Author Interview: Garth Stein

Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Garth Stein joined us for an interview about his Community Reads experiences and why both his bestselling book The Art of Racing in the Rain and his upcoming novel, A Sudden Light, work well for them. A Sudden Light will be released September 30th by Simon and Schuster.

Any idea about how many Community/All Campus Reads types events you’ve done over the years?

I think three or four dozen.  I have all the original confirmation memos in my files in the attic, but whenever I open the attic door, my youngest son wants to climb up there and poke around and then he finds an old slot car set or something else his older brothers have played out, and I have to bring it down and set it up and play slot cars for three days without a break, so if you want a hard number, I need more notice….

What do you like about the Campus/Freshman Class Reads structure as a literary event format? Any thoughts on how they could be more effective?

Campus Reads are fun because there’s a certain studiousness to them.  I mean, the students are really working hard to decode things, and often they bring ideas and layers and interpretations to the discussion I may not have thought of.  At the same time, they’re still kind of kids, so they can be really loose and laugh a lot and have fun.  And when I make a Bob Newhart reference, they totally don’t get it at all.

You have visited many different communities discussing your third novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain; with your fourth novel, A Sudden Light,what themesand topics do you think will resonate with Community Reading participants?

There are so many topics for discussion in my new book. Maybe the best place to start with is with the epigraph:  “We do not see things the way they are, we see them as we are.”  I think the idea of perspective and point of view is really important in the book, and how different people will tell the same story in different ways.  There’s a lot to discuss about fathers and sons and how this fundamental relationship ripples through generations of families.  Another good topic is the tension between conservation and development—how we struggle with these issues today, and how Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot struggled with the same issues more than a hundred years ago.  I think a great discussion could be had about our relationship with nature, adding to the mix the ideas of Transcendentalism, the writings of John Muir, David Thoreau, and others.  And then, of course, one could discuss the structure of the novel itself, how older Trevor telling the story of his childhood to his family frames the story and suggests that the story will continue to be told over and over again, as Trevor predicts in the prologue.  There are many other topics, of course, but they’re best discovered by the reader and I wouldn’t want to ruin any surprises here….

Click here to read BIC’s A Sudden Light review

Would you share some notable experiences you’ve had at Common Reads events that you’ve participated in?

There’s a moment about an hour or so in to a post-event signing line when I start getting a little punchy.  And the folks who have waited so long feel the same way, I know.  So I try to loosen up a bit and take a little more time with the ones who stick it out that long.  Maybe I’ll draw a goofy comic in the book or write something a little different.  Inevitably, that comment comes:  “Your hand must hurt from signing so many books.”  I’ve heard it several times.  And always, my answer is:  “Any author who complains about having to sign too many books, isn’t a real author.”  A reader has to devote a lot of his or her time and attention to reading a book.  If someone thinks enough of that book to stand in line for an autograph, the least I can do is respect that and stay until the line is finished.  I figure it’s a good event when I get to clown around with the volunteers a bit after everyone else has left and the custodial staff is shutting down the auditorium.  Because a community reading event is about just that:  building a personal connection within a community of readers.

Read about Garth’s recent visit to Lewisburg Literary Festival

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  • Garth Stein: A SUDDEN LIGHT