Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wally Lamb In Person - A Real Treat

2 nights ago, Joni and I went to Book Passage, in Corte Madera, to see Wally Lamb.   He's on a 40-city book tour for his latest, We Are Water.  And as the subject line indicates, he was a real treat.  He's engaging, humble, and, as he told me later, thrilled to be out among his readers.  He said that writing is such a lonely profession, he relishes the connections he makes with his audience when he's on tour.

We Are Water is his 5th novel.  Everybody knows his 1st novel, She's Come Undone, and his 2nd novel,  I Know This Much Is True.  You may also remember that both of these novels became selections for Oprah's Book Club.  In fact, Oprah called Wally in 1992, when She's Come Undone came out, and told him how much she liked it (when she identified herself, he thought somebody was pulling his leg). And, then, 5 years later, when she started her book club, She's Come Undone was one of her early selections.

Here's an interesting story that Wally (my new best friend) told us.  He said that after his 1st 2 books were so successful, he developed a bad case of writer's block.  He was completely afraid that he wouldn't be able to write a book comparable to his 1st 2.  He couldn't come up with a story line for a 3rd book for a whole year.  Then, one day, while he was visiting in New Orleans, he stopped at Saint Louis Cathedral and literally knelt down and asked for help.  He was writing his next book within a week's time.  Since then, he has had numerous trips to New Orleans to visit his 2 sons, who were there for extended periods of time.  Never once has he failed to go into Saint Louis Cathedral and say a thank you.  It just goes to show you that inspiration can come from a variety of spiritual and feet-on-the-ground sources (I think his story is very cool - and I'm Jewish!).

Wally wrote We Are Water based loosely on a couple of real-life incidents from his home state of Connecticut.  One is a flood that happened in 1963, and the other comes from a real-life black artist, Ellis Ruley, who married a caucasian woman in the days when that just wasn't done (late '40's-early '50's).  He died in 1959 under strange circumstances.  It was ruled an accidental death but could well have been murder.

He gave us a couple of anecdotes about the book.  It seems that Dr. Laura is a central character in one of the scenes.  When he asked the legal department about using her name, he was told that it was "probably" okay, and that there "probably" wouldn't be a lawsuit started.  He also told us that his publisher, HarperCollins, hired 7 different voice actors for the audiobook.  The 8th voice is his.  He seemed pretty excited about being one of those 8.

For the last 14 years, he has been helping incarcerated women publish their stories.  This guy is a real mensch - and a pretty fair author to boot.


  1. Wally Lamb is a favorite author of mine and I'm envious that you and Joni got to see him in person. I totally believe the story he told about asking for help in the Saint Louis Cathedral. Very touching.

  2. I have only ever read 2 Oprah Book Club books - Midwives and She's Come Undone. And I thoroughly enjoyed both. But I haven't read any other Wally Lamb books. I will definitely read We Are Water.

  3. Very cool, Still haven't read any of his books but have She's Come Undone on my shelves. I love that he's so involved with women prisoners.

  4. Since I've seen him, I feel like I should read his latest. It's in the TBR file - somewhere. But I have to say that She's Come Undone was really good.