Chris Bohjalian read from his new book at the Norwich Bookstore this past Wednesday night. Here is a very polished performer at work. The Night Strangers is his fourteenth novel, and it was obvious to everyone in the room just how comfortable he feels doing bookstore events.
After an introduction by the bookseller, Bohjalian didn't leap right into reading. First, he gave a rather comedic speech about the horrors of book tour, including the worst interview questions he'd been asked on television (Q: "Do you, like your character, suffer from mental illness?" A: "If I do, it's undiagnosed."), and living on peanuts from the minibar because every book tour is timed perfectly to deliver authors back to the hotel precisely 5 minutes after the restaurant closes. There was even a story about a bear claw pastry deep fried in grits, a 7 seat airplane flying through the remnants of a tropical storm and a missing airsick bag.
The contrast between his opening and the excerpt was pitch perfect.
Before the reading he also told a story about how he'd gotten the idea for the eerie door a main character finds in his New Hampshire basement, which set the mood nicely.
In short, there were sections devoted to: the author (funny intro) the book (genesis for the idea) the reading (14 minutes) and the audience (Q&A).
To close, he took questions, gave out a few tee shirts and signed a lot of books. Even though he's a superstar (at least among Vermont book nerds--and we count, too!) the tone was always confident, but self-effacing. It was great fun, and great entertainment. I can't wait until the next time he rolls into town.