Contest winners pepper author with interesting questions

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014 5:00 am 
By Matt Krueger

Karen Thompson Walker has been answering questions — some repeatedly —  about her debut novel “The Age of Miracles” for two years. But she can still be surprised by the insights of her readers.

And despite two book tours and numerous book festivals around the world, she still greatly enjoys meeting those who have delved into her novel.

“ I really like getting to meet members of the community and spending time with them,” Thompson Walker said. “And it’s exciting to meet so many people who have read the book, because then they have really specific, interesting questions. It’s a stimulating experience for me to discuss it with them.”

The author got up close with a chosen few readers Friday. She sat down for a luncheon with the six winners of the “A Tale for Three Counties” writing contest at D&R Depot in Le Roy. This was the 11th year for the writing contest, which is sponsored by The Daily News.

Joining Thompson Walker were Loren Penman, Liz Saleh, and Megan Smith of Batavia, Peggy Lamb of Oakfield, Joseph Langen of Le Roy, and Susan Hengelsberg of Perry. Of the six, Penman was the only repeat winner. Smith, 11, a sixth-grader at Batavia, was by far the youngest and offered the most unique perspective.

The book tells the apocalyptic tale of a slowing of the Earth’s rotation as seen through the eyes of 12-year-old, California-girl Julia.

The contest winners all remarked how well-written the book was. Hengelsberg called the language “colorful and exquisite.”

In answering their questions, Thompson Walker explained that she did not plan to write a sequel, despite much feedback about wanting to learn more of these characters and how they survived past the ending of the story. She also said that a film version of the story is in the works, but is not official.

“There are gradual steps being taken in the process, but it looks like it’s close to being official,” said the author, who added she has no input into the film’s screenplay. “They just recently starting casting and scouting locations, so that tells me it might actually happen. But nothing is for certain.”

When asked how she decides on the names for her characters — such as Julia, Seth and Hanna — Thompson Walker said she wanted names that were common, but not too common.

“For me, it helps that the name of the child might be the same as my neighbor,” she said. “It won’t be something like Katniss from ‘The Hunger Games.’ But I couldn’t have names that were interchangeable and confusing either.”

Thompson Walker also explained:

• She came up with the title herself, despite a practice in the publishing world for an editor to change the author’s title. She added that she had come up with a couple of alternatives, but didn’t like any of them as much as  “The Age of Miracles.”

• She reads every thing in hardcopy books, but thinks it is time to purchase “some sort of e-reader.”

• She doesn’t let the characters speak to her, as other authors have done, but gets to know them.“I feel like I’m investigating when I’m writing,” she said. “I explore the world and investigate the people.”

• Her husband Casey will have his first novel published in December, and the two of them will critique each other’s writing.

• She is about 80 pages into her second novel, which deals with an epidemic in a small town. She is under contract for the new book, which is a different experience from writing “The Age of Miracles.”

“It’s kind of nice to know that someone official is waiting to read it,” she said.

Following the luncheon, Thompson Walker explained that she has greatly enjoyed the experience of “A Tale for Three Counties,” and credited it for being “well run” and “highly organized.”

She also credited the readers for asking insightful questions.

“They’ve been great. There are certain questions I get a lot, which are always fun to revisit, but there have been some that people asked here that I haven’t heard before,” she said. “That’s always nice.

“Someone asked about what happened to Julia’s gold nugget necklace. It got lost in the dirt, and I never went back to it. That was interesting. The only other person who asked me about that was my dad, after he first read the book. Maybe I would have returned to that if I had it back.”

Thompson Walker will have one more book discussion at 2 p.m. today at Perry Elementary/MIddle School, 50 Olin Ave., Perry.

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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