Paul H. Magid's visit earlier this month to Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Ill., to talk up his debut novel, Lifting the Wheel of Karma (Point Dume Press, $15, 9780984016006, September 23), quickly turned into an impromptu poetry reading when he recited the novel's epilogue poem. Several customers overheard him speaking with a staffer and asked to buy the book on the spot. Although copies weren't yet available at the store, Magid's memorable performance garnered some advance orders.
This is one example of why the author is currently traversing the country stopping by bookstores to promote Lifting the Wheel of Karma. He visited some 250 retailers this month alone and isn't done yet. Magda set out from his home state of New Jersey on August 1, heading west to Chicago, Denver, Missoula, Mont., San Francisco, Los Angeles and several other cities. He plans to embark on another bookstore road trip in October and November, driving from New England to southern Florida and then west to Dallas and Houston.
"I'm really enjoying this grassroots route," said Magid, who is also an award-winning screenwriter and independent filmmaker. "There are at least 2,000 bookstores across the country suitable for my novel. I probably can't hit them all, but I can have a lot of fun trying."
Lifting the Wheel of Karma is the story of Joseph Connell, a popular and gifted high school athlete tormented by baffling nightmarish visions. When an accident leaves him broken in body and soul, he leaves the family ranch in Montana and heads to India to seek out a mystical old wise man in the remote Himalayas who might be his only chance at finding peace and healing.
The idea for the novel was on Magid's mind for more than two decades since he was a high school student like Joseph. "The story just wouldn't leave me alone," he said. "I kept coming back to it." Two years ago he decided it "was time to make it happen" and committed to finishing the tale.
While the storyline in Lifting the Wheel of Karma is fiction, "spiritually it absolutely was inspired by the difficulty and pain I've been through that led me to ask questions to try to figure things out," Magid said. At age 13, he was paralyzed from the neck down in a spinal compression accident. He recovered fully from the paralysis only to endure multiple joint reconstruction surgeries as well as four auto-immune diseases.
|Magid with Janet Thompson of Books & Books in Butte, Mont.
Magid traveled even more miles to research his book as he has to promote it. He went twice to India, and during a three-month stay, he learned snake charming, visited ancient temples and followed Joseph's path high in the Himalayas, accessible only by foot or ox-drawn cart. Magid also spent time working side by side with a fifth-generation Montana rancher to learn the land and the way of life that helped shape his characters. "As with India, I knew the book wasn't going to come alive until I lived it," he said.
Magid's miles on the road seem to be paying off in spades. Booksellers we've heard from appreciated the personal touch of having an author visit in person bearing advance reading copies, declared him a great writer, and praised the atmospheric authenticity the scenes set both in India and Montana.
"I was immediately drawn to Joseph's character," said Lisa Linke, executive director of corporate, educational sales and events at Barbara's Bookstore in Chicago. "I love how the book lingers once you put it down."
Larry Yoder, a former Macmillan sales rep and a bookseller at the Bookies in Denver, Colo., began reading Lifting the Wheel of Karma the same day he met Magid. In what might be the ultimate book lover's litmus test--and good karma for this book--Yoder read Magid's novel in a single night. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt