Author On The Bookcase: Hyatt Bass, author of The Embers
I'm so please to welcome Hyatt Bass, author of The Embers, to On the Bookcase. Hyatt talks with us about the writer and the reader and the lovely balance between the two.
Soon after I sold The Embers to my publisher, I went into a complete panic because I realized I would be going on a book tour, which meant reading my book out loud and talking about it with perfect strangers.
Reading and writing are both such private and intimate activities wrapped up in the imaginary world of a book, I often respond with more emotional intensity than I do in my daily life. With the distractions shut out and the pace dictated by the words on the page rather than by external forces, I am pulled along by characters who take me to places I know places I may be happy or not happy at all to revisit or places I’ve never been, that may delight, pain or terrify me. While I loved the idea of taking my readers on a journey, I did not like the idea of coming face to face with them and talking about the intimate experiences that either they or I had had with The Embers.
Once I was on book tour, however, my feelings about this changed. What I’d somehow forgotten in my panic and was reminded of again and again as I had the incredible opportunity to meet people all over the country who had read The Embers is that reading is a participatory activity. By writing the book, I had only created one part of the readers’ experience. The other part was up to them. Every person brings his or her own unique combination of history, personality, and imagination to a book.
The Embers is about family, and regardless of what Tolstoy says, happy or unhappy, no two families are alike. Many people have had experiences in their lives that I’ve written about in the book but have never known first hand. Sometimes, it’s the other way around, or it turns out a reader and I share something in common with one another as well as with the characters, but we approach the situation from completely different points of view.
I would be lying if I said every encounter with readers was a sheer pleasure. Before The Embers came out, my publisher set me up with a book club who had gotten advance copies of the book, and I sat there and listened to them tear it to pieces for well over an hour, then ask if there was anything else they could do to “help.” But the man in the group who criticized my work most harshly also knew exactly where in The Embers different scenes occurred, and discussed my characters and my story with impressive attention to detail. He also said, “in fairness to the author, the last book we read was The Brothers Karamozov,” revealing a reverence for Dostoevsky that I have to admit I found completely charming. No matter what, the relationship between reader and writer is a wonderful partnership of sorts. And I’ve found it provides a lovely balance to the solitude of writing and reading.
Thanks so much, Hyatt, in revealing your ideas of the writer/reader "participatory" relationship of a book.
The paperback of The Embers was released in May 2010. A once-charmed family is forced to confront the devastating tragedy that struck it years ago in this fiercely tender tale of betrayal and reconciliation. Learn more about The Embers.
Here is a trailer for The Embers.