Recently I was at Powell’s to hear author Chris Bohjalian read from his newest book, The Light in the Ruins. Little did I know the reading would be the least of the entertainment, because Bohjalian is an accomplished raconteur with an ease that makes you feel as if you were in his home and he was entertaining. Not hyped up, but welcoming and gracious. After thanking us from coming inside from what was a beautiful evening in Portland (and it was, it’s that time of year for us) he shared humorous memories of previous book events and gave us the background (complete with slides) for The Light in the Ruins. I am always fascinated when authors talk about the writing process because each is so different. For Bohjalian, writing isn’t a matter of pain and drama but is actually “fun”. He doesn’t have a plan when beginning a novel but lets the characters lead him and so often doesn’t know how a book is going to end until “the ride begins to slow down.” For The Light in the Ruins he spent a great portion of his time working in Tuscany and said it was the most productive writing time he’d ever had—with marginal internet service, the time difference to the states, and the cost of international phone calls—there were no distractions, he simply wrote…and wrote, as many as 20-30,000 words a week.
If you’re not familiar with Bohjalian’s work—why not?! He has written sixteen marvelous novels in a variety of genres and will immerse you in whatever world he creates. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of his, including this latest, but my top five are: Midwives, The Double Bind, Before You Know Kindness, The Sandcastle Girls, and a novel that I consider worthy of 5 stars: Skeletons at the Feast. Pick any one of these and see why Bohjalian stands as one of my go-to authors for fiction.