Author Angie Kim, standing, poses for a photo with the audience as they hold up copies of her novel "Miracle Creek" during the Ninth Annual Day for Book Lovers hosted by the Carroll County Public Library and the Friends of the Carroll County Public Library at Martin's Westminster Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
Author Angie Kim, standing, poses for a photo with the audience as they hold up copies of her novel "Miracle Creek" during the Ninth Annual Day for Book Lovers hosted by the Carroll County Public Library and the Friends of the Carroll County Public Library at Martin's Westminster Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Bestselling authors Tracy Chevalier and Angie Kim spent an afternoon in Westminster talking to local audiences about their newest works and their writing processes during the annual Day for Book Lovers.

The event is a nine-year tradition hosted by the Carroll County Public Library and Friends of CCPL. Over the years, it has brought nationally bestselling authors from Tayari Jones to Alice McDermott to Carroll audiences.

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Chevalier, a New York Times bestselling author best known for her novel “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” was first to speak Monday. She was interviewed by fellow historical fiction author Pam Jenoff, who served not as a writer but as a fangirl, she joked. Jenoff’s first question was how Chevalier found the seeds of her novels. At one point in her writing career, Chevalier realized, “I write an awful lot of novels about my teenage obsessions,” she said with a laugh.

Author Tracy Chevalier, right, sits for a question and answer session with bestselling author Pam Jenoff, left, during the Ninth Annual Day for Book Lovers hosted by the Carroll County Public Library and the Friends of the Carroll County Public Library at Martin's Westminster Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
Author Tracy Chevalier, right, sits for a question and answer session with bestselling author Pam Jenoff, left, during the Ninth Annual Day for Book Lovers hosted by the Carroll County Public Library and the Friends of the Carroll County Public Library at Martin's Westminster Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

One of those is cathedrals. For her latest title “A Single Thread,” she visited the Winchester Cathedral looking for inspiration and was sparked by the hundreds of hand-done needlework kneelers and cushions created by a group of female volunteers in the 1930s. She wrote her protagonist Violet into this tightly knit group.

“Think of all of the different personalities that come to the fore in these groups,” she asked the audience. “There’s the bossy one …”

The rest of her list was partially covered by laughter from the audience. After hearing that she was writing about the needlepoint, “Winchester Cathedral is very surprised, but they’re delighted.”

The writing process is one of weaving together research and the imagined. She tries to write 1,000 words a day, all by hand with fountain pen. The speed of writing by hand matches the speed of her thoughts better than typing, she said.

She also tries not to take long breaks in the middle of a novel because readers can sense that interruption in the flow and change of style, she said.

“A Single Thread,” called on her to enter a time period more recent than many of her former titles. It was a time period her father lived through.

Later, she talked about how one of the benefits of writing historical fiction is that readers are less likely to conflate her own life with her characters’.

Writing historical novels, “distance is built in ... and I like it that way,” she said.

Sandy Sidlovsky of Westminster poses for a photo with author Tracy Chevalier, right, during a book signing, part of the Ninth Annual Day for Book Lovers hosted by the Carroll County Public Library and the Friends of the Carroll County Public Library at Martin's Westminster Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
Sandy Sidlovsky of Westminster poses for a photo with author Tracy Chevalier, right, during a book signing, part of the Ninth Annual Day for Book Lovers hosted by the Carroll County Public Library and the Friends of the Carroll County Public Library at Martin's Westminster Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

By contrast, Kim, who spoke after lunch spoke about the places where her novel intersects with her own experiences. She said there is a saying that the earlier novels tend to include a lot of the author’s self and that was true for her.

“Miracle Creek” is her first novel, though she has spent her time as a Harvard-educated trial lawyer, consultant and mother of three sons. She spent her childhood in Seoul, South Korea and immigrated to Lutherville with her family at 11 years old. The plot begins with a deadly fire at a hyperbaric oxygen therapy center run by a Korean immigrant family in the fictional town of Miracle Creek, Virginia. It then moves to the trial of the mother of the 8-year-old boy on the autism spectrum who died in the fire. She is charged with his murder.

In one sense, she said, the story is a murder mystery, asking the how, why and whodunnit of the boy’s death.

“I hope more than that ... it serves as a Trojan horse to get into the lives of these people,” she said.

She went through hyperbaric therapy with one of her own sons when he was a child and in the darkened chamber, the setting became intimate and confessional for the group of patients and caregivers there together. “It’s an emotional crucible and a physical one,” she said.

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Writing the courtroom scenes, she was able to take off her “author hat” which can mean she often labors over sentences and punctuation. She flew through the writing with her “lawyer hat” on for those scenes.

“Except you get to control what the witnesses say, which is like the best thing ever," she said with a laugh.

“Miracle Creek” is filled with lies and secrets. When asked about it, she said that shame is one of the most powerful motivators of human behavior. In Korean families, protecting oneself and one’s family members from shame is a strong value. She found echoes of that protective instinct in families of disabled children who are faced with the stigma against cognitive, social and emotional disabilities from the outside world.

“Love and passion can wane over time, but shame is one of those things that can just stay with you," she said. “I think you will do anything to get out of that feeling."

Author Angie Kim, standing, prepares to take a photo with the audience as they hold up copies of her novel Miracle Creek during the Ninth Annual Day for Book Lovers hosted by the Carroll County Public Library and the Friends of the Carroll County Public Library at Martin's Westminster Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
Author Angie Kim, standing, prepares to take a photo with the audience as they hold up copies of her novel Miracle Creek during the Ninth Annual Day for Book Lovers hosted by the Carroll County Public Library and the Friends of the Carroll County Public Library at Martin's Westminster Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Day for Book Lovers is supported by A Likely Story Bookstore, Penguin Random House, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Attendance reached a record 263 attendees this year, due in part to the fact that the event, which has been held at McDaniel College in the past, moved to Martin’s in Westminster because of renovations at the college, putting it in a larger, though more expensive venue.

During the lunch break between events, the Friends of CCPL table saw several sign-ups, including at least one lifetime membership. The members of the organization, which was formed about seven years ago, serve as cheerleaders for the library system, said Sharon Yinling, board president.

They raise funds for the annual Battle of the Books, a high-energy, athletic-event-style book trivia competition for middle grade teams in Carroll.

A Friends of CCPL membership isn’t something that requires much time commitment or a quota of volunteer hours, Yingling said. They have one official annual meeting and it includes tea and an author talk.

Membership is $5 annually for an individual or $10 for a family or business. A sustaining membership can be purchased one-time for $100. Members get early notice of library events, which can quickly sell-out for popular authors. Sign-up can be done in-person at any branch or online at library.carr.org and clicking on “Friends of the Library” at the bottom of the page.

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