Not quite sure how regularly I’ll be able to do this kind of feature, but I’m hoping that my literary tour of Phoenix will add to these profiles of author events! May include book signings, readings, panels, conference events, and the rare “look who I ran into” sightings.
At the beginning of June, I was lucky enough to browse the Changing Hands’ Events page. Seeing a Patrick Rothfuss event delighted me. Rothfuss is one of my favorite authors, penning two of my current favorites: The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. Both books are part of the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy.
The trilogy is one of the most imaginative series I’ve read, and it utilizes and subverts fantasy genre tropes well for the sake of the story. If you’ve read any of the A Song of Ice and Fire books and thought, “This is clever and I appreciate that, but where are all these traveling bards and University men Sansa and Sam know about?”, this is the series for you.
Anyway. Shill over. Go buy the books. Or check them out from your local library. Just read them, okay?
The fella volunteered to drive me since the bookstore is clear on the other side of Phoenix metro for us, and I made the mistake of rushing a silver eyeliner application so I looked a bit like a Katy Perry back-up dancer until I got that straightened out.
Phoenix is a pretty big metro area, and I expected a large turnout for Rothfuss since (in my world at least), he’s a pretty big name in fantasy right now. He also did the signing right before Phoenix Comicon and publicized the event on his blog.
(Also, take a look at that line-up just for his events – I am so going next year!)
The massive crowd still surprised me; there were so many people there! We only arrived fifteen minutes early, so it was standing room only. I found a spot by a bookcase and looked like a short, earnest book nerd version of this. Almost as soon as I got settled, a woman asked me if I wanted my book signed. I clearly had a hardback stuffed in my purse, but she was on the fifth group and I knew we would be there for another two hours if I got my book signed (this later turned out not to be a big deal). I opted not to make the fella wait around, since he’s not into book signings and carted his work laptop to the Wildflower next door.
Rothfuss arrived right after that, and there was a collective silence from the crowd. I got the impression many of us had never attended a Rothfuss event before, and from my experience there’s a sense of reverence the first time you see an author you respect and admire.
This was around the time the fella came back and said he found a “better spot.” It didn’t require standing at an angle most of the time, but perhaps this event photo will give you a better idea:
I am directly behind those people next to the orange column. I could peer around for the event, but not with everyone crowded for a photo (this, I should add, is the sparser side of the room).
Everyone started taking pictures when Rothfuss began to speak. He let this go on for a while, then politely asked if we could all stop since he would get distracted. He also requested that people not record video, because then he would be in PR mode and not author mode, and he wanted the audience to have an opportunity to ask questions and get honest answers, not quotations.
The first question he got was about his beard. Or rather, the first person he called on said “I have a question about your beard,” and Rothfuss pointed to someone else in the crowd. He then went on a mild rant about how the beardless are fascinated by his beard. He often gets questions about how long he’s been growing it, to which he would like to respond “How long have you been growing your hair?” Rothfuss made sure we knew he didn’t just sit in a dark room for two hours forcefully growing a beard.
Luckily, we did not have any of these shenanigans at the event. The weirdest behavior was the beard question, and then a guy who asked if the third book in the trilogy would wrap everything up, because “if I’m Chronicler [a character], I would be freaking out right now.” Rather than say, “Did you seriously just ask me if I would complete the arcs in the last book in a trilogy I acknowledged I’ve been drafting for over a decade?” Rothfuss went with the rather tame “That’s a fair question. Next.”
Rothfuss read the opening paragraph of his short story in Rogues, which I will have to purchase because it’s about Bast! Apparently the novella coming out in the fall originally started as the Rogues piece, but quickly ballooned into not-quite-a-short-story.
The most interesting Q/A was a discussion about poverty. Rothfuss talked about a rough patch in college and how he lived in a sketchy off-campus place and got behind on rent. He was able to fall back on his family, but you can see how it inspired him to craft some of Kvothe’s impoverished experiences throughout the series.
My favorite thing about the event was hearing him talk about words. I know, I know. But Rothfuss pointed out that he doesn’t really do “plot” – there is a framing storyline, but he’s more about the characters and the language. He loves language, loves how words fit together, and enjoys culling scenes down to the most beautiful combinations of expression. It was a real treat, because I don’t know if I’ve ever heard an author be that honest about the joy he/she gets out of the act of writing and revising (he once did a full manuscript read just to look at every instance of “that”).
I had a great appreciation for the author, and now I have a greater respect for him as a writer. If you’re a fan, I suggest attending an event just to hear/see him. It’s inspiring for writers and entertaining for everyone. If you’re not a fan? Well, pick up a copy of The Name of the Wind. You’ll like it!
You can read more Arizona adventures here on Rothfuss’ blog, if you are so inclined. There is a different beard story. No wonder he has a beard trigger.
Please let me know in the comments if you would like to see anything else in these type of posts! I’m hoping to make them a little more image-heavy and structured moving forward.