New York TImes bestselling author Charlie Lovett returns to Main Street Books to celebrate the release of his newest novel, The Lost Book of the Holy Grail.
Holy Grail protagonist Arthur Prescott is happiest when surrounded by the ancient books and manuscripts of the Barchester Cathedral library, nurturing his secret obsession with the Holy Grail and researching his perennially unfinished guidebook to the medieval cathedral. But when a beautiful young American named Bethany Davis arrives in Barchester charged with the task of digitizing the library's manuscripts, Arthur's tranquility is broken. Appalled by the threat modern technology poses to the library he loves, he sets out to thwart Bethany, only to find in her a kindred spirit with a similar love for knowledge and books and a fellow Grail fanatic.
Bethany soon joins Arthur in a quest to find the lost Book of Ewolda, the ancient manuscript telling the story of the cathedral's founder. And when the future of the cathedral itself is threatened, Arthur and Bethany's search takes on grave importance, leading the pair to discover secrets about the cathedral, about the Grail, and about themselves.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Lovett graduated from Davidson College in the 1980's and since has published three volumes of adult fiction (including The Bookman's Tale and First Impressions), a myriad of children's plays, and multiple works of nonfiction.
Charlie Lovett Interview with Main Street Books
Main Street Books: It seems as though you found your fiction-writing rhythm with the penning of The Bookman's Tale. A few themes have since reappeared in subsequent novels: bibliophilia, romance, and English history or landscape. Why do you think your niche lies at the intersection of these themes? Do you have plans to move away from them with your next novel?
Charlie Lovett: I think the reason those themes work for me is because those are things about which I am passionate and that passion shows through in my writing. It's a bit like the old adage of 'write about what you know,' except, in my case, I write about what I care about. And I think these themes resonate with readers. It's no great surprise, I suppose, that people who love to read books also care about books themselves as physical objects. As far as my next novel, I can't say too much right now, because it's in the very early stages, but it will probably still be involved in the world of books, though set in the U.S.
Main Street Books: When and why did your interest in Lewis Carroll emerge?
Charlie Lovett: My father was a book collector (still is) and collected different editions of Robinson Crusoe. He was also a professor of English Literature, so I grew up in a house that valued both text and physical books. When I began to travel on my own, I always went to bookshops looking for books for my father. As a young man (as a Davidson student), I thought it would be fun to start my own collection. I had enjoyed many rainy afternoons as a child listening to Cyril Ritchard's recordings of the Alice books, so I thought I would start with Alice. Not until later did I realize that Lewis Carroll was such a fascinating figure and did I begin to collect all sorts of books and artifacts connected to him and his world. The very first public exhibition of my collection was in 1985 in the basement of the (then) College Union building at Davidson. We put up a little display in the windows outside the bookstore!
Main Street Books: You have composed a multitude of children's plays; of those, do you have a favorite? If so, which play and why that one?
Charlie Lovett: It's hard to pick a favorite, because I associate each of those plays with its original cast, and I am so fond of all of those children (many of whom are now adults). I spent 11 years as a children's playwright and published 19 plays. In some ways, my first play, Twinderella, is my favorite because it proved I could master this rather odd art form. The audience reaction to the first performance is something I will never forget, and the play also beat out 750 other entrants to win the Shubert Fendrich award. But, even though it is my bestselling play, it is flawed. I learned a lot about writing for the stage and for children in those 11 years, and, in my opinion (and that of my wife and director), the later plays are a lot better.
Main Street Books: You are traveling to Davidson for Professor Joe Gardner's retirement party, yes? How are you connected to him? Any fun stories we should know pertaining to the Gardner clan?
Charlie Lovett: I attended Davidson from 1980-84 and was a theatre major. I met Joe in the fall of my freshman year when I was in the production of Look Homeward Angel. I took several classes with him during my four years, and he directed me in You Can't Take It With You (in a roll that I reprised 25 years later in community theatre). In all those years writing children's plays, I also designed and built the sets, so the work I did with Joe stuck with me. He was a great teacher and also just about the most likable guy you could ever hope to meet. Plus, I was in awe (and still am) of his talent as a designer.
My favorite story: We were striking the set for Poor Murderer, which took place in a Russian insane asylum. The exterior walls were 19 feet high. We floated down the first wall and Joe stepped onto the set, but the change in air pressure from a massive wall floating to the ground pulled the other wall down. We all stood there watching as Joe scrambled and dove off the stage just in time to avoid having half the set fall on top of him. Then he just brushed himself off and got back to work.
Main Street Books: What do you do when you aren't writing?
Charlie Lovett: Travel, talk to people about books, sing in the church choir, read, run, and enjoy time with my amazing wife and daughters. I also spend a lot of time with all the non-writing parts of the book business.
Main Street Books: Tell us about some of the shenanigans you got into while attending Davidson College.
Charlie Lovett: Shenanigans? Me? Why, I never!
Okay, I was known to see the sun rise after a cast party once in awhile...
Main Street Books: Do you have any writing superstitions (a chair in which you must sit while writing, a pen you must use, a beverage you must drink, etc.)?
Charlie Lovett: Not really. It's like Mr. Nike says - just do it.
Main Street Books: Would you rather have chocolate bars for fingers or string cheese for toes?
Charlie Lovett: Chocolate bars for fingers. Not many people know this, but I actually do have chocolate bars for fingers.