You guys, you guys. You guys. This week I met Craig Silvey. The person who created one of my favourite books of the year - nay, of all time.
When the lovely Eleanor Rigby alerted me to the fact that Craig Silvey would be in Sydney promoting his new novella The Amber Amulet this week, I literally squeeed out loud (squee-ed? Squeed? Whatever, there was lots of squee). The Husband looked at me as if to say, "What is it now?" and when I explained between gasps and squees that Craig Mother Effing Silvey was going to be in our city in a matter of days, he raised his eyebrows and nodded as if to say, "You're kinda cray but I kinda understand". He loved Jasper Jones too so he was keen to come along, although not quite as excited as me.
We got to Shearers Bookshop a little early and decided to grab a light dinner at the cafe there before The Silvey Show was due to start at 7pm. It was about 6.30pm and I was minding my own business, munching down on my ham and cheese croissant as The Husband talked to me about something - I can't for the life of me remember what it was now - when over his shoulder I spotted none other than the Jasper Jones author himself. He was chatting casually to the owners of the bookshop. I think I must have cracked some sort of goofy smile because The Husband asked, "what's so funny?" I tried to communicate to him, while keeping my squees on the inside, that ZOMG CRAIG SILVEY IS LIKE TWO METRES AWAY RIGHT NOW BUT DON'T TURN AROUND IT WILL BE TOO OBVIOUS AND ZOMG IS THIS REAL LIFE... The Husband turned around, not very subtly, and took in the sight. His conclusion? "Hey, he's wearing pretty much the same outfit as me." Yes dear, he is. I already noticed that. I love you a little bit more now.
Anyhoo... I was debating whether to choke down the rest of my croissant and ambush the poor author, or go hide in a corner to avoid embarrassing myself, when he and his entourage slipped away upstairs (spoiler: it would have been the latter option). So I finished my meal with dignity before buying a copy of the gorgeous little The Amber Amulet. We then grabbed our seats to wait for the official arrival of The Silvemeister (as I have decided to call him, coz I'm presumptuous like that). He finally appeared on the mezzanine above us, which formed a nice "pulpit", as Silvey commented. To start things off, he did a reading from The Amber Amulet, which was brilliant, and then he discussed where he got the inspiration for the novella from. It was fascinating to get insight into the way his mind worked and the process through which his idea developed; especially how he could get the story of a little boy who roams his neighbourhood as The Masked Avenger from thinking about carbon and oxygen and diamonds and physicists. It sounds random, but when Silvey explained it, it made complete sense. Basically, it's about how we're all connected - quite literally, we're all made of the same stuff. Stardust, to be exact - in reference to Lawrence Krauss. It wasn't just the ideas he was discussing that were interesting though, it was the way Silvey put them; he has a completely engaging manner and a wonderful way with words. It gave me goosebumps.
After he had finished the audience was given the chance to ask questions. I was too chicken to ask any, but one man asked if Silvey had had a good teacher that inspired him to read and write, to which he answered no, his English teachers were pretty crap, but there was a local writer who became a mentor to him after he sent him his first ("terrible" - as if!) manuscript. He said he was always a big reader because, growing up in the country, there wasn't a lot to do or see, so reading was his way of accessing other places and adventures, from the safety of his home, of course - important, he says, because he was a big coward (so nothing like The Masked Avenger, he reckons). He said he didn't have much guidance in terms of what he read - he pretty much read anything and everything, though this caused a slight problem when he was scandalised upon reading A Clockwork Orange at the age of 12 - he'd been enticed by its bright cover.
Silvey also mentioned that The Amber Amulet was meant to be a short story, but he kept writing and it turned into a novella. He said in terms of word limits, every story should be "as long as it needs to be" and he doesn't like to aim for a particular number or limit himself. Someone asked about Jasper Jones, and Silvey said he still couldn't quite get his head around its success. When Jeffrey Wu was mentioned the audience breathed a collective sigh of appreciation - it seems he's a fan favourite, as well as an author favourite. Silvey explained that, when writing the cricket scene, it was one of the only times his affection for a character has changed the story. Initially, the scene was meant to end very differently for Jeffrey, but Silvey said, "I just couldn't do it to the little guy." Judging from the audience's reaction, I'm not the only one who appreciated the triumphant ending of the scene. It's one of my favourite parts of the book.
One lady asked, quite rudely I thought, whether Jasper Jones was "as easy to write as it was to read" and whether Silvey would write something that good again. Silvey laughed and said he's glad it reads that way, and that he hoped The Amber Amulet had the same effect. To which the woman called out, "but it's too short!" I cast her a sideways bitchface for daring to question the greatness of The Silvemeister; he, meanwhile, didn't seem to know what to say. The lady then confessed she hadn't even read The Amber Amulet, and he basically said she should and that he hoped it had the same feel and heart as Jasper Jones.
On that note, it was time to line up to get our books signed. I held my brand new copy of The Amber Amulet and gave The Husband our copy of Jasper Jones to get signed. We were third in line and I totally wasn't prepared. I handed The Silvemeister my book and, my mouth completely dry, squeaked out "great speech!" He thanked me and said he was relieved because he wasn't sure anybody else would find it interesting, to which I responded with something dazzlingly articulate like, "Oh, no, it was real good." He looked at me questioningly and I realised I hadn't told him my name. I did, and then, feeling like a total dork, I spluttered out a request for a photo. He said, "of course" and I thrust my phone into The Husband's hand and jumped around the table to Silvey's side. The Husband explained that he was, in fact, my husband, and not a random stranger I'd handed my phone over to without so much as a "would you mind?". After he took the photo, he handed over our copy of Jasper Jones and told Silvey to make it out in my name too