by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Seattle author Garth Stein will be visiting Bend, Sisters and Sunriver to promote his new novel, A Sudden Light, this February. Stein, known for his international bestseller, The Art of Racing in the Rain, returns with a multi-generational family saga that is steeped in the fantastical history of the Pacific Northwest.
“I grew up in Seattle, and I’ve always been fascinated by the history of the region, so ‘place’ always plays a role in my books,” Stein explained.
His novel centers around the relics of wealth and prestige of the fictional Riddell family, in a location that was very real to Stein growing up. “I spent my childhood in a neighborhood that was just north of a famous wealthy enclave called The Highlands. The Highlands was founded by the richest of the rich in Seattle around the turn of the 20th century, and it features gigantic mansions tucked into the forest on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. So, yes, the fictional place in my book, The North Estate, was based on my childhood memories of The Highlands.”
Although a book of fiction, many of Stein’s historical details and rich imagery were based on actual people, events and the culture of 19th century Seattle. “I think what most impressed me was the compact history of European settlers in the Northwest. This region has a very long history of Native people; it was in 1851 that the Denny Party arrived on Alki Point and the modern era of Seattle began.
“Learning about how the city developed over the second half of the 19th century and into the 20th century was quite fascinating. I think the most surprising bit of information I discovered is the prevalence of gay culture in Seattle throughout its history—the history of gay bars and same-sex dance establishments in Pioneer Square in the 1930’s; and the fact that King County was named after William Rufus King, our country’s shortest-serving vice president, who was James Buchannan’s gay partner.”
Stein will appear at Bend High School on February 11 at 7pm as part of the Deschutes Public Library Author!Author! Literary Series, February 13 at The Belfry in Sisters at 6:30pm, and February 14 at SHARC in Sunriver at 5pm.
“Writing a book is a very long process,” he explained. “A writer must learn about his characters and his story, of course, but he must also learn a great deal about himself. And so as much as we might want to rush the process, if we do, we will compromise the end result.
“I have made a promise to my readers that I will never put out a book that isn’t the best book I possibly could have written. I have too much respect for the reader to do otherwise. So I assure my readers that A Sudden Light is the very best book I have written…so far!”