By MADDY VITALE
Author of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” Delia Owens, a zoologist, nature writer and animal behaviorist, filled the Music Pier on Saturday afternoon with a talk about her best-selling novel about a girl growing up in coastal North Carolina.
Owens, 70, joked at the beginning of her remarks to a full house of about 1,000 fans that after living in isolation studying animals in a remote area of Africa, the Music Pier audience was likely the most people she ever saw in one place.
“It’s such a pleasure to be in Ocean City,” she said.
She told a story that sent laughter through the audience of a bull elephant named “Cheers” that flapped his ears, whipped his trunk and charged her.
“The level of excitement I feel now is more than from Cheers chasing me,” she said with a laugh.
Cheers eventually settled down and went about his business eating, she said.
Owens grew up in rural Georgia and moved to Africa in 1974. She lived there for 23 years and studied animals and their behaviors.
Owens co-authored nonfiction books about life in Africa with her then-husband, Mark. The two wrote “Cry of the Kalahari,” “The Eye of the Elephant,” and “Secrets of the Savanna.”
Owens said that in the years living in some of the most remote regions of Africa, watching prides of lions, herds of elephants and troops of primates, she realized that a person does not have to live in a rural area away from it all to feel lonely or to feel isolated.
She spoke about how and why she wrote her novel. She described it as an intense love story, a mystery, and more than anything, an exploration into the raw core of human nature.
“Where the Crawdads Sing is a lot of things. One thing it is about is finding the strength to get yourself from the darkness to the light and to learn about human nature from nature itself,” Owens explained.
During the event, Owens signed her books and did a Q&A, which was moderated by Adult Programming Librarian Julie Howard.
Howard said she was amazed by the fantastic turnout.
“We are very excited to see this much enthusiasm for the book we chose. We are very happy with the response from the community,” Howard said in an interview.
Later, while addressing the audience from the stage, she said, “This year we have chosen a book that has captured the hearts of the readers and tops the charts for good reason. It has inspired spirited book clubs, brought the community together over literature and shows how connected we are. We are so honored to have Delia Owens here.”
Howard read the audience questions to Owens.
Owens was asked some light-hearted questions such as what are crawdads and some more serious questions about how she knew about “marsh people.”
When asked if she spent much time revising her copy, she explained there is no perfect sentence and that she makes several revisions to her writings before she is satisfied.
Owens said she is also in the midst of writing her second novel and is looking forward to sharing it with the public, but did not elaborate on any details.
“Is someone making a movie about the book?” Howard asked her about “Where the Crawdads Sing.”
The book was selected for actress, producer and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club in September 2018.
Owens told the audience that Witherspoon will be turning the novel into a movie and she went out to Los Angeles to meet with the star.
The two, she noted, had lunch and talked like old friends. She added that she is quite excited about the movie.
“Yes, Reese Witherspoon is doing a movie on the book,” Owens said. “I went to L.A. to have lunch with her. We were like girlfriends at the Beverly (Hills) Hotel. It was fancy for me.”
She joked that Witherspoon asked her what “cute” actor she would like to see playing one of the characters in the book and she admitted she didn’t know any current cute actors. Robert Redford, Owens said with a smile, would be her choice.
Owens spoke of the irony of the title of her first novel.
“I learned from a library book that crawdads don’t sing. But I learned from my mother that if you go far enough into the wilderness, you will hear them. If you are lucky enough, you will get a glimpse of that place,” Owens said.
Audience members lined up after the hour-long presentation to get signed copies of “Where the Crawdads Sing.”
For more Ocean City Free Public Library events and information visit http://www.oceancitylibrary.org/