So, last night I had the privilege to hear/meet my favorite author of the past nine years...Mr. Jasper Fforde-author of The Eyre Affair. I'm a huge fan of his, so when I read online that he was going to be in Kansas City, I couldn't have been more excited. I was also psyched that his 6th book in the Thursday Next series was out, and I was going to be able to get a signed copy. Sweet.
Those of you who have, alas, not heard of Jasper Fforde should definitely check out his website. But I'll fill you in on a few things I've learned as a fan of Mr. Fforde.
Let's see... Jasper Fforde is a British novelist who lives in Wales--the country of my ancestors. He worked in the movie industry for over 20 years as a "focus puller" or "1st AC"--which apparently has something to do with assisting the camera operator and director of photography. Mr. Fforde is intelligent and humorous. He takes some awesome/intriguing pictures, which I have introduced to my good friend Michelle who was nice enough to accompany me to his appearance at the KC Library. We both enjoy checking out his photographs, especially when he posts a new Picture of the Week.
His first few novels were rejected by numerous publishers, but he persevered with The Eyre Affair which was published in 2001. In the question/answer section of his website you would find this description of Fforde's first novel.
Q: In a single sentence, how would you describe The Eyre Affair?
A: The Eyre Affair is a literary detective thriller with romantic overtones, mad inventor uncles, aunts trapped in Wordsworth poems, global multinationals, scheming evildoers, an excursion inside the novel of Jane Eyre, dodos, knight-errant-time-travelling fathers and the answer to the eternal question: "Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays?"
According to Wikipedia: "Fforde's books are noted for their profusion of literary allusions and word play, tightly scripted plots, and playfulness with the conventions of traditional genres. His works usually contain various elements of metafiction, parody, and fantasy." And according Jasper himself from his website--the books include "an odd mix of Fantasy, Crime and Sci-fi. There's romance, too, and literary stuff, and satire, and .. well, you name it."
I couldn't describe his books any better than that, and I recommend that you pick up either The Eyre Affair, Shades of Grey or The Big Over Easy (the three first books of three different series) and let me know what you think. :)
So, we ventured down to the Kansas City Library near the plaza to hear Jasper Fforde speak about his books, his writing process, his inspiration, and whatever else happened to come up throughout the two hours. It was pretty awesome. Mr. Fforde is articulate and very funny. Just from hearing him speak, one can surmise that his writing is original, witty, and creative.
Toward the beginning of the talk, Jasper mentioned what he calls "The Narrative Dare." Michelle and I were both intrigued by that phrase. I'm not sure I can really do it justice to explain what he was talking about, but essentially, he thinks up circumstances (or dares) that he has to write his way out of or find a solution. The Narrative Dare (or a number of them) is what drives all of Mr. Fforde's books. One narrative dare that he created became the main plot point in The Eyre Affair--Jane Eyre is kidnapped from the pages of her book...
Anyway, it was a very exciting evening for me--and Jasper Fforde met or exceeded all of my expectations. It was also pretty cool to share this experience with Michelle-who hasn't read any of Fforde's books, but has agreed to appease me and do so as soon as she has the opportunity. Getting my books signed was awesome. I hope to be able to meet Mr. Fforde again someday, perhaps I might even be able to attend the Fforde Ffiesta one day.
For now, however, I am going to settle in and get busy reading. I have my newly signed copy of One of Our Thursdays is Missing right here on my coffee table.
Oh, and thanks to the folks at the KC Library for hosting a great event. The library is a pretty cool place. I especially liked the circle of books--perhaps Michelle is entering Fforde's "prose portal" and will get sucked into the book-world to become a member of Jurisfiction. Which novel would you choose to enter if you had the skills and talents of Thursday Next?