I Met Ernest Cline and He Signed My Copy of Ready Player One!
In honor of the Ready Player One movie coming out this weekend, I wanted to share the story of how I met the author, Ernest Cline, and got my book signed.
It was March 1st of this year and I'd been putting in 12-hour days at work for the past two weeks, so I was exhausted. I got there as quickly as I could, but there were already several hundred people there ahead of me. It was going to be a long night.
But it was so worth it!
Ernest's talk lasted just over an hour. He talked about how growing up he felt like the only nerd until middle school. Before then, he didn't really have anyone who liked Star Wars and comic books and video games. His first foray into storytelling was to make up new stories set in the Star Wars universe to entertain him and his brother.
He knew he wanted to eventually work in film, but the idea of moving to LA was just too much coming from his small hometown of Ashland, Ohio. He moved to Columbus (where I now live) for a few years and much of his time here inspired Ready Player One. For example, the novel is set in Columbus and he told us the IOI building, the antagonists' headquarters in the novel, is based on the Nationwide building since the corporation is headquartered here.
After a while, he moved to Austin, Texas, still avoiding LA, and tried his hand at screenwriting. That was where he wrote the script for the movie Fanboys, which was inspired by Star Wars: Episode 1 coming out after a 17-year dry spell of Star Wars movies (which he described as "like a new chapter of the Bible coming out") and his mom dying. Fanboys is about a group of friends who go on a road trip to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch to help their diehard Star Wars fan friend who's on his deathbed see the next Star Wars installment before its official release.
Little did Ernest know that it would take nearly 10 years from the time the screenplay was purchased until it was made into a movie. That pretty well burned him out on Hollywood.
That's what led him to write novels. The idea for Ready Player One came from the idea of, what if Willy Wonka was a video game designer instead of a candy maker?
He wrote the novel and it got an agent pretty quickly and was bought by a publisher shortly thereafter following a big bidding war. And it turns out that film producers will pay attention to book manuscript sales looking for bidding wars, so the day after the manuscript was picked up by a publisher, the movie rights were purchased.
The first thing Ernest bought with his advance check from the publisher was a DeLorean. And since he took it on book tour, he was able to write it off as a business expense.
And now, the movie is officially out.
So after Ernest's talk, I broke my record for the longest I've ever waited to get a book signed: 5 hours. I got to the book signing at 6:30 pm and I got home at 1:15 am. But it was worth it! And I had some friends with me, so we just hung out the whole time and listened to Rush. Judging by the number of times Rush's song "Tom Sawyer" was played that night, it has to be one of the main songs on the soundtrack.
But here's the really cool part...
When I first heard Ernest was coming to town, I scoured my shelves looking for my old paperback copy of Ready Player One and couldn't find it anywhere. I remembered, with horror, that I'd loaned it to someone who never gave it back. At first, I was pissed, but then I remembered that this gave me a good excuse to buy a nice hardback copy to get signed. I decided to go with the Book of the Month "Books We Love" version.
When I got to the table, Ernest looked at my book and said, "I thought I'd seen all the editions of my book, but this is one I haven't seen before. What is it?" So I explained it's a Book of the Month edition. To which he responded, "Well since this is the only one I've ever seen, this is the only one I've ever signed!"
So, behold: possibly the only signed copy of the Ready Player One Book of the Month club edition.
It was pretty tired when I got some at 1:15 am, but it was one of the most fun book signings I've ever been to. If you get the chance to see Ernest Cline live, I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity.