Daniel Rabuzzi
May 14th, 2011
Event Recap 5/14/11 Daniel Rabuzzi & Deborah Mills

It was another excellent evening with our friends from Well
Read Books, and I have to take a moment to thank our
gracious hosts for more than just the regular hosting of the
event.  You see, Bill Skees took the time to print up an
awesome review of Daniel's novel, The Choir Boats, and read
it before the assemblage in preparation to the event.  This
served as a great counter-point to my own rambling
introduction which somehow involved Charcuterie (shär-kÅ
«'tÉ™-rÄ“', -kÅ«'tÉ™-rÄ“) and my stint at Johnson & Wales in
that it actually had something to do with the topic at hand
(while the the book on Charcuterie was interesting it had no
Ibo counting or crutched men).  Gamely, though, Daniel
suffered my bizarre introduction before he and extra special
Guest Deborah Mills, gifted artiste and illustrator of The Choir
Boats, launched into a nice presentation and discussion of
their work.

To start, Dan recounted how he came to write a novel for
ChiZine Publications (CZP), a small press out of Montreal.  
CZP had been in the magazine publishing business for some
time, and had been publishing short pieces from a variety of
writers, when they contacted Daniel and asked if he had a
novel-length piece just sitting around.  Like many of us, he
did, and had been shopping it around with little traction, so
Daniel and the folks at CZP worked together to put the piece
into production.  This, of course, led us to a discussion of how
publishing really works, and some really great dialogs with
his editor at CZP.  One subject that we talked about was how
the larger publishing houses determine what books to go
after, and basically, from a financial point of view, how books
like The Twilight Saga fund the mid-list.  Spawning more
discussion was the side-topic of distribution and the support
of local small business stores ("Sure I'll open a low margin
bookstore in the teeth of the worst recession in a hundred
years, what could go wrong?").

We then turned to the art of The Choir Boats, and Deborah
took the spotlight.  We learned about the process that Dan
and Deborah went through to collaborate on the carving for
the cover art, and the work that went into the symbols that
greet the reader at the start of each chapter.  The cool Ibo
references made the culture of the story jump out, and the
magnificent drawing of the nefarious Owl figure took a goodly
portion of the discussion.  It was great to hear about
Deborah's education in Norway, and very amusing moment
was had when Mike P. asked if a drawing was done with a
Quill Pen (it was, good eye Mike!) and Deborah mentioned
that she always things of the tools in their Norwegian names
and tends to forget their English ones because of her
training.  This was a really cool insight into the way in which
the art developed and fed into the story because you have
an American trained in Norwegian wood-cutting and art
making different types of central African art (Ibo is from
Nigeria in Western Africa, which is where the character of
Maggie was from).

We switched focus back to Daniel for a moment, and he read
the opening from The Choir Boats as Deborah showcased the
Drum with the Brown Eye of Wisdom from the Chapter
Heading (Chapter title: Two Streets in London).  Opening
with a young West African Woman in London counting to
herself as a meditative exercise is one heck of an impactful
opening, and Daniel made the most of it, detailing the scene
and making the occasional side comment about it, almost like
a director's commentary track for the book.

Next up was a protracted Q&A session with all of us taking
the opportunity to get in a few really fun questions.  Kate
Landis started off with a question about why the Owl's
nickname (Wyrm) which led to a discussion of the stories of
Herr Doktor Professor Wyrm.  We also discussed the origins
of the name of the crutched man, which dealt, actually, with
one of the streets in the opening scene (Mincing Lane), which
was devolved from the old English for Minking Lane, and was
so called because of the Monks who called the area home,
and the crutched was a devolution of the Olde English for
crossed (I really hope I got that correct, I do not want to get
an F).

Kate and I, who had both had the opportunity to read the
book, proceeded to pepper Daniel and Deborah with
questions about the characters, story, and process.  For
those who know me well, the traditional Todd Question was
asked (yes, they both write to musical accompaniment,
though Daniel prefers music without lyrics, and Deborah must
use an iPod due to shared space issues with her work area).  
We also delved into the reasoning behind the use of the Ibo
culture and how Maggie would have come to London in
1812.  Digging into Daniel's Professorial roots, we explored
the history of Maryland and the lore of Europe.

Though we probably could have continued on for hours and
hours more, Dan and Deborah needed to catch a train back
into the fabled and semi-mythical city of Manhattan (whose
existence we proved at some point in the discussion, though
some of us are still skeptical).  It was a fun night with some
great folks, and a topic that many of us were utterly
fascinated by.  Aurelia, Mark, Pam, Kate, Gene, and I stood
around outside chatting away for a good 45 minutes before
chill and rain forced us to retire for the evening.

Join us next month for more fun and excitement at Face the
Fiction at Well Read Books!

(Todd Ehrenfels)