It’s been estimated that 3,500 or more readers attended this year’s Newburyport Literary Festival, demonstrating another rousing success for the festival organizers. Today, in Part II of our coverage, we catch up with authors Meg Mitchell Moore, Ann Hood and historian Robert Allison.
We’ll kick off our coverage of literary festivities with the new to the literary scene Meg Mitchell Moore who introduced and read from her first novel The Arrivals. While The Arrivals that hasn’t even hit the shelves yet, but the lucky audience got a preview of a sure to be popular new novel in the novelist’s own hometown. Moore who popped into the book bloggers panel, arrived at the Book Rack admitting to an enrapt and standing room only crowd that this reading was her first. Her nerves were apparent and endearing.
During the audience Q&A Moore revealed that The Arrivals is, in a way, her second novel. Her first novel was more than half completed when she started to re-read it. Moore realized she hated it, scrapping it. But not entirely. Some characters and relationships Moore creatively salvaged and served as a seed for The Arrivals. Readers can check back at Boston Book Bums later for this month for an interview the Moore and a review of her debut novel. And a little breaking news alert: Moore’s second novel will be released in a year. We are already looking forward to it.
Author Ann Hood breezed into Jabberwocky Books at the top of the hour to a standing room only crowd and she had the crowd chuckling before she was even squarely behind the podium. What followed was a humorous and touching real life story that was the inspiration for Hood’s latest novel, The Red Thread. The hour was half true story, one quarter reading and one quarter of Hood answering any and all questions volleyed her away. There was not a dry eye in the house and more than one belly laugh. The hour went too fast, like an hour with a close friend you barely see. We suspect the novel will be much the same.
Our session day ended with a conversation with Professor Robert Allison on his experience writing fiction. Allison, Chair of the History Department at Boston’s Suffolk University, brought out the nuances of history writing. Most importantly, Allison verbalized what we book bums have often felt, more of an emotional connection with a real character from history rather than a fictional one.
Allison, author of Stephen Decatur: American Naval Hero and The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World 1776-1815, articulated that he could have easily written fiction. However, Allison said he felt more connection with historical figures. His love for the depth of history, all its side stories and intimate relationships built with figures compels our fiction devotees to take another look, much to the delight of our non-fiction cohort.
Also, Allison explained that history from the street corner device, a popular method of making broad historic subjects more accessible. The history professor talked about the 360 degrees of history that can be explored for any city from just one point. For his Boston book Allison started on the harbor working in, before returning to that same spot for the conclusion of the book.
Allison also engaged with some excitement one attendee in the conversation about contingency fiction, the class “what if” or alternate history books that have become more and more popular. The idea of contingency fiction piqued the historian’s imagination.
Tomorrow, we wind down our bookish experiences in Newburyport with some observations about the town that supported this unique small, but potent, literary festival.