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Best-selling author recalls his Marysville roots
Noted author to speak Tuesday in Big Read finale
An Evening with Selden Edwards
TIME: 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Lee Burrows Center for the Arts, 630 E St., Marysville
COST: Free admission
Marysville native and New York Times best-selling author Selden Edwards (of "The Little Book") will be at Lee Burrows Center for the Arts on Tuesday to read a bit of Edgar Allan Poe as the finale for The Big Read 2012.
Edwards will also read excerpts from his latest novel, "The Lost Prince," which was released in August.
"We are really excited that Selden Edwards is coming to Marysville," said Marika Garcia, executive director of Yuba-Sutter Regional Arts Council. "It's always exciting when our natives come back and share their successes, and his book has a lot of elements from Marysville. This will be a great closing reception for The Big Read."
"Growing up in Marysville has influenced me very much," Edwards said. "I think, as a person, it influences me because I had sort of an idyllic, small farming town boyhood. Pretty simple and unsophisticated. And then I ended up going east to school and becoming a teacher, but my Marysville roots were very important to me."
Edwards said his family owned a ranch in District 10, and he rode the school bus into Marysville as a child through his sophomore year at Marysville High School. "Life on a rural school bus is a whole story in itself," he chuckled.
"I went away for my last two years of high school, so I didn't graduate with my class here, but I was with these people from the first grade on. These were the people I grew up with, and to this day, my Marysville friends are still my very good friends.
"We were the Marysville Class of '59. We meet every five years at least. So it's still a big part of my life," Edwards said.
Edwards has been married to his wife, Gaby (nee Sullivan), for 48 years. Her family owned Sullivan Ranch in Yuba City. "Her family goes way back, and many of them still live in town, so there are a lot of connections," Edwards said.
In "The Little Book," Edwards said, "the story begins in a place I call Feather River — but it's really Marysville. Wheeler Burden, the main character, grew up on a farm in Feather River. And it just happens to be the same farm I grew up on!
"Funny how that works," he said.
Edwards said it took him about 30 years to write "The Little Book." During that time, Wheeler's character evolved into an amalgamation of several people Edwards has known. Wheeler lives in 1988 San Francisco as "a famous, eccentric rock 'n' roll star," but things get interesting when he wakes up one day to find himself in 1897 Vienna.
Edwards said he spent most of his professional life working as a teacher. "When I taught English, I taught some Poe. My writing is influenced by his simple style. Poe always told a good story — a good plot with some scary stuff.
"When you teach the same stuff over and over again, it sort of sinks in. I taught Poe; I taught 'Huckleberry Finn'; I taught 'Catcher in the Rye'; I taught 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Tale of Two Cities' — all of those classic stories. They all had an influence on me for sure," he said.
When his first novel was published to critical acclaim, Edwards said it was an amazing experience. "I'll tell you something funny about luck. I have been incredibly lucky because all of a sudden I had this best-seller that I had been writing for 30 years. But then, of course, it's not luck because I had been trying all those years," he said.
"When I was in college, I played basketball. And one night after practice I was walking with a friend of mine to dinner. The court was all dark and there was a basketball sitting at the center of the court.
"I picked up the basketball, and I heaved it at the basket and it went right in. Swoosh! I turned to my friend, who was a very scientific guy, and said, 'Wow, that was really lucky.' He looked back at me very seriously and said, 'But wasn't that exactly what you were trying to do?'"
Edwards said he realized his friend was right: "It's definitely not going to go in if you never throw the ball. But then you could try 30 times in a row and it wouldn't happen again. So life is an interesting combination of hard work and luck."