Four Questions for Garth Stein, Man of Mystery

Susan Doupé Photography
Susan Doupé Photography

We’re fascinated by Garth Stein. Not only is he the author of five novels, two books for young readers, two plays, and a documentary; but one of his books — The Art of Racing in the Rain — is one of our store favorites. (The story is told by a dog. Can you blame us?) Add to that his rock band and this thing called “the Seattle 7,” and he’s one interesting dude.

So we’re excited to host him at the Nashville Public Library this Friday evening at 6:15 as part of the Salon@615 series. He’ll be discussing his new novel, A Sudden Light. This story finds its protagonist, 14-year-old Trevor Riddell, stuck between parents on the brink of divorce. His father takes him to Riddell House, the family estate, to live until the family can sell off the property to solve their money problems. But as Trevor explores the twists and turns of the ancient mansion, he runs into a spirit who lingers in the house and doesn’t want it sold off. Family secrets abound in this beautiful book. (Beautiful in more ways than one — the cover is gorgeous, too.) For more about it, read this great review by our friends at Chapter 16.

To give you a taste of what you’re in for, we asked him a few questions.

Readers of all ages are familiar with The Art of Racing in the Rain, thanks to the many versions available — from the original novel to the young readers’ edition, plus the picture book. For those who know your writing primarily from that story, can you discuss a bit about what to expect in your new book? Just how different is it?sudden light cover

GS: My new novel, A Sudden Light, has no dogs and no race cars. It does have four generations of a once terribly wealthy and influential timber family, since fallen from grace; a mysterious, majestic, yet crumbling mansion on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains; a love affair so powerful, it reaches across planes of existence; the free-climbing of some of the tallest trees in the world; a present-day family so mired in their conflicting and confusing emotions that they can’t function; and a young man who simply wants his parents to once again experience the moment they first fell in love, hoping that if they feel that moment again, maybe they won’t get divorced after all. I think readers will find many similarities in theme in all my books: a certain sense of wonder and magical realism and redemption, sprinkled with humor and emotional highs and lows. We made a very cool website that has a lot of fascinating and intriguing information and links based on topics from the novel. (

“A love affair so powerful, it reaches across planes of existence” — wow. What was the very first seed of the story? How did it start for you?

GS: I first wrote the story as a play, Brother Jones. I wanted to write a dark but funny American gothic play with a single setting, a decrepit mansion that groaned and creaked and seemed to talk to its denizens. The play had one production in Los Angeles, which was successful; however, it needed more work to take it to the next level, and I didn’t have time, as I had an idea about a book narrated by a dog. After The Art of Racing in the Rain, I decided I wanted to work with the characters from the play some more, and I began to tell their story in a novel form. A play is about the immediacy of the drama, the interaction between characters before our eyes. A novel is about this history of the drama — how we got to the now. So I began to build the history of the Riddell family from the first patriarch, Elijah Riddell, and his son, Benjamin, back in the late 1800s in Seattle. The more I discovered about the family, the more I was drawn into their complex and tragic story.

“The Seattle Seven” sounds so mysterious… but it’s a really cool, professional organization. Could you tell our readers a bit about what Seattle7Writers does?

GS: I am co-founder and co-chair of the group, a collective of 73 Northwest writers working together to strengthen the ties between bookstores, libraries, readers, and writers. Our “literary good deeds” include providing nonprofit literacy and educational institutions with signed books by our authors to use as fundraisers (our Auction Book Bag program); re-homing books — more than 30,000 to date! — to organizations and institutions with a need for reading material but not a budget, such as transitional housing facilities, halfway houses, food banks, correctional facilities, and more (our Pocket Library Program); providing programming to organizations serving people in transition; partnering with local bookstores for unique, one-of-a-kind programs, such as The Novel: Live!, a writing marathon in which 36 NW authors wrote a novel in 6 days. We also provide our members with a place to socialize with their peers to discuss “book business.”

That’s fantastic. OK, one more. This is Music City, so we have to know: What’s the deal with The Rejections and the Trailing Spouses

GS: Ah, yes. The Rejections and Trailing Spouses is a band of… authors and spouses. And sometimes offspring. Jennie Shortridge (Love Water Memory) on vocals. Her husband, Matt Gani, on vocals and guitar. Stephanie Kallos (Broken For You) on vocals and keyboard. Me on bass. Paul Mariz (trailing spouse of Laurie Frankel, Goodbye For Now) on vocals and guitar. Ben Bauermeister (trailing spouse of Erica Bauermeister, School of Essential Ingredients) on fiddle. And sometimes Caleb Stein (my offspring) on bass, when I can’t make it.

Salon - Garth Stein

Not in Nashville? You can still read along. Shop indie-style and order any of Stein’s books from our online store:


sudden light cover

A Sudden Light (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781439187036
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster, 9/2014

ISBN-13: 9780061537967
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial, 6/2009

ISBN-13: 9780062295330
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins Publishers, 10/2014

ISBN-13: 9780062015761
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperCollins, 5/2011

ISBN-13: 9780061806384
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial, 3/2010

ISBN-13: 9781616954314
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Soho Press, 3/2014

ISBN-13: 9781453258279
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Open Road E-riginal, 5/2011