I met Leif Enger in January in Louisville at Winter Institute but I was kind of loaded and feel as though I overwhelmed the poor man a bit with my "enthusiasm" for his first novel, Peace Like A River.
Last night, I had the opportunity to see him again at a signing during a multi-city book tour to support his latest novel, So Brave, Young, and Handsome. (Go to February 2008 for my thoughts on this marvelous book.) Since I wasn't drinking with friends before the signing, I was likely to be less of an ass this time. (I was.) Plus I figured if he didn't run away when he saw me coming, he might have forgotten the whole ordeal. (He had.)
Before a crowd of only 20 or 25 people, Leif spoke a bit, read from the book and fielded questions.
The reading was magnificent. He was able to transport us all to 1915 Minnesota where we were lucky enough to have breakfast with Glendon Hale, Monte Becket, Monte's son, Redstart and his wife, Susannah. Later, we were treated to the spectacle that was Hood Roberts debut at the 101 Ranch in Ponca City, Oklahoma. I always tell my authors "no one knows your book better than you" and it was obvious Leif not only knew his book but assuredly loved his characters.
Several of his comments stayed with me:
On themes of both his novels, he said "Atonement is an important thing for me. Redemption is also an important thing for me."
When asked if he is teaching in between writing novels, he said that he isn't but is intrigued by the idea. However, he felt he might not be the best writing teacher. "I don't know much about what's under the hood of this thing. I just try to write clean sentences."
Someone remarked about how spirituality was a quality in his characters and he said he preferred to think of it as faith, which he then described. "Faith is like your name or the glasses you put on in the morning--it's how you look at things."
He came off as a very genuine fellow and it was a pleasure meeting him again and hearing him read. He said his next book is starting to come together but it'll be a departure for him. It will be set in the present day, written in third person and the main character is likely to be a 15 year old boy growing up on the shores of Lake Superior.
I can't wait.