Every bookstore should secure Stephen Chbosky for a signing. Not only is he a super nice guy but also Chbosky fandom runs deep, especially in Tucson where Bookmans Grant played host to over a hundred people, some arriving hours before the event. Chbosky noticed saying, “I’m blown away there are so many people here. It’s amazing.” We were lucky enough to have the Perks of Being a Wallflower author and director visit our store and sign copies of his book and movie, but he took it one step further giving us the opportunity to pick his brain about character development, advice for aspiring authors and his search for the film’s quintessential music.
Chbosky’s responses reflected on his work and life. “[Perks] is easily the most successful thing I’ve ever done and hands down the most personal,” he says and encourages authors to stick to their voice, which makes them unique and interesting.
As advocates for Freedom of Expression, we appreciate having the author who has experienced the banning of his work in our store to discuss how addressing difficult topics affects readers. Chbosky, who has received letters thanking him for writing about the very topics that caused his books to be pulled from some shelves, says, “On a fundamental level it makes me sad that people ban anything if it can help someone.” He strives to write characters and stories that inspire hope. “I wanted these kids to be heroes to people.”
Music helps us feel understood. It can be especially potent for adolescents by expressing emotions unique to coming of age and influencing personal growth. The thirteen-year difference between novel publication and film opening required deviation from the book’s play list as it was adapted into a movie. On a more personal level, Chbosky tastes matured too. “It changed for me between book and movie. I learned a lot; I was older.”
Chbosky uses music to identify the character Charlie writes to in the book but he refuses to fix that identity for the reader. “If you love a song and the singer garbles the words a little bit and you don’t quite know what the lyrics are then you make up the lyrics because you love the melody. Then you look at the actual lyrics and they are always a let down, aren’t they? …and so, that’s who Dear Friend is. I actually have an answer, but there have been so many great theories that are actually equally as great as anything that I’ve ever thought of. That’s why I can never answer that question unfortunately, because your lyric is way better than mine, trust me.”
The crowd at Bookmans Grant was too large to accommodate everyone who wished to have a book or DVD signed in the hour we had scheduled with Chbosky. He stayed 15 minutes later than planned and still didn’t get through the line, so he promised to return. He kept his promise and returned after he was finished with his other obligations, staying until everyone had time to meet him.
It was an honor and a privilege to have Chbosky in our store and we’re especially grateful that he signed every last book, poster and DVD his fans brought. We couldn’t have asked for an author with more humor and insight to represent the voice of adolescence that transcends any generation. Stephen Chbosky, come back to Tucson any time!
Check out the video of Chbosky addressing audience questions at Bookmans Grant.
Follow Chbosky on Twitter @StephenChbosky.
Post author Rebecca Ballenger is a wannabe Internet practitioner, subtly charming public school advocate and amateur communicator who asks too many questions and writes mostly about books at RebL Nation.
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