I've found that often publishers invite me to dinners with authors I've never heard of, and I end up meeting some super interesting people and, usually, reading and liking their books. And as often as not, they're books I wouldn't otherwise have picked up. I’ve gotten to meet a number of authors this way and I’ve had great conversations that have really informed and enriched my reading of their books. I’ll often be at the counter when someone comes to buy a book whose author I’ve met, and I find I can tell the customer so much more about the book and the experience of reading it because of that special contact I’ve had with the writer.
This got me to thinking: we should do something to make opportunities like this available to our customers as well. After all, authors go on tours, many of them come to Porter Square – and they too love the idea of connecting with readers, of schmoozing in a context less formal and structured than a reading at the store, and of enjoying a good meal while talking about their books. And our readers love to come to events – how much more would they love to come to dinner? We’re lucky enough to have a lovely restaurant across the street, Christopher’s, and so I came up with the idea of author dinners as a way of introducing our customers to less-than-famous writers. (Not that this was really my idea; there are certainly other bookstores that have done author dinners, but it’s a first for us.) If it works as planned, it will become a regular way of introducing our customers to authors they might not have otherwise read, and who we know (through having met them before) are particularly fascinating or cool people who have written particularly fascinating or cool books. We decided to call them David’s Dinners, mainly because we couldn’t come up with anything cleverer and we love alliteration.
One author I met in the late spring at the BEA conference was Laird Hunt, author of the new book Neverhome. A couple of weeks later we went to a dinner with him and had a grand time. As I always do when I’m invited to these author dinners, I read the book. It really struck me; I’m a sucker for narrative voice, and Laird was a man writing as a woman who was pretending to be a man. He rooted the book in real history – there were many real-life Ash Thompsons in the 1860s – but added a clear and direct, unsentimental but touching, compelling narrative style. I was so taken with the novel I chose it as my staff pick for this month. I then found out Laird was going to be in Boston in the latter part of September and I was able to arrange for him to spend an evening in Cambridge. Voila, the kickoff event for our dinner series. Sunday evening the 21st. He’s interesting and personable, the book’s a terrific read – and to top it off, it’s on the Indie Next list for September so it’s even 20% off (only $20.80, hardcover). We worked out an arrangement with Christopher’s, so we have the room upstairs all to ourselves and they’ve given us a menu with choice of appetizer, choice of entrée and a beer or glass of wine, for only $36 including tax and tip. You don't have to buy the book, but if you do (either in advance or at the event), Laird will of course inscribe it for you.
I really want people to come to this – I’m hoping to make the series a success so we can have a regular way of introducing our customers to some of our authors in a way that can complement our normal schedule of in-store readings. So I hope you’ll sign up. I guarantee you’ll have a delightful, literary, insightful, and gastronomically satisfying experience – and you can say you were there when it all started. Here’s the link.