Author of Mesa County’s chosen book to spin a yarn at this week’s GJ signing

Dan ChaonAuthor of “Await Your Reply”

If plot spoilers bother you, stop reading now.

If you’ve already made it to the end of “Await Your Reply” by Dan Chaon, please continue reading.

Spoilers are thick among the questions Chaon receives about “Await Your Reply.”

So, when he’s asked to speak about his novel, the event easily can turn into a conversation between Chaon and the audience.

“Usually, I just read something from the book and then answer questions, because usually there are a lot of questions about this book,” Chaon said in a phone interview earlier this week.

Thus, the Ohio author’s appearance at the final event of the 2011 One Book One Mesa County community reading program “won’t be a scientific presentation or anything,” Chaon said.

The free event will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at Avalon Theatre, 645 Main St.

Generally, readers like to ask about how Chaon came up with the book’s plot — there’s a con man, identity theft, twins, thugs and victims — the writing process and spoilers.

And not everyone is happy with him.

“Look at my Amazon reviews. The book gets a pretty wide range of responses. I don’t really care,” Chaon said. “The one response I don’t want is to get the ‘nehhh’ response.”

What surprises Chaon are the reader interpretations of the book’s ending and how the characters are connected.

Some readers think Hayden, the con man, literally lived all his different identities as past lives and is a kind of reincarnated supernatural being, Chaon said.

Some readers think Hayden and his twin brother, Miles, are same person, and Hayden has multiple personalities, he said.

Others think the entire plot is a dream concocted by Miles, a regular Joe type who spends much of his time searching for his con-man twin.

For Chaon’s part, he has definite ideas on how the characters are connected — if you’re confused, just ask him — and what happens to each one. In Hayden’s case, “I get the feeling that Hayden is dead,” he said.

On another point Chaon also is clear. “Await Your Reply” is not “making fun of people who are mentally ill,” he said. “I am sensitive to that, and that was not the intention at all.”

Hayden the con man is diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child, but “his behavior isn’t necessarily classical” schizophrenia, Chaon said.

At various speaking events, Chaon has had psychiatrists in the audience who have spoken up about the subject, and their perspective is interesting, he said.

But what Chaon wishes readers would ask more about are the strange places Hayden went and his mystical theories. Chaon said he spent quite a bit of time researching mystical places, past life regressions and other “weird, crazy stuff.”

Then again, take a good portion of humor to Chaon’s One Book appearance because to some extent he’ll be “talking off the cuff” as canned responses don’t work as well with live audiences, he said.

Besides, “you can’t trust what a writer says about his or her own work. Especially fiction writers, because they’re always making things up,” Chaon said.


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