Tag Archives: Texas

Texas Book Festival 2016 – Day One!

The 21st Annual Texas Book Festival was held in Austin this weekend and the line up this year did not disappoint.  Over 250 authors were available this weekend for speaking and signing.


Set around the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, the event features tents from C-Span/Book TV, as well as for YA and Children’s authors, signings, music, and vendors of all sorts.  Several talks were also held in the rooms of the Capitol, as well as neighboring churches and hotels.


My first stop was a reading with festival founder and former First Lady of both Texas and the US, Laura Bush, and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager.  They spoke about their love of books and education and did a very charming reading of their newest collaboration “Our Great Big Backyard’ after which they graciously signed their book for the attendees.


Next stop was to the YA tent where I listened to some of the top YA authors in their panel called “It’s The End of The World as I Know It.”  Featuring Aaron Starmer, A.S. King, Siobhan Vivian, and Rachel Cohn, they talked about turning disaster into YA literature and how their own lives inspire their work.  I highly recommend Mr. Starmer’s book “Spontaneous” to anyone looking for an interesting take on spontaneous combustion and literally “blowing up.”


After a quick walk to the Omni Hotel, I was extremely happy to attend a session on the great David Bowie featuring journalist Rob Sheffield and performer Thomas Dolby.  Their insights on Bowie’s career added a whole new level to his work as a musician.  I also found Mr. Dolby’s life after “She Blinded Me With Science” to be extremely compelling and definitely worth picking up his book after the lecture.


After a delicious lunch at one of the numerous food vendors that were at the festival, I made my way back to the YA tent to hear “Twice Upon a Time,” a panel featuring Danielle Paige, Jonah Lisa Dyer, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, three authors who have taken classic stories and given them updated and modern YA spins.  One of my favorite books this year, “The Season” written by Dyer, is an updated take on Pride & Prejudice set in the crazy world of the Texas Debutante scene.  Loved it and Ms. Dyer was a delight to speak with!


I closed out my day at First Baptist Church and was blown away by the panel featuring Noah Hawley and Don DeLillo.  Mr. DeLillo’s writing has been highly awarded and his stories and inspirations were so entertaining.  Mr. Hawley is an accomplished writer himself and his debut novel “Before the Fall” perfectly illustrates the hyper media culture we all live in today.

If you are visiting Austin, make sure you also check out the food and nightlife scene.  The restaurants and bars in town are incredible and were a lovely way to relax after a long and busy day!

News of the World by Paulette Jiles


At just over 200 pages, this should have been an extremely quick read for me, but I simply did not want it to end. Start with the fact that this is a beautifully constructed book.  The dust jacket is gorgeous, and it comes complete with deckled pages and maps as the endpapers.

On to the story itself.  It is deeply emotional, the language is gorgeous and rich, and the book is constructed in such a way that you feel like you are in the wagon with the Captain and Johanna. The Captain is a character that will stay with me for a very long time, and the relationship that grows between the two of them truly warms the heart.  No wonder this is on the National Book Award Longlist.


(photo credit Jill Gann Photography)

Paulette Jiles was kind enough to discuss the writing of this book:

  1. What draws you to write about the Civil War era?

I was first drawn to it when I was researching the Civil War era in the Missouri Ozarks when doing family genealogy. That research went into Enemy Women. If you are a writer, research is really kind of an investment, a storehouse of stuff, facts, images and documents ready to hand. I was thinking of a sequel to Enemy Women in which I envisioned Adair and the Major moving to north Texas.  So I looked into conditions in North Texas at the end of the War and discovered stories about the black frontiersman Britt Johnson, which led to more research for Color of Lightning. This included discovering Captain Kidd by hearing about him from a neighbor here where I live. This neighbor’s ancestor was a real newsreader named Captain Kidd, or Kydd. It also led to looking into the intriguing subject of captives held by the Kiowa and Comanche tribes. And these things gave rise to News of the World. When you begin research, you step onto the Yellow Brick Road and there is no end to it. No end to the stories.

  1. How many months or years of research went into gathering the fascinating historical details we see in the book?

It is hard to say how much time went into research for News of the World, because it all came from that storehouse I have of sources for both the Civil War, Texas and the clothing, etc. of that time. It was cumulative, from two previous novels. I used Wikipedia a great deal and especially the further references at the end of every Wikipedia article, and their sources. Also, I must say the fact-checkers at Harper Collins were wonderful, very keen and interested, they found mistakes I had let slip by and also pointed me to other sources. To get things right you have to love research. It’s an addiction.

  1. Fans of The Color of Lightening will be happy to see Britt Johnson reappear in News of the World. How did you come upon the idea of bringing him into this narrative?

I was amazed that he had not been given a fuller treatment in literature, he is an archetypal hero figure, like Roland or Beowulf or El Cid. His story, while true, has all the attributes of the classic tragic hero. I just went back to the scene in Color of Lightning when Captain Kidd is reading from a newspaper about the Fifteenth Amendment while Britt and his crew, Dennis and Paint, stand in the back of the hall listening. It is raining. Something momentous is taking place. I shifted this scene into its own book, page one, and suddenly the subject becomes a captive girl. You can always use a good scene twice!

  1. How would you explain your love of the Texas landscape, which figures so prominently in your overall body of work?

Some people are just born with a love of landscape or the outdoors, or gardening, or raising large animals, or searching through the non-urban world for treasure. It’s in your DNA or something. I am one of those people. We should have a secret sign. Part of the fun of researching Color of Lightning was driving up to North Texas with a friend, June Chism, to the Red River country. She and her husband Wayne have relatives there, as well as friends (ranchers) who took me down to the Red River, where I found the place Britt would likely have crossed, and we found the Stone Houses, and visited Spanish Fort et cetera. It is a beautiful and also dangerous country. It is dramatic. There are fires, droughts and floods, rolling red land, astonishing skies. June’s husband Wayne Chism is the one whose ancestor was the real newsreader, who traveled from town to town in North Texas to read the news of the day to those assembled. Captain Kidd or Kydd. The moment Wayne told me about his great-great grandfather I knew this was a truly great character. I put him into the rainy chill landscape of North Texas in COL, but I knew there was more there.

  1. What emotional aspect of the story do you think readers will appreciate most?

I think readers will most appreciate the Captain’s courage in doing the right thing. His protection of the innocent, his staunch defense, even to the risk of his life, of a child in need