C.J. Box has been more productive since mid-March than ever before.
“My calendar has been wiped clean, but I’ve gotten more done than I’ve ever gotten done in my life,” said the author on a recent phone call. “I’m six months ahead for the next book and already working on the next one.”
Box, who usually does a couple book signings a year at Laramie County Library, didn’t get to make an appearance in March when his event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But he was chosen as the speaker for the Laramie County Library Foundation’s Virtual Booklovers Bash on Friday, Sept. 25.
The New York Times bestselling author will be interviewed by WyomingPBS Senior Public Affairs Producer Craig Blumenshine, who’s also a member of the foundation board, and their “fireside chat” will cover topics such as the upcoming TV show “The Big Sky,” based on Box’s book “The Highway,” which is currently filming in Vancouver.
“I’ve never visited a set, so I don’t know what I’m missing, but it’s been very interesting to see how they cast it,” Box said, admitting it’s difficult not being able to visit the set because of the pandemic. “I have not read every script, but I read the initial one, and it was great. I have a lot of trust in David E. Kelley (writer for “Big Little Lies”) that he knows what he’s doing.”
The bash will be Box’s first virtual event of this sort, but when the shutdowns started a few months ago, he received an increase in interview and forum participation requests.
“It didn’t take all that long for libraries and bookstores to realize every author is home,” Box said with a laugh. “I’ve done an average of probably three to five interviews or panels a week over this whole time … the biggest challenge is it’s pretty hard to say no when I don’t have something else going on that day, but the time I can reclaim from traveling is nice.”
Something he’ll discuss during the fundraiser is how readers might think his next book was inspired by this period of social distancing. Box started writing said novel, “Dark Sky,” well before the pandemic, but a major theme of the book is isolation in the wilderness, and he admitted that finishing it while the majority of the nation was isolating helped him dig into the theme.
In addition to Box’s conversation with Blumenshine, this year’s bash – which is free to register for – will include a silent auction, virtual paddle raise and, of course, a socially distanced dessert dash.
Laramie County Library Foundation Director Kristi Wallin said the dessert dash tradition was too beloved to cancel this year, so she and her team designed a way to make it happen while all guests are enjoying the event from home: Guests who live within a 15-minute drive of the library can bid online (they’ll be emailed a link after they register) on several sweets made by 10 bakers. The top bidders will win their respective dessert, and a library employee will jump in their car and hand-deliver the treats to the house of each winner around 7:30 p.m.
The silent auction will also continue this year, and even though there are fewer items, Wallin said she’s happy with the selection they were able to collect. Guests can bid on the items on their computer or smartphone both the night of and week leading up to the event, and they’ll be able to check everything out in person prior to the fundraiser. Those interested in browsing said items should simply head to the library’s Cottonwood Room on the first floor during one of the designated time slots (see sidebar) Monday, Sept. 21-Friday, Sept. 25.
If you don’t quite have the storage space for any new items in your house, Wallin added that the virtual paddle raise at 8 p.m. is also a great way to give back to the library during the event.
“We wanted to carry on our tradition of having a quality event with a world-renowned author, and we weren’t going to let the pandemic get in our way,” Wallin said. “That’s why we wanted to go virtual. … With the current economic situation and the pandemic, the library could face some tough times being so reliant on tax dollars, so the foundation is geared up to make up for the difference so the library can keep up its excellent programming and outreach to everyone in Laramie County.”