We love his books, especially those intriguing, can’t-put-it-down tomes like “Da Vinci Code” and “Inferno.”
And the author responsible for these bestsellers, Dan Brown, is coming to Hartford Saturday, courtesy of the Mark Twain House & Museum.
Brown ‘Spilled the Beans’ with Java as he prepares to leave his New Hampshire home and come south for a visit, sharing his thoughts on turning 50, his main character Robert Langdon, education today and who he would like to have dinner with, if he was given a choice. Read the interview here.
Thoughts of Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain, usually prompt an image of a great author and even greater satirist who was well-known for his tongue-in-cheek jabs at issues and people. But the man loved Christmas, whether it be the joy of sharing it with his family or in later years, waxing melancholy over the loss of his dear wife and daughters. In a new book, New York author Carlo DeVito Spills the Beans about Twain’s sentimental soft side when it came to the Christmas holiday. The book, which DeVito said came about by accident, offers a nostalgic and unexpected look at the famed author and his Christmas holidays at his Connecticut homes in Hartford and in Redding.
Q: What prompted the idea for the book? Are you a Mark Twain fan or a Christmas fan?
A: I think I am a combination of both. When I was a kid my parents took me to the Mark Twain house in Hartford, so long ago there were still people living upstairs, I believe. My parents loved visiting old houses so we did this day trip to Hartford and I remember rolling my eyes through the whole thing. As I got older I was a lit major and really got into Twain and his writing. His stories were enchanting and when I visited his Hartford home as an adult for the holiday tour, like any good consumer I went to the gift shop looking for a book about Christmases at his house and there were none. I am no Twain scholar but I started researching and there were these wonderful stories and essays about Christmas at his homes. And Christmas is a time of ghosts, the people who are no longer at your table. And I thought, this would be a cool story so I sat down with a publisher, brought a ton of stuff and it just all came together.
Q: The book has three chapters, focusing on the years, 1908, 1875 and 1909. Why those three periods of time?
A: There was something special in each of those three years. 1908 was his second to the last at Stormfield in Redding and illustrates how famous he was and how acute his senses were, that he was full of wit and sharp as a tack. He was the grand old man of America. The 1875 chapter represents the 20 years in Hartford with the girls, the kind of Christmas stories you would expect. And the 1909, his being reunited with daughter Jean at Stormfield and it being his last Christmas. He is really telling in a kind of weird reverse Dickens kind of way that life was not about wealth and money and fame. It was about his wife and daughters. They were priceless. He realized that at end and that is the beauty of it.
Q: I was very surprised at how sentimental he was about the holiday and how he so enjoyed the magic of it all, especially when his daughters were young. Were you?
A: I was absolutely blown away. Christmas with is children was the high point and I don’t think he originally had any interest in the holiday until he saw how happy it made his children. He ended up growing into it. I thought too it was interesting that he and his wife insisted the girls help make and deliver holiday baskets to people who needed help. I thought it was important because it showed he had not forgotten his roots.
Q: What do you think he would have to say about your book?
A: He would not want it published. He’d say ‘it makes me look like a sucker.’ It would ruin his sarcastic spiel.
DeVito will be signing copies of his book at the 32nd Annual Mark Twain House Holiday Tour Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets for the tour that day are $35. Information: 860-280-3130
Four best-selling authors, Sue Grafton, Alice Hoffman, Scott Turow and David Baldacci, will headline the third annual “Mark My Words” fundraiser for the Mark Twain House & Museum on Oct. 9, at 8 p.m. at the Shubert Theater in New Haven.
Grafton, is famous for her Kinsey Milhone “alphabet mysteries” that began with “A is for Alibi” and continues with her latest, “W is for Wasted, was kind enough to share some thoughts recently when she Spilled the Beans with Java. You can read it here.
Stephan Pastis is the #1 New York Times best-selling creator of the offbeat “Pearls Before Swine,” a comic strip that appears each day in the Hartford Courant. The California native who began drawing when he was child, has just written his first children’s book, “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” and yes, it includes characters and drawings sure to make any young reader smile. The lawyer-turned comic strip creator –turned author will be at RJ Julia Booksellers Saturday. But before he arrives in Connecticut, where he hopes to visit the Mark Twain House & Museum as well, he Spilled the Beans with Java, sharing what inspired the funny book featuring Timmy, the child detective, and a story that is full of the trials and tribulations of childhood and the imagination they inspire.
Q: My experience is that when someone writes a children’s book, there is some of their own experiences in there somewhere. What childhood events of your own did you includes in Timmy Failure? And are you Timmy?
