Nationally acclaimed author Erica Bauermeister read from “The Scent Keeper” at Beach Books in Seaside on June 19.
Her latest novel centers around Emmeline, who like her father who trained her, experiences the world through scent. Emmeline lives on a remote island and because of her unique upbringing and abilities is at odds with those not of the island. She finds herself overwhelmed by new odors when forced to leave the island.
“For us, the island is magical. For her, the island is reality,” said Bauermeister.
The reading was hosted in the loft of Beach Books.
Scent was integrated into the reading with pasta salad, sandwiches, and strawberry shortcake catered from Dough Dough bakery filling the top floor of the bookstore with lovely smells.
Bauermeister also brought scented salts for a full immersive audience experience ranging from sweet and floral, to chocolate, to smoke.
“If I get stuck, I do research. That’s the thing I love about literature,” said Bauermeister on passion.
It was this love that uncovered an entire world of scents, including scent branding, and lead to the novels more charming aspects, its nuanced perspective on one the more under-explored senses.
“Scent branding knows all about you,” said Bauermeister during a discussion of the small fraction of research she conducted for the book.
Scent branding, in case you are unfamiliar, is a form of marketing. Bauermeister was specifically referencing the signature fragrance of a casino which made people stay at slot machines 45 percent longer than otherwise.
“The Scent Keeper“ took six years, four iterations, three, then two, then four points-of-view before the voice of Emmeline “showed up” said the author on the writing experience.
“Something happens when you lose your last parent. It became a book about growing up,” said Bauermeister who lost her mother-in-law, then her mother while writing the novel.
This idea is seen in the motif of the island itself.
“Parents are islands. When you leave the island you see the parents as people,” the author said.
Bauermeister can also tell you, because of her extensive research, a great deal about the subliminal effect of architecture and the psychology of space. Her next book tentatively called “House Lessons” will be a memoir with 17 years of essays published spring of 2020. It’s about how to “renovate a space and a marriage.”
“I always want to try something new,” said the author who is also working on a thriller.
“Nancy Pearl and I were talking about new ways to classify books, whether it’s character driven, or plot driven. Multiple points of view or single point of view. A reliable narrator or unreliable narrator.” Bauermeister suggested using these parameters in your local bookstore to get out of a reading-rut, or to find something entirely new.
When she tried the method a bookseller handed her “Gone Girl.”
“Except for the last 12 pages, it’s masterful. It’s a literary thriller, hard to find,” said Bauermeister.
As for writing advice, she personally writes for three hours in the morning in a dedicated space. Afternoons are saved for editing or social media. She had to give herself a separate writer’s shack where she could “shut the internet off.”
“The internet was taking as much time as two kids. My husband calls it the isolation tank,” said Bauermeister.
For more advanced writers she recommends having your manuscript as “close to perfect” before passing it off to a publisher. Her son is her editor on retainer and writer’s groups are her “safety net.”
“You read for so many different reasons. To lose yourself or change who you are. All reasons are good as long as it gets your reading,” said Bauermeister.
The event was part of a regular series hosted by Karen Emmerling, owner of Seaside’s Beach Books. The readings take place one to two times per month except for July and August. They are ticketed and more information can be found on their Facebook page.