What novel idea do Millis Library Friends have stacked up? Find out here.

MILLIS — Bringing people together to discuss books, and also raise funds, isn’t an easy task in the midst of a pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped the Friends of the Millis Public Library from accomplishing both — all wrapped up in one truly new event.

After a first success last spring, the Friends have once again stacked up a panel of award-winning and bestselling authors for a virtual “live” meet-up and fundraiser they call “A Novel Occasion.”

The event takes place from noon to 2:30 pm on Saturday.

This year, the Friends — led by President Sandra Elaine Scott — is bringing together 18 nationally known authors whose names and works have variously been on the bestseller lists of The New York Times and USA TODAY, and bandied about on “Good Morning America.” The panel includes eight more authors than were featured last year.

This year’s authors include: Alka Joshi (“The Secret Keeper of Jaipur”), Gregg Hurwitz (“Dark Horse”), Jamie Brenner (“Blush”), Katherine Center (“What You Wish For”), Kerri Maher (“The Paris Bookseller”), Linda Castillo (“Fallen”), Steven Rowley (“The Guncle”), Vanessa Riley (“Island Queen”), and Viola Shipman aka Wade Rouse (“The Secret of Snow”).

Vanessa Riley, author of 'Island Queen.'

For $50, readers can get a chance to hear from some of the nation’s favorite authors as a group, and also to choose two of the authors to “meet” with in a small, virtual break-out room for more intimate chats about their books and their writing process. Each participant will receive a book from the featured author of their choice as well.

'Fallen,' by Linda Castillo

Scott explained each break-out room will have a moderator to facilitate the chats.

“Sometimes you can get kind of shy when you meet your favorite author. You kind of get tongue twisted,” she said.

Even as a published author herself, Scott admitted, she still can get “star struck” talking with favored authors.

Linda Castillo, author of 'Fallen.'

This year she will be helping facilitate the intimate chat with Vanessa Riley, whose work, “Island Queen” is historical fiction set in the Caribbean and based on the true-life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a freed woman “who bought freedom for her entire family” and “was rumored to be the mistress of a future king of England,” Scott said.

'The Paris Bookseller,' by Kerri Maher

A variety of genres

She is excited about all of the authors participating this year, who reflect a variety of interests, from historical fiction to mystery and crime, to “just general, really good fiction.”

“They’re all amazing authors. The books are amazing. I’ve read them all,” Scott said.

Kerri Maher, author of 'The Paris Bookseller'

And what’s nice about the selection is that they collectively allow readers to journey “through all these different worlds,” from India and Mexico to the West Indies, Paris and Amish country.

Steven Rowley, author of 'The Guncle'

This year’s lineup also includes three male authors. One of them is Gregg Hurwitz, who is well known for his Orphan X series. His title of him featured for the event, “Dark Horse,” is the latest installment in that series. Wade Rouse is also among the male authors, writing under his grandmother’s pen name, Viola Shipman. Rounding out the trio is Steven Rowley, whose book about a gay uncle who finds himself in charge of caring for his niece and nephew is described by Scott as “a charming, charming feel good story.”

'What You Wish For,' by Katherine Center

Getting all of the authors together took a lot of email writing, but Scott said all of them enthusiastically accepted the invitation to participate. Some of them she had met at book conventions she was herself attending as an author.

Katherine Center, author of 'What You Wish For'

“I actually reached out to every single author personally and asked. I just asked, asked, asked,” she said. “Authors love libraries, they love books. We are their captive audience. We’re the people they want to talk to because they know we’re going to talk to other readers.”

'The Secret Keeper of Jaipur,' by Alka Joshi
Alka Joshi, author of 'The Secret Keeper of Jaipur.'

The “Novel Occasion” event, which will ultimately support the Friends’ efforts to support the Millis Public Library, was originally planned as an in-person gathering in the spring of 2020 and had to be canceled as COVID-19 started shutting things down.

It was a big disappointment at the time. But all dark clouds, as they say, have silver linings. Transforming the event into an online occasion has allowed the Friends to expand the number of authors. Last year’s virtual event allowed for 10 authors instead of six, and this year’s lineup is almost doubled.

'Blush,' by Jamie Brenner
Jamie Brenner, author of 'Blush'

And all that swag

Besides listening to, and talking to the authors, participants each get a swag bag delivered to their home that includes the featured book of their first choice author, along with other “fun surprises” — late registrants should just be aware they won’t receive their swag until after the event.

Prizes will also be given out throughout the event, including books by authors who were invited but unable to commit to the time.

'Dark Horse,' by Gregg Hurwitz
Gregg Hurwitz, author of 'Dark Horse'

Scott said the Friends are also once again working on setting up a virtual photo booth through MDRN Photobooth Company for participants to have their photos with the authors. This feature was a great success last year.

“The authors will take their photos ahead of time, then the guests will go in and superimpose their photo with the author to have their own memento of the event,” Scott said, noting instructions for the photo booth will be sent to participants beforehand.

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