A: When I write it there is no intent to put any of my own childhood in there. I don’t write that way. I write in a strange odd way, the way I have done the strip for years and years. I put music on really loud at the computer and I do my best to think as little as possible. But I guess there are things from my childhood in the book. When I was a little kid I was obsessed with my grades, I always had to have good grades. I had an ulcer in fourth grade. So I share that with the character Rollo. I was essentially an only child like Timmy because my sisters were much older than me. So I lived mostly in my own head like Timmy. And when I was in school all of the smart kids were girls so that would be the character Corinna Corinna. And I already wrote a second book and after I wrote it realized that one of the characters’ is a lot like my grandmother.
Q: What components do you think a children’s book needs these days to prompt a child to put down the video games and read instead?
A: Most reluctant readers are boys and I think you can compete but you need a few things. If a page is dense with a lot of words and nothing else, it is boring. A page needs to be more sparse and in my genre funny with some kind of illustrations. One of the best pieces I got was from Jeff Kinney(who wrote “Diary of A Wimpy Kid”) who told me to just be funny. He writes his books by starting with jokes and then builds the plot around those jokes.
Q: Somehow it seems so discouraging, a kid named Timmy Failure…maybe I am not seeing it but there is something a little sad about him, I think?
A: the name, I thought, was funny. Timmy strikes me as one of those 1950’s era kids and that combined with the last name was funny, an attention grabber for the reader. It’s not your average name. It’s not discouraging because Timmy is the relentless optimist. He believes so much in his abilities as a detective. He is the last person to get discouraged. If he can make it, any kid reading the book will think they are in a better place.
Q: Do you have children and do they have any say in the book storylines?
A: I have a 15-year-old Thomas and 11-year-old Julia. And they do have input, especially Thomas. When I wrote the first book I had him read out loud in front of me and every time he laughed I stopped him to ask why. I am sure he found that annoying and probably kept from laughing by the end so he could get through the book. I’ve always considered him my editor.
Q: What authors were your favorites when you were at that 8 to 12-year-old reading range?
A: There was a book called “ A Wrinkle In Time” and “How To Eat Fried Worms, the whole C.S. Lewis series, those were huge. When I was a little older, the author I read was Kurt Vonnegut. He wrote those real simple sentences, he had an impact. He had a book called “Breakfast of Champions” where he actually drew drawings that are part of the narrative. The drawings in my book are not as clean as the ones in my comic strip but it’s because they are supposed to be drawings by Timmy. Sometimes the drawings become part of the sentence in “Timmy Failure.”
Q: Why did you make Timmy a detective in the book?
A: I think it’s every kid’s dream to be a detective. As a child I loved the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series and “Encyclopedia Jones.” They all share ridiculously clever characters. They are timeless. I just turned it on its head and had the detective least likely person to solve a mystery but he believes he is the best detective ever.
Q: Have you ever been to Ct?
A: Once, to take a deposition. But I am a huge Twain fan and just finished Ken Burns documentary so I want to find some time to get to Hartford and the Twain House while I am there.
Q: Something no one knows about you?
A: I will sit for four hours on a Saturday night and play Star Wars Battlefront with my son.
Pastis will be at RJ Julia, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison at 4 p.m. on March 2. For ticket information go to rjjulia.com
Only a couple of weeks before the “official” holiday season begins. But in the meantime there are a slew of choices to ease you into “busy” mode.
Iconic actress and now director Julie Andrews is in Chester where her play “The Great American Mousical” opens Thursday at the Gooodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre. The musical is based on the best-selling book by Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton . The show has been extended through Dec. 9. Information: www.goodspeed.org
The Chrysalis Center, a Hartford agency that provides social services and develops affordable housing, will hold its “2012 Butterfly Bash” Thursday at the Hartford Marriott beginning at 6 p.m. Go to www.chrysaliscenter.org for ticket information.
On Friday the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters will honor Liberty Bank president and chair Chandler Howard at its “Start Something Big” event at the Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford. The evening includes food, a program and live auction with WFSB personality Scot Haney. Information: www.bbbsnutmeg.org or 1-800-237-5437.
HARC will host its annual gala, “A League of Our Own, Let’s Have A Ball” on Saturday at the Hartford/Windsor Marriott in Windsor beginning at 6:L30p.m. Proceeds benefit the organization that provides services and assistance to the disabled. WTIC personality Ray Dunaway, NBC Connecticut’s Dianna Russini, and auctioneer Paul Stansel will be hosts.
Also on Saturday, Bristol Hospital will hold its annual ball “Baja Breezes” at the Aqua Turf Clubin Plantsville. The evening includes reception, dinner, auction and dancing. WDRC personality Jerry Kristafer is emcee. For information call 860-585-3000.
