Bestselling novelist visits campus

Photo by Cody McGehee.

By JENNA GIBSON, Ranger Reporter:

Author Jamie Ford’s visit to Amarillo College was all sweet and not bitter. The New York Times bestselling author of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” came to speak at Amarillo College’s Washington Street Campus on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” is set in Seattle WA during WWII during the time Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps. The novel tells the story of a romance between two pre-teens–a Japanese girl and a Chinese boy, and focuses on issues surrounding cultural identitiy, discrimination and family relationships.

To start off the day at 9 a.m., Ford spoke to an Introduction to Mass Communication class, and then he gave a reading and answered questions in the Badger Den at 11 a.m. The day wrapped up at 7 p.m. with a lecture and book signing at Ordway Auditorium.

Students from several AC classes and some from Caprock High School crowded into the Badger Den. Many sat on the floor and others stood for the approximately 45 minute presentation.

Photo by Cody McGehee. New York Times bestselling author, Jamie Ford, signs a copy of his novel in the Badger Den.
Photo by Cody McGehee. New York Times bestselling author, Jamie Ford, signs a copy of his novel in the Badger Den.

Dressed in cargo shorts, a plaid short-sleeved shirt and sneakers, Ford said one of the strangest aspects of becoming a best-selling novelist is knowing your book will be someone else’s homework. His novel was even assigned to read in his daughter’s English class.

He began the event by reading aloud some mean tweets posted by students who were assigned to read the book. These tweets included “Nobody read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. It will crush your heart and you will cry your eyes out #stupidEnglishclass” and “More like Hotel on the Corner of This Book Sucks Boulevard.”

Laughing, Ford said criticism does not bother him. Having a background in art and design prepared him to meet deadlines and handle rejection. “Art is hard. That’s why it’s worth doing. But if it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.”

Ford said he is more affected by the people who are touched by his books than by the critics. “They say things like, ‘This was the first book I was forced to read that I actually loved.’”

“Books are the ultimate gateway drug,” Ford said.

Ford is currently working on his third novel. All of his work is based on research and history. “I’m curious. That’s where my ideas come from. I like to turn over society’s rocks and look for the squishy things underneath.”

His casual and approachable manner kept students engaged at all of his speaking events.

“I liked the way he talked about his inspirations,” Azalea Barron, a nursing major, said. “I really wish it would become a movie.”

Ford pointed out that he has had several discussions regarding turning the novel into a movie, but producers have been reluctant to fund a film with three minority protagonists. “I’ve had weird moments in Hollywood. Three Hollywood producers said the exact same thing—and this is a quote—‘How do we mitigate the financial risks without a white male lead?’” Ford said he refuses to allow producers to change the ethnicity of any of the characters.

The book has been staged as a play, and a group in Chicago is currently working on turning it into a stage musical.

“I love it,” said Dylan Smith, a computer science major.

Ford worked as a creative director at an advertising agency in Seattle before becoming an author. Several of his children are pursuing careers in the arts.

“If you want to pursue any artistic discipline, you have to allow yourself to suck. Practice—it’s a craft. The more you put into it, the more you will get out it.”

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