Before I launch into how a disappointment turned into an opportunity, here’s a date to save — Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. That’s when author Jasper Fforde, who hails from Wales, will be at Washington Public Library.
It will be a kick to finally meet Fforde, an author some of you might be familiar with. The novelist is probably best known for his “Thursday Next” mysteries for adults but will be touring the United States to promote his trilogy for upper-elementary and teen readers.
The first book is “The Last Dragonslayer,” a recent Book Buzz Pick.
This spring, when Spark and I were planning our trip to Great Britain, I got a review copy for “The Song of the Quarkbeast,” the second book in the series. It’s as entertaining and well written as “Dragonslayer.”
The back cover of the book noted that Jasper was from Wales.
Maybe he lived near North Wales or Devon, where we’d be visiting, I thought, my wheels turning at the speed of light. I did some checking and found out that he lived in South Wales, in Hay-on-Wye, quite a long way from where we’d be.
A dream of mine has been to visit Hay, a small market town famous for its book festival and used bookstores. Plans can change. With mere weeks to go, we added South Wales to our itinerary so we could hike the Pembrokeshire coast. On our drive there, Hay-on-Wye, would only be an hour or so out of our way.
Spark agreed it was doable, and I contacted Fforde’s publicist, fingers crossed that Fforde would be open to an interview. He agreed to meet me and suggested a bookstore café for lunch.
The drive to Hay was gorgeous and uneventful, thanks to our GPS and the parking gods, who saved a space just around the corner from Richard Booth’s Bookshop, quite a well-known place. Spark and I had tea and then separated, planning to meet up again after the interview — an interview that never happened.
Fforde had me down for the right date on the wrong month.
The folks at Booth’s tried to help me, everyone from a server in the café to the bookshop owner. When Fforde wasn’t at Booth’s by 1:45 p.m. I poked my head into the open door of an office and made an inquiry. I was supposed to meet Jasper Fforde, did they know him, or what he looked like?
“He comes in all the time,” the bookshop owner said in an accent that matched mine. She tried to call him because I didn’t have phone service.
“So where are you from?” she asked.
“Washington, Mo., a small town near St. Louis. You’ve probably never heard of it,” I answered.
“Yes, I have — I went to Stephens College in Columbia,” she said.
What a small world it is. The shop owner had married an Englishman and they stayed in Hay-on-Wye, after they attended the book festival and ended up buying Booth’s.
We talked a bit more, and Spark and I hung out, hoping Fforde might show up, even though he hadn’t answered his phone. Finally, we set off down the road, after a bit of shopping to take the sting out my doldrums. The next day I got an apologetic email from Fforde explaining what had happened. I completely understood, having once sent a dear friend to another town for a big birthday lunch I’d planned for her which was actually at a restaurant in Washington. You can bet I won’t make a mistake come Sept. 18.
As it turns out, Fforde’s book tour is taking him to St. Louis. When I discovered that, I contacted his publicist again to see if he might have time to come to Washington. And the rest, as they say, is water under the bridge, in this case the Missouri River bridge, not the bridge over the River Wye in South Wales.
Hope you’ll come out to greet and meet Fforde. This free book talk is being cosponsored by Washington Public Library, Scenic Regional Library and The Missourian.