Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Brooks and I.

I am like most OCD only on a few things.  One of them is if I collect something, I want the set.  Not just a few but the set. One set, I started working on was getting every book by Terry Brooks I own, signed. I was doing pretty well for a while.  In the past decade, I was unable to make the few signings that Brooks had done in Colorado because of schedule conflicts or because I missed the announcement.  Needless to say I had about over a dozen books by him unsigned...until last night.

On Monday, July 22nd, I saw my favorite author, Terry Brooks.  I'd seen him many times before.  He is a kind, charming and generous man to his fans.  I have no idea what he is actually like, but I do know that he treats every fan, every reader, every would-be writer with genuine, honest respect.  He had to be tired.  You see, I saw Terry Brooks just two days before at the San Diego Comic Con.  Here,he made the fateful error of telling me to bring all  my unsigned books to his Colorado signing.  I did never actually expecting him to sign them all.

Touring and signing books has got to be brutal. Brooks also signs every book for every fan in line.  He will not stop until he has.  He will chat with each and even get up put an arm around them and take a picture.  He, unlike so many in Hollywood, understands how important his readers are.  They have made him a best selling author. No author, no matter how critically acclaimed, becomes a best seller because critics like his book.  It is his fans.  I cannot imagine Terry ever asking for a fan to pay him for his signature. I am also astounded that he still signs every single book.

I first met Terry Brooks in the late 70's.  I met him through his novel The Sword of Shannara. I know many people have done two things with that book...the first is mispronounce the name 'Shannara' saying "shah nare rah" instead of "shan ah rah" and the second is accusing Brooks of stealing from Tolkien.  Finish the book, it is an epic fantasy which involves all the things that every epic fantasy does. When you've read the incredible arc of the story, then you will know it is a long ways from Tolkien.  As to what Terry Brooks thinks about the accusation.  He responded in one interview with one statement about the accusation, "Thank you."

Terry Brooks is the reason that there are shelves and shelves - walls of fantasy fiction at your bookstore or perhaps on your e-reader.  He was the first fantasy writer to break onto the New York Times Best Seller list. He was there before J.K. Rowling and  J.R.R. Tolkien. I am not saying Tolkien wasn't read; he was.  I am saying that it was the boom of Brooks and perhaps role playing that made fantasy a hot property.  When I was a kid on the lone, fantasy book shelf there was maybe the Lord of the Rings, Peter Pan, and a slew of Tarzan books.  Brooks made the rest possible.  He opened the doors.

I still remember when Elfstones of Shannara came out.  I sat on my front porch reading and savoring what would become my favorite book of the series.  My wife and a student named Ray, kept coming out checking to see where I was in the book.  They wanted to read it next, and they wanted me to read it faster.

I would meet the Terry Brook in person in the early 90's. I had finally moved from the middle of the mountains to the front range and discovered my favorite author signed books at places like book stores - who knew?  I brought my books and discovered that Brooks not only signed books purchased at the store but every book.  I still recall the lecture we received on how to pronounce Shannara.  I too had been pronouncing it incorrectly.  Even more exciting was that Brooks did not read from the book he was promoting but from the next one he was writing.

A couple of years later, a few of my students went to a signing he had at the Tattered Cover.  One or two nights later,  I went to a signing at a bookstore in Colorado Springs. They brought with them their Shannara books and proudly announced they had been turned on to him by Mr. Travis who taught their Fantasy Literature class.  I had adopted Shannara as one of my texts for the class.  When I introduced myself, Brooks announced how thrilled he was to have met my kids and how bright they seemed.  I would later write him a letter thanking him for his kind words and told him if ever he wanted to talk literature and writing in my class I would gladly arrange it. Hey, it never hurts to ask.  Terry Brooks wrote me a letter.  Not a typed letter with a stamped signature, but a handwritten letter.  I have it framed and hanging on one wall of my family room.  He, of course politely declined, but he was kind and cordial and charming.

I hold no illusions that Terry Brooks would know me from any Adam or in my case Mitch.  Whether it was from those years and our brief two letter correspondence or from the fleeting moment in line at Comic Con or standing in the line hopeful that he would sign even a half dozen of the books I brought with me,I would not expect him to remember another fan.  Not only did he sign those six, but five more plus one for my daughter as well.  I knew he would still be there, still signing long after I left.  He will be back, perhaps next summer, with his next book, and I will be there if I can.  I doubt he will remember me, but I will remember him.  It is not hard to remember one writer who does this for his fans.  It is not hard to say,

"Thank you, Terry Brooks."

(Note for you fans: Magic Kingdom is in development with Steve Carell attached as the lead,  and Elfstones is about to become a TV series.)