It will be a “knight” to remember Saturday at the Mark Twain House & Museum where its annual gala. “Joust Do It” gets started at 6 p.m. at The Hartford Club. Guests are invited to get into the them by wearing medieval costumes or cocktail attire. The gala, which benefits the Mark Twain House, includes “a hearty feast for kings and queens, market faire with wondrous wares for auction and the finest mead and ales to add to the merriment.” Information: 860-883-9016 or www.marktwainhouse.org
When it comes to getting creepy, especially this time of the year, author R.L. Stine has set the bar as far as penning “shiver invoking” books for children and teens. His iconic, gently scary “Goosebumps” series, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is a favorite with thrill-seeking youngsters. His “Fear Street,” series is the bestselling teen horror series of all time. But now the first generation of Stine’s fans are all grown up and want more thrills, and, well, “goose bumps.” That has prompted him to write his first official adult horror novel, “Red Rain” which comes out Oct. 9. Stine, along with fellow authors Steve Berry and Sandra Brown will be featured at the Mark Twain House & Museum’s “Mark My Words” program on Oct. 11 at Simsbury High School.
A former joke book writer who is enthralled with story lines that put his readers of all ages on edge, Stine was funny and hardly fearsome at all as he Spilled the Beans with Java.
Q: What is it about scary stories that keep us coming back?
A: Everyone likes really good scary adventures when they are safe at the same time. Frightening, terrible things are happening in the book but you are safe in your house. In my Goosebumps books, everything always turns out fine at the end and that is reassuring to kids. They can get through the story knowing it will be okay. I once wrote a Fear Street story that ended another way. The bad girls ended up going free and the kids let me know they hated that book. They turned on me! I never did it again.
Q; Speaking of Goosebumps, I can’t believe it is 20 years since the first one was written. How did you celebrate?
A: I took a nap. No we had a wonderful celebration at the big book convention at the Javits Center in New York City. There was a beautiful cake made to look like the cover of a Goosebumps book.
Q: And that bring us to your foray into adult horror novels. What prompted that?
A: I wrote “Red Rain” because I listened to my readers. I love Twitter. I love it. It is all 20 and 30-years-olds on Twitter, kids who read my Goosebumps books. Now they are starting families and have their own kids. And they were tweeting to me “write for us now.” So I realized I had this huge audience and that they loved my books then and wanted more. It was never on my mind to write adult books but I decided maybe this was the right time. I was surprised and delighted to have so many requests so we’ll see how Red Rain does and maybe write some more adult books.
Q: Was it harder or easier to write for adults?
A: Much harder. I am so used to “Goosebumps.” Writing those books is sort of like a runner who is a sprinter. Writing Red Rain was like a marathon. I usually spend a week planning and outlining a story for the Goosebumps series and then take two weeks to write it. Red Rain took five months. I did write one other adult book a long time ago but no one liked it. I hope I have a following now.
Q: What was the process for Red Rain?
A: I had to think about a story line that would be appealing to adults. I usually think through ideas while I am walking the dog. I thought people would find it funny if I wrote about evil kids because in my other books, I usually write about good kids. Then I got interested in twins, because there is something sacred about twins. And historically there are those who find them kind of creepy. I did some research and read mythology about twins. People were always worried about twins and having twins was once considered bad luck. Once I decided to use evil twins in the books, I watched three old movies about evil kids, “Village of the Damned,” “Children of the Damned” and “Island of the Damned.” The movies are not related to each other but each has really evil kids and naïve adults.
Q: What is more fun, writing scary for kids or for adults?
A: It’s all fun for me. Most writers like to “have written,” I like the “writing” part. Red Rain was a lot more of a challenge because I had to do research. In the kids’ books I make up everything. When I write for kids, I have to make sure they know it isn’t real. I don’t want to scare them. When you write for adults, it’s the opposite. Every detail has to be real or the adults aren’t going to go along with it.
Q: When you were a child, were you a “fraidy cat?”
A: I was a very fearful child which is why I spent most of my time in my room typing stories. I grew up in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio and would ride my bike around until dark when it was time to come in. I had this fear that there was something waiting for me in the garage. So I would get home and just throw my bike into the garage and run into the house. I remember that feeling of panic and have used it in my writing.
Q: Is there a down side to frightening people?
A: There is a right way to frighten kids but you don’t really want to frighten them. I hate it when parents write and say their kids are having nightmares after reading my books. I love it when a parent writes, ‘I love your books because they give my kids shivers not nightmares.’ When I started writing I was a funny guy who wrote books. When I started writing the horror stories, I would go to schools and ask kids why they like these books and most would say “I like to be scared.”
Q: What is Halloween like at your house?
A: If I am home, and usually I am not because that is a busy time of year, I drag out a life sized skeleton and hand out candy and books.
Q: You are among those being featured at the “Mark My Words” Mark Twain event in Connecticut next week. Are you a fan of his?
A: I have always been a fan. My favorite book of his is “Huckleberry Finn.”
Q: Something no one knows about you?
A: I am a big opera fan. Kids wouldn’t like hearing that. And I love football. I am a Giants and a Jets fan.
Tickets for “Mark My Words” range from $45 a person to $125 that includes a pre-show reception with the authors. Go to www.twainmarkmywords.com for information.
I’m not exactly sure why this has all turned into a competition but apparently the state has got Connecticut tourist sites vying with each other to be part of the new “VisitConnecticut” marketing campaign.
The Mark Twain House & Museum is scrambling to be among the top 10 places that will be part of the marketing effort. And that of course is based upon online votes.
Kick back this weekend and enjoy the fruits of summer… golf, music, wine, food and the luxury of time to enjoy it all.
For some of that kind of action, head to the casinos.
Celebs including “Goose” Gossage, Marcus Allen, Cuba Gooding and David Justice are among more than 30 sports and entertainment stars who will be partying and golfing this weekend in the Ahmad Rashad Celebrity Golf Classic at Mohegan Sun. The weekend includes a pairing party Thursday, a 70s-themed charity concert on Friday and golf on Sunday.
Proceeds from the classic and the REACH Foundation’s Charity Concert will benefit the Y Achievers and Y Teen Incentive Programs (Y-TIP) at the Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth & Family Center in Hartford.
On Friday, Foxwoods Resort will host “Taste of the World,” a dine-around billed as a global world experience. Foods from countries including France, China, Brazil, and the United Kingdom will be featured. For ticket information go to foxwoods.com
Also tempt your taste buds Saturday and Sunday at the CT Wine Fest at the Goshen Fairground. The festival features wine tastings, local specialty food samplings and live entertainment. Tickets are $30 the day of the event. Designated drivers tickets are $10. The festival runs from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Information: ctwine.com
Got green? Get your Irish on at the 28th annual Irish Music Festival at the Irish American Home Society in Glastonbury. The event runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday and includes international Irish bands, food, a children’s area and the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band. The festival is open Friday from 6 p.m. to midnight, Saturday from 2 p.m. to midnight and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. Admission is $10, $9 for seniors and free for children 9 and younger. Information: 860-633-9691 or irishmusicfest.com
And what’s summer without ice cream. Today from 5 to 7 p.m. head over to the Mark Twain House & Museum where free ice cream from Shady Glen, UConn Dairy Bar and Royal Ice Cream will be yours for the scooping at its annual IceCream Social on the Twain grounds. There will also be discounted tours, a lantern-making workshop with Hartford artist Anne Cubberly, and entertainment. Information: marktwainhouse.org
Let you weekend seep a bit into next week as well.
Look up in the sky Monday for a vintage thrill and a look at history.
The non-profit Liberty Foundation is bringing its restored Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, used in the movie “Memphis Belle” and a newly restored Curtis P-40E to Brainard Airport as part of its “Salute to Veterans” national tour.
The vintage WWII aircraft will be flying over the city that day as a preview to a public program on Aug. 4 and 5 when the public can book a flight as well as tour the planes. The tour is designed to provide a national “hands on” history lesson and bring awareness to the efforts of veterans. Information: libertyfoundation.org
And finally, treat yourself with a night out of dining. Taste of Hartford continues through Aug. 5. Take advantage of the $20.12 fixed price special menus at dozens of city restaurants and enjoy.
Pretty soon it will be the ghosts not the legacy of the famed author that will be drawing crowds to Mark Twain House & Museum.
The Mark Twain House & Museum has been tapped by the History Channel for its #1 show “My Ghost Story.”
As the story goes, a visitor came to take one of its Graveyard Shift Ghost Tours a few months back, snapped some exterior shots of the house and caught what they believed to be images of a woman outside on the porch. The visitor contacted “My Ghost Story” to share what she believed is evidence of a paranormal encounter and that prompted the show to contact the museum.
Soooo, the museum was asked for additional evidence plus an eyewitness who experienced something unexplained in the house. The museum and its stage-hogging marketing guy, Jacques Lamarre, sent along some photos that suggested ghostly figures, as well as a CD of Electronic Voice Phenomena recorded in the house by Givens Paranormal.
To seal the deal, Museum Assistant Mallory Howard, who was featured on an episode of SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” about the Mark Twain House, was flown out to Los Angeles this past weekend for an interview for the show.
Howard, is considered an expert eyewitness because she saw a transparent woman floating through the front hall into the dining room and out into the servants’ wing while giving a tour a few years ago.
So, the show will be sending a film crew in the near future to shoot footage in the house for an airdate later this season.
And in his never-ending quest for sold-out events, Lamarre is inviting people interested in possibly having their own ghost story shared, to attend this weekend’s Graveyard Shift Ghost Tours at the Mark Twain House on Friday, July 27 and Saturday, July 28. (860) 280-3130 for reservations.