tell my readers what to believe or what not to believe. I think I succeeded in this effort because I heard recently from a reader who told me she almost didn’t buy the book. She is not a Christian and not a fan of organized religion. However, on advice of a friend, she read the book and told me she enjoyed it very much.
When readers first see Arthur Prescott, the hero (or at least protagonist, or at least co-protagonist) of The Lost Book of the Grail enter the library of Barchester Cathedral, we are introduced to Arthur’s favorite book in the library. With Arthur’s interest in the Holy Grail and in stories about the knights of the round table, it’s not surprising that this book is a copy of Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, in this case published under the title The Most Ancient and Famous History of the Renowned Prince Arthur King of Britaine. The edition to which Arthur is so drawn was published in 1634 by William Stansby.
As I’ve been on tour with The Lost Book of the Grail I’ve been showing a collage-like image of a lot of the different books, magazines, places, and even furniture that inspired details in the book. One item in that collage is a CD of John Rutter’s Requiem. I almost always get a question about this—why is Rutter a part of my book?
It seems like I have been writing blog entries and articles right and left, but with the recent publication of The Lost Book of the Grail, a lot of those pieces have been for other people’s blogs. So, in lieu of a new blog here today, I will direct you to some of the many short pieces that have appeared on other websites and which discuss some of my inspirations, research, etc. for The Lost Book of the Grail.
Well The Lost Book of the Grail has been out for a couple of days now, so I’m sure by now you have bought a copy and are busily reading it. But just in case you haven’t: I often get queries from readers and collectors about how they can obtain a signed copy of one of my books. I’m sure a lot of authors get these. Some ignore them, some send out their tour schedules, and some have a local bookstore they work with to sell signed copies. I am the luckiest of the lucky, however. Not only do I have a local bookseller who will be glad to sell you a signed copy of The Lost Book of the Grail (or my other books) by mail order, but that bookseller is also a fantastic literary non-profit and when you buy from them you are supporting programs throughout our community.
It has arrived at last: publication day for The Lost Book of the Grail. I am looking forward to getting out there on the road and sharing my thoughts about the book with you and of course I’ll be excited to hear your reactions when you have read it. But on publication day, I make a tradition of saying “thank you” to all those who helped make a book possible. I do this by reprinting the acknowledgements from the back of the book. I hope this will not only express my gratitude to so many who help and support me, but also will encourage you to always read an author’s acknowledgements. We put a lot of thought into those words and they, perhaps more than any others in the book, are truly spoken from the heart. Thank you for reading my blog and (I hope) for buying and reading my book. And a special thanks to those below.
It’s true I’ve been spending a lot of time in the blog and elsewhere online talking about my novel The Lost Book of the Grail, which will be published by Viking this coming Tuesday. People often ask me “What is your favorite book that you’ve written?” My response is always—if it’s not the one I’m spending time with right now (writing or promoting) then something is wrong. And it’s true. I’m excited about this book, I’m excited to share it with you, and I honestly think it’s a good read. Otherwise I really wouldn’t say so. But I’d also like the book to be commercially successful—and here is where you come in.
The following entry is a reprint of an open letter that I sent to librarians through my publisher Penguin/Random House. You can and download the original letter here.
It’s no secret that I love libraries. My first novel, The Bookman’s Tale, was partially set in a university library; First Impressions featured two spectacular private libraries; and my new novel, The Lost Book of the Grail, is set in an English cathedral library. Not surprisingly, I spend a lot of time visiting libraries—to read, to do research, to speak and sign books, and sometimes just to soak up the ambience that only comes from a building filled with books.
This continues my series of blogs on my favorite English cathedrals—buildings and communities from which I drew inspiration for my novel The Lost Book of the Grail, published by Viking on February 28.
This week’s choice is a complete departure from all that has come before—Durham, Winchester, Salisbury, and Wells were all fine medieval building, whereas Coventry Cathedral was built between 1956 and 1962, but therein lies a tale. Coventry was the site of a medieval cathedral, built as a parish church in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries and raised to cathedral status in 1918 when the Diocese of Coventry was created. But that St. Michael’s Cathedral, created during wartime, would only last until the next war.