Great Falls author Jamie Ford enjoys a good love story.
And so do his readers. His first two novels of heartbreak and first kisses have landed on the New York Times' Best Sellers list, and his third is creating a buzz in the literary world.
Ford's 2013 novel, “Songs of the Willow Frost,” debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list and his first novel, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” is being turned into a film.
Ford is touring in support of his latest book, “Love and Other Consolation Prizes,” which came out in September, with scheduled readings hitting seven states, including Montana, over the next few months.
Ford will speak in Missoula at Fact & Fiction on Oct. 17, Elk River Books in Livingston on Oct. 18, This House of Books in Billings at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, and Bozeman’s Country Bookshelf on Oct. 20. The Billings visit is a kickoff to the High Plains BookFest & Book Awards.
The BookFest runs Oct. 19-22 and includes readings and panel discussions. For the full schedule, visit highplainsbookawards.org.
Ford spoke with The Billings Gazette by phone about moving to Montana and how his writing process keeps evolving.
Ford was born in California and grew up in Seattle area. He moved to Great Falls 20 years ago, relocating from Hawaii to Montana during a frigid January.
“I left Hawaii and it was 80 degrees and I got here and it was 8 degrees,” Ford said.
Still, Ford loves his adopted state because of the quality of life for himself and his family, and the ability to stay away from distractions so he can write.
Ford refers to his weeklong Montana leg of the book tour as "precious" because it’s a joy to travel through the state anytime, particularly in the fall.
Gregarious and poetic, Ford said the book tour is a chance to meet readers and show off another side of himself.
“I think of my book events as literary vaudeville. I talk and then I read a page and answer questions. My talks are 50 percent entertainment, 40 percent education and 10 percent reading,” Ford said.
The son of a Chinese-American father and a mother of European ancestry, Ford said he grew up a bit of a daydreamer.
“If things weren’t going as planned, I would rewrite life in my imagination,” Ford said.
He loves nostalgia, and said he uses it like clay to mold a story. Research is a big part of his craft. For this latest book, Ford was interested in writing about the first World’s Fair in Seattle in 1909, which is known as the “forgotten world’s fair."
“I kept coming to a story about a boy that was raffled off. It was a startling revelation. I knew that they had a display of babies in incubators. They also had indigenous people on display, a human zoo. But I kept reading about this kid who was raffled off. I couldn’t find out what happened to him.”
Ford has a knack for connecting with real people depicted in his stories. Ford was both shocked and intrigued by the boy who was a raffle prize. He’s hoping that someone will read his book or hear about it and come forward to tell the boy's story.
During a book tour stop in Seattle in mid-September, a man in the audience had met the historic brothel owner who is depicted in “Love and Other Consolation Prizes.”
“He said his father owned a furniture store and delivered beds to her sporting house. He and his brothers would tag along and sometimes she gave them cookies. His mother wouldn’t let them eat them.”
The reason Ford likes to write love stories is that they have universal appeal.
His debut novel sold so well internationally that it got the attention of Hollywood. George Takei, who is best known as Hikaru Sulu on the original “Star Trek” series, signed on as executive producer on the film project. The book is a love story set against the backdrop of Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. Ford is looking at co-writing the screenplay for the film.
He usually starts writing projects with a premise or a question. From there Ford said he finds his exit point and the emotion he wants to bring into the story. He's working to switch up his process a bit, outlining the book first.
But one thing is certain, there will be a love story in it.