Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Writer's Dream Come True


When my first novel, Island Song, was published, I had a secret little dream that I would walk into a coffee shop or restaurant, and I see someone reading my book. For years, every time I walked into a place where gay men sat reading, I scanned all the books, hoping to find one of mine.  It’s been five long years from that first publication, and not once has that aspiration happened—until yesterday.

Herman and I were having lunch at a popular Mexican restaurant in Palm Springs and a man a few tables away sat reading a book while he ate his lunch. I couldn’t see the cover, and I didn’t think much of it, except that he was rather nice looking with a little salt and pepper at the temples. We finished our food, paid the bill, and left the building. While waiting on the sidewalk out front for Herman to unlock the car, the salt-&-pepper guy walked out of the restaurant. As he passed me, I notice he carried my Butterfly’s Child novel.  I was momentarily stunned.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I’m the author of your book. Would you like me to sign it?” Now it was his turn to be stunned. He ask me if I was really Alan Chin, in a doubting voice that showed he didn’t expect a Caucasian man to have to have my last name. I assured him I wrote the book, and we talked for twenty minutes while I signed his copy.

He told me he had already read Island Song and loved it, and had stopped by the bookstore that morning to sample another of my novels. The interesting part of our conversation came when he talked about how closely he identified with the protagonist in Island Song. In that novel, Garrett moves to a lonely beach in Hawaii after losing his lover; Mr. Salt-&-Pepper had moved to Ensenada, Mexico after losing his lover. Garrett experiences something similar to a Buddhist’s version of enlightenment.  Mr. Salt-&-Pepper is a practicing Buddhist, and has had several such experiences. He told me my story gave him hope that he would, like Garrett, work through his loss and eventually discover a fulfilling life again. I swear his eyes were pooling with water as he spoke. He almost had me in tears.

I’ve been glowing from the experience since we parted. It is really extraordinary how your work, no matter what it is, can touch people in unexpected ways. This, IMHO, is the true joy of writing. 

7 comments:

Elizabeth North said...

The moment when you connect with someone through your characters is priceless.

Dorien/Roger said...

What a great experience, Alan! After 12 years and 20-odd books, I have yet to see anyone I did not know reading one in public. I can imagine how you felt.

And to have the encounter with the reader be so interesting to boot....

Sigh.

Dorien

C. Zampa said...

Oh, Alan.
That is beautiful, priceless.
What a fabulous experience! And not only that the man was reading your book, but that he had parallels in his life to it.

Again, beautiful.

Nikolaos said...

What a wonderful thing to happen. They say writers write "fiction", but it always seems to me that in some universe, the characters we've created are real. This time, the two realities were even closer than you ever thought they would be.

Kage Alan said...

That is so awesome, Alan! lol I can't help but laugh because if the situation was reversed, I'd have said "Hey, I totally heard the author of that book is absolutely incredible in bed and can't keep them off of him when people find out who he is!"

Maybe one day I'll get the chance to say that so someone who's reading one of mine. I'm allowed to dream...

Congrats!

Lori L. Lake said...

That is sooooo cool, Alan! What a great experience.
;-) Lori

Lloyd Meeker said...

Alan, congratulations! That really is a writer's dream -- not one that has been fulfilled for me yet. Your account is wonderful. Thanks for letting me experience that through you.

Lloyd