I am not easily star struck. Having lived in both Los Angeles and New York, I’ve seen my share of celebrities (usually because I was sliding a plate of Eggs Benedict in front of them—Yes, card-carrying ex-waitress/actress here!). But whenever anyone asks what celebrity had me truly seeing stars, one experience always comes to mind.
It was 1996 and Clive Barker was on tour for his novel Sacrament and scheduled to appear at one of Barnes and Noble’s NYC locations for a signing.
Now I had always considered Mr. Barker a fascinating creative force, but it was only after I watched a feature on him and his work habits, that I fell hard for the man. He did it all! He was a fine artist, a prolific writer, he made films. He had so many ideas, so much creative energy flowing—I was in awe and quite smitten. So when I learned he was coming to sign his new novel, I got in line.
Not surprisingly, that line was LONG. (Apparently, I was not the only person to be crushing on Mr. Barker.) But since it was my first signing, I was grateful for my competition. As we all shuffled and waited, shuffled and waited, I watched my predecessors, trying to learn from their obvious expertise. I would have to have an introductory line, right? Something chatty prepared, yes? I mean, come on! I’d come all this way, for God’s sake. I wasn’t just going to stand there like a blubbering, blushing idiot, was I?
Turns out, I was. As soon as my turn arrived and I stepped up to the table, my brilliant line (you know, the one I’d had over an hour of waiting time to come up with) burst forth in all its graceless glory:
“I’ve never read one of your books but I really love your films.”
At once my skin flushed scarlet with shame. Had I really said that? At a book signing?! Idiot!
I sucked in a rueful breath and steeled myself for the condemning glare. But ever the gentleman, Mr. Barker said simply, and so pleasantly: “Well, then I think this will be a wonderful novel to introduce you to my work.”
Oh, but wait. There’s more.
He then scooped up a book from the pile beside him and opened it to the title page. Spine gently flattened, pen poised, he asked, “And who should I make this out to?”
“Erika,” I said. (Grateful it was a question I could answer.)
“Now is that Erika with a C or with a K?” he asked.
Oh, wow. Now anyone who has a name with multiple spellings will tell you that we are used to misspellings and when we say we don’t care, well, we really don’t—but that said, to be asked is always appreciated. (Especially by a man who could have written my name with a C, a K and an extra I and I’d still have come away glowing.)
So, heart pounding with pleasure and gratitude, I smiled and said, “K.”
And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Mr. Barker looked up, leveled his gaze with mine, smiled and said in a deep, smooth voice that still sends goose bumps (the good kind) down my spine when I recall it:
“With a K. How exotic.”
Now don’t ask me what happened next. I know that I took the book from him and I know I paid for it (see above photo) and I know I somehow even managed to get myself back on the subway. But beyond that, it’s a blur.
A delicious, toe-curling blur.
So thank you, Mr. Barker, for what are perhaps the two sexiest words a man has ever said to me (with the exception of my husband, of course, who can curl my toes with half that.)
From here on out, feel free to call me Exotic Erika.
It really does have a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
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What writer would you all love to sign your book and/or curl your toes?
21 Replies to “When Clive Barker made Deb Erika swoon”
Charlaine Harris responded to me with a nice personal note on Facebook – I was delighted. I enjoy when authors come down from high and remind you they are flesh and blood people. Heather Brewer has an amazing rapport with her readers on FB and elsewhere. She calls herself Auntie Heather and her readers Minions. I’m not a fan of “author as unreachable god/goddess” persona that to me is quite out of date. Connecting with readers outside of the “printed” page seems very yesterday. Love how Clive Barker used the opportunity to make you feel GOOD and not embarrass you.
Oops, I mean NOT connecting…
I know–isn’t that the truth! Looking back I realize now that it wasn’t the work that gave me such good memories of the signing (though I did read the book and found it fascinating too) but his rapport and that even though he had to be exhausted and understandably weary of the whole meet-and-greet, he was gracious and patient and, as I mentioned once or maybe a hundred times, utterly charming.
It makes SUCH a difference.
And I like that you signed K today. Which you probably do every time but in light of this post, it fits perfectly 😉
How cool, Exotic Erika! 🙂
Personally, I’m hoping Daniel Craig or Hugh Jackman will one day write memoirs and hit my local B & N for a signing. THAT would really curl my toes. 😉
Linda, why stop there? Who’s to say you and Mr. Craig and/or Mr. Jackman won’t end up at the same book festival and share a signing table TOGETHER?
Just saying 😉
Be still heart! Though, really, that might be too much of a good thing. I’d go cross-eyed, just trying to decide where to focus. 😉
Oh, EE (as you will now be known) I just got fangirly chills just reading that. How lovely and wonderful for you that you had such a positive experience and he was so gracious (and swoony). Those are the moments we cherish forever and maybe one day we can maybe deliver a similar one to a reader of our books. 😀
Didn’t you, though?! Oh, he was truly dreamy.
(And I like how you think. Here’s to leaving the same impression someday!)
LOVE that story… and yet I imagined Clive as Kenneth Branagh, because he makes me all loopy with his genius.
Loopy! Yes! That’s the perfect word. There is something so disarming about a creative brain, isn’t there? (And lets be honest, the accent NEVER hurts either, does it? 😉 )
PS! Any date on the Mermaid Sea-quel? The girls were actually asking about it yesterday…
Loopy is the perfect word! There’s something about a creative man in his element, doing this thing (even if it’s subsidiary to the real thing, writing), that’s so…dreamy. I read your post and imagined a rogue-ish man, dark, but with a humorous glint in his eye. Another Clive: Clive Owen!
Rogue-ish, indeed! You nailed it, Lisa. And that glint was there.
Clive Owen–what is it with those Clives anyway? 😉
What a great story! I found myself smiling throughout — writers are a passionate bunch! I love that he both charmed you and rattled you at the same time; really as a writer it’s what we hope for our readers, in person or from the page.
Thank you, Julia! I’d like to say I wouldn’t be as easily “swooned” 16 (gasp!) years later but knowing me…;)
Swooning? I love it! I have several favorite male authors. But I think I would just love to have Robin Cook sign all my books. I just love his mind and he is easy on the eyes!
Hi Missy–Oh, I love his books too–and I didn’t know this about him being easy on the eyes–how could I not know this?! Time to oogle, I mean GOOGLE! 😉
What a lovely post (I was laughing WITH you, Exotic Erika, throughout). What a humble, wonderful man to have been so genuine and gracious. I believe you to be JUST the same, so it’s only fitting that you were treated so well :-). I’m not a fan of standing in line for ANYTHING, so you might have changed my mind. You had me at “toe-curling”…
Oh, you! What a sweetheart.
Truly, I was in awe then and I think I am even more in awe NOW knowing how intensive the whole process can be and to maintain that sort of charm and rapport in a sea of hundreds. I strive for that, certainly.
Aside from being a lovely post, this is a GREAT lesson on how to interact with readers at book signings! I find that people laugh at my sometimes because even if her name is Mary I’ll ask her to spell it! Don’t want to get it wrong after all…. Yet I don’t have a british accent and am decidedly NOT dreamy, so I don’t think my question has the same effect on people. Huh…
Hey, don’t be so sure! You might just want to google “Rachel Bertsche” and “toe-curling” a few months into your book tour and just see! 😉
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