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Tuesday night, Hob and Wolfling and I went to see Guy Gavriel Kay, who was being interviewed by super-librarian Nancy Pearl at a local library. Kay has been one of my favorite authors for years, and remains one of the very few whose books I pre-order and buy in hardback. The Lions of Al-Rassan is one of my top two or three favorite books, and his Fionavar Trilogy, the "Sarantium Mosaic" duology, and Song for Arbonne are second-tier favorites.

I was eager to see Kay in person, but also a bit cautious, afraid of being disappointed. As it turned out, however, he was charming and interesting, and Pearl was a very good interviewer. One of my favorite bits of information was finding out that he had a law degree, because it puts a fun spin on the fact that two of the leading characters in the Fionavar books are law students.

When it came time for the signing, I was shameless in rushing ahead of Hob and Wolfling to get in line. Although I had already purchased and read Kay's newest book, I had brought with me my hardback copy of The Lions of Al-Rassan (which Hob himself had given me for my birthday a year or two ago to replace my battered paperbacks).

As I stood in line I fretted a bit about what I would say when it was my turn. What could I possibly say to GGK that he hadn't heard hundreds of times before?

Unlike many other authors, whose book-signings are machine-like with only the briefest interaction between author and reader, Kay took his time with each person, really focusing on what they said and interacting with them. When it was my turn, I told him that I had already read and liked "Under Heaven" but Lions was one of my all-time favorite books, that of all the thousands I have read it was my "desert island book."

It's a fairly common phrase, but he latched onto it with surprising energy, telling me that no one had ever said that before, and that he was especially taken with it in this case because of the novel's first line: Always remember that they come from the desert.* I said it with him as he spoke it.

After that I thanked him for all his books and for how much they meant to me. He put his hand over his heart and thanked me by name.

It was only later, after Hob had gotten his own autograph and we were out in the parking lot that I realized I was zinging with energy, and a while after that to fully absorb that I had said something unique and meaningful to Kay, and that I had been able to look into his eyes and thank him for the great gift of his stories, which in itself was a privilege I never thought to have.



Guy Gavriel Kay's first publishing job was to help Christopher Tolkien bring his father's notes together to become "The Silmarillion."

His own first novel was a fantasy called The Summer Tree, the first book of "The Fionavar Tapestry." In terms of my own biases, it should be a terrible book -- but I love it, and the next two books only get better.

From there he started writing historical fantasies: novels set in cultures which had recognizable parallels in earth history, but in which magic and multiple gods were real. The magic remains understated, but the power of the mysterious and the primal is a counterpoint to the rich lives of his characters.

The Lions of Al-Rassan is set in a verion of Islamic Spain, just before the Catholic Reconquista. A Song for Arbonne is set in Provence, during the troubadour age. Sailing to Sarantium and God of Emperors is about Byzantium. And not. Those are my favorites, all of them rewarding each time I come back and read them again.




* For the purists, that's the first sentence of Part 1, not the Prologue. But if the author says it's the first line, I'm not going to argue!

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
queenofthenight
May. 14th, 2010 03:10 am (UTC)
Oh, I just got the chills reading your story! Thank you for sharing this. I loved Lions, too, with a small preference for Song for Arbonne. But I'm a francophile. :) *hugs*
don_negro
May. 14th, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
God Damn. That is some heavy, awesome shit.

Remind me one day to tell you my story about waking Douglas Adams up from a nap. After this, I think you'll appreciate it.
qos
May. 14th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
Don't tease me!
Please tell the story!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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