No. This isn't a "Friday Favorites", "Blogger Love", or "Ten Things That Made Me Happy" post. Although, it is about a favorite author, books I love, and an event that made me happy.
Thursday, the 22nd of October, this is what I had to say on facebook:
I rarely have anything planned during the week anymore (I guess I've gotten old); the one night I have something planned, it's raining buckets.Who was I going to see? Author Markus Zusak was speaking at the Sydney Jewish Museum. Not a whole lot of information was given...just that he was speaking, doing a Q&A, and signing books. Over 1500 people joined the event page on facebook. The website for the Sydney Jewish Museum listed the event as SOLD OUT. I had no idea what to expect. My heart swelled over the story of The Book Thief, and I recently read (and loved) The Messenger as well. So, I was excited to attend this event.
I used to go to bars, clubs, and live music gigs. Now, I'm going to an author's Q&A and book signing. Another sign that I've gotten old? Possibly. I'm comfortable with who I am.
Markus spoke for about half an hour, took some questions for about 20 minutes or so, then ... for the first time to a public audience, he read from the new book he is working on for another 10 minutes.
The following are some highlights from the stories he told and answers he gave:
- Born in Sydney, Markus is the youngest of four siblings with two older sisters and an older brother.
- His mother is from a small town outside of Munich, Germany, and his father is from a town near Vienna, Austria. They both migrated to Australia in the 1950s.
- Markus shared family stories including tearing up his mother's gardens, playing sports with his brother, "The Zusak Alarm Clock Incident" of Christmas 1984, discipline via wooden spoons, and more.
- Through his parents' ability as "great storytellers", he learned some of their experiences before, during, and after WWII; some of those stories become part of The Book Thief.
- His paternal grandfather was a painter who painted homes and businesses of Jews and was ostracised for having Jewish clients, as well as refusing to join the Nazi party. **an inspiration for a character in The Book Thief
- As a child, his mother witnessed people being herded to Dachau (a concentration camp near Munich and his mother's home). A neighbor boy rushed to an emaciated man with a piece of bread. The prisoner was crying tears of thanks. A German soldier whipped the man for accepting the bread, chased the boy, and whipped him for giving the bread. **another story that found its way in The Book Thief
- He acknowledges why he thinks The Book Thief is special: the combination of "the beauty of humans" and "the great terror of humans".
- Markus considers his family fortunate for there were other German nationals during the war or Austrians under Russian occupation after the war that suffered much harsher fates.
- When The Book Thief was gaining attention and success, his father asked how his sales were going in Germany. Markus answered thinking his sales were "pretty good". His dad nodded but replied "Ya, good, but it's no J.K. Rowling, is it?" His dad also told him the book was "so much better in German". Markus was like "Thanks, Dad. Good to know the German translators are better storytellers."
- The character of Max was inspired during a visit to The Sydney Jewish Museum, in a book he found there about Jews that lived hidden in German citizens' homes.
- After being asked his favorite character he's written, he replied that there are two: "The Doorman" (the dog) from The Messenger and Rudy from The Book Thief.
- I really should have asked him "what's up with The Messenger also being published as I Am the Messenger?" So confusing.
- He said that the idea of using "Death" as the narrator for The Book Thief came from a writing exercise he conducted with school children.
- The idea of a girl stealing books was originally set in modern day Sydney ... he changed the setting and time, and the story just really worked.
- The last line of The Book Thief "pays homage to" the last line of A River Runs through It.
- When asked about the film adaptation of The Book Thief, this generated a lot of discussion. He is grateful, but he admits a whole lot more money is involved in movie-making than book-writing. He stressed that he thought the five lead characters gave fantastic performances. He felt the film had a lot of "great intentions" but overall wasn't a "great film". He advised to work a few scenes differently (as he did not write the screenplay) but his suggestions were knocked down. One scene in particular, he was very passionate about (and disappointed) how it played out on screen vs. in the book. (I won't give any spoilers - if you want to know more, we can talk via email.) When he talked about this, I got goosebumps.
- Regarding his new book, he feels like he's almost over-worked it and "killed it", so he is "bringing it back alive".
- He admits that he second guesses himself and ignores some of his own good ideas or inspirations...that he battles his own fears and self-doubts.
- Nothing makes him happier than writing.
- He loved reading as a child, and as a parent, he can see in his own children that one is innately a reader and the other isn't.
- His new book is called The Bridge of Clay and is about four brothers.
I don't know if I can ever go to another author's speaking engagement because this one was that good. I can't imagine any author being more enjoyable of a person to hear personal stories and accounts of growing up and working through the writing process.
Have you ever attended an author's event like this? Was it just as wonderful of an experience as mine?