I was privileged to have dinner with David Wolverton/Farland http://www.davidfarland.net/ attend one of his workshops, and exchange email. He carried a special seat-back with him because his hip and back troubles him if he stands too long or sits in an uncomfortable chair. Far from dwelling on his discomfort, he joked about his family line at dinner and radiated a positive attitude. He holds the World Record for the longest book signing.
What struck me most about him was his extensive knowledge on all things bookish. He not only studied the how-to of writing, but also why people bother to read in the first place. Our everyday stress can be hard to deal with, but when we immerse ourselves in a good book, we’re suddenly running for our lives while battling a dragon to save all of mankind. If you doubt the impact of these stories on us, then stop and take your pulse the next time you’re reading the climax of a real nail-biter. To combat this stress, David says, “there are several chemicals that your body pumps out as rewards when you're reading—serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, and cortisol.”
What’s more, once we close the book and get back to our daily lives, the stresses we have don’t seem like such a big deal. After all, I may have to battle weeds/traffic/carpools that day, but the human race won’t be snuffed out if I arrive a few minutes behind schedule. In short, books make us feel better and lessen the effect that our daily stress has on our bodies.
David considers it one of the “great tragedies of American writing history when they dismissed the form.” When people pick up a novel, they expect a certain experience. They hope to follow the hero as he/she battles against whatever obstacle stands in the way and—just when all hope seems lost—pulls off some amazing way to save the day/redeem the book. He jokes that writing a romance novel where the hero doesn’t get the girl at the end is a sure way to have a short writing career.
He dismisses the belief that “literary fiction” is superior to form writing, which many critics dismiss as “form fiction trash.” His goal is to “write form fiction, but to write it more beautiful than anyone else.” Bestselling novels and movies take us to another time and place. They provide escape. They also have a huge potential audience. “If we write only for ourselves, then we are the only audience for this novel.” It was no accident that James Cameron had storylines in Titanic that covered the seven major markets; he wanted to reach out to as many people as he could.
One of the most touching moments at the Whitney Awards Gala, was when Dan Wells (http://www.fearfulsymmetry.net/ a former student of David’s) asked for anyone whose life had been influenced by David’s teaching to stand. Almost every person in the room stood up. He was humble and gracious as he accepted the Lifetime Acheivement Award, and he teased that he hoped getting the lifetime award didn’t mean that he’d have to stop writing.
David said, “I'd like to emphasize that when a reader finishes a great novel, he will immediately begin looking for another. If someone loves your book, it increases the chance that he or she will look at mine. So there is no competition between writers. Another writer's success helps build a larger readership for all of us."
I think that statement sums up his generous character.
I need to say a special Thank You to David Wolverton/Farland for helping to shape this blog post via conversation and email. Here are links to some of his amazing books:
http://www.inthecompanyofangels.net/ - Won the 2009 Whitney Award for Best Novel of the Year
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2956822.Wyrmling_Horde_The_The_Seventh_Book_of_the_Runelords - One of the latest in an awesome fantasy series.