Jamie Ford is both hilarious, warm, generous--and a fantastic storyteller to boot. Let's take a look at the huge praise his novel is garnering:
“In this sweeping, bighearted novel—inspired by the true story of a twelve-year-old boy raffled off as a prize at the 1909 Seattle World Fair—we encounter a cast of colorful characters, fascinating historical details, and (in typical Jamie Ford fashion) insights about morality, race, and culture that deepen and expand the story. . . . Utterly charming.”—Christina Baker Kline, author of A Piece of the World and Orphan Train
“Ford is a master at shining light into dark, forgotten corners of history and revealing the most unexpected and relatable human threads. . . . A beautiful and enthralling story of resilience and the many permutations of love.”—Jessica Shattuck, author of The Women in the Castle
“All the charm and heartbreak of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet . . . Based on a true story, Love and Other Consolation Prizes will warm your soul.”—Martha Hall Kelly, author of Lilac Girls
“A gripping story about the unpredictability of life and, above all, the incredible power of love to heal even the most shameful wounds . . . Ford has created a fascinating world, bookended by Seattle’s two world’s fairs, and peopled it with colorful, brave characters we care deeply about in this masterful job of storytelling.”—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue
“Soaring, heart-wrenching, troubling, funny . . . Ford has masterfully used a strange, tragic footnote from history to transport the reader back in time.”—Karen Abbott, author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy
AND Jamie's bio is so hilarious, I am reproducing it here.
My name is James.
Yes, I'm a dude.
I’m also the New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet—which was, in no particular order, an IndieBound NEXT List Selection, a Borders Original Voices Selection, a Barnes & Noble Book Club Selection, Pennie’s Pick at Costco, a Target Bookmarked Club Pick, and a National Bestseller. It was also named the #1 Book Club Pick for Fall 2009/Winter 2010 by the American Booksellers Association.
In addition, Hotel has been translated into 35 languages. I’m still holding out for Klingon (that’s when you know you’ve made it).
My second novel, Songs of Willow Frost was published September 2013.
My latest novel, Love and Other Consolation Prizes, will be published September 12, 2017.
On the personal side, I'm the proud father of more teenagers than I can keep track of. Yep, it's chaos, but the good kind of chaos.
What was the “why now” moment that made you feel that you just had to write this book?
As much as I’d like to appear brilliant and sage-like, unpacking the issues in the book: immigration, human-trafficking, prostitution, women’s suffrage, and feminism in the early 20th Century—the truth is, I wanted to write another noble romantic tragedy. Which is a literary way of saying that I wanted to write another love story, and explore the decorum of the time—to turn over the rocks and look at the squishy things underneath.
Plus, starting with a real character that was raffled off as a prize sets the tone for the world, circa 1909, when the cord still hadn’t quite been cut between humans and commerce. In many social circles, people were still regarded as commodities. Heck, in many social circles today, people are treated that way (Hello, Tinder?)
I’m always interested in stories inspired by other stories. What surprised you about fictionalizing this one?
In Sebastian Junger’s new book, Tribe, he posits that fifty-percent of our political beliefs are genetic—that’s to say, we can’t quite out-nurture our nature. In looking at human behavior from a century ago and comparing it to today, that theory is manifest.
Despite technological advances all around us, our personal beliefs and cultural biases change at glacial speeds. One hundred years ago we were demonizing immigrants and marginalizing women, and…today, we’re, um…Making America Great Again.
I love the details about the World’s Fair! What was your research like?
Luckily, there were some amazing photographers like Frank H. Nowell and Max Loudon who documented Seattle’s first world’s fair. Their collections now reside in the University of Washington’s Digital Library—one of the great holdfasts of northwestern culture and history.
Speaking of libraries, since much of the new book takes place in a brothel, I interviewed a woman, Maggie McNeill, who is an expert on that particular subject. She is both a sex-worker and a librarian, and she changed my perception of both of those occupations.
I love that you are always at the Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys festivals! Can you talk about that, please?
Who knew that this annual book club gathering in East Texas would become such a part of my life? I blame my mom. She was born and raised in the Ozarks, so heading down south every year somehow satisfies the part of my DNA that yearns for grits.
What’s obsessing you now and why?
Podcasts. I’ve become a podcast junkie (or perhaps zombie?) You’ll rarely find me without my earbuds in, listening to…someone blather on about something.
So, like everyone else on the planet, I’m starting a podcast with friend and fellow author, Luis Alberto Urrea. We’re even having someone design a custom decoder ring. Stay tuned, kids…
What question didn’t I ask that I should have?
How about, what’s the best book you’ve read this year?
I’m gonna go with The Burning Women of Far Cry by Rick Demarinis. Darkly comic, this is one of those books that defies categorization. Like a richer, more textured version of Confederacy of Dunces. Its your classic, coming-of-age tale, like the journey of Holden Caufield, but in a warped, blue-collar Twilight Zone.
I loved this book and am saddened that it's been out of print for 30 